Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2021-02-28/In the media

Corporate influence at OSM, Fox watching the hen house: Wikidata, Turkey, Valentine's Day and all sorts of bias!


OpenStreetMap's digital gentrification

Inside the 'Wikipedia of Maps', Tensions Grow Over Corporate Influence (Bloomberg) examines "digital gentrification" of OpenStreetMap which between 2015 and 2018 saw a sixfold increase in features edited by corporations, led by Apple. Lyft, Facebook, the International Red Cross, the U.N., the government of Nepal and Pokémon Go all depend on its data. In turn, "hundreds of millions of monthly users" depend on the organizations' use of the data. Commercial firms are protecting their investment in the data by editing and contributing more data. One startup, Mapbox, has raised $200 million to develop ways to format and transfer OSM data to its customers. Is this just another example of the benefits of crowdsourcing, or just another corporate takeover of the commons? "Hobby mappers" are worried that corporate representatives will be elected to the site's governance positions. Frederik Ramm, an OSM volunteer and consultant states "These companies don’t map for the same reasons we do, and because of that, I question deeply if our goals can align."

The last article on Wikipedia's COVID coverage? Not likely.

Wikipedia's Sprawling, Awe-Inspiring Coverage of the Pandemic in The New Republic joins dozens, likely hundreds, of articles on Wikipedia's coverage of the COVID pandemic, the first of which was published 384 days ago in Wired by Omer Benjakob.

Though this ground has been thoroughly plowed, Shaan Sachdev in TNR reports with a different angle. He states that with 86 million pageviews "the Covid-19 pandemic (article) is in a two-way tie for the thirty-fourth most viewed Wikipedia article, ranking alongside Miley Cyrus. It isn’t far behind thirty-first place, which is currently a three-way tie between Taylor Swift, Star Wars, and China."

Some of the other articles that link to COVID-19 are listed (in no special order) as: Mink, Racism in China, Royal Australian Navy, Graffiti, Cockfight, and Ricky Martin. Ultimately almost all articles of this genre focus on Wikipedia's volunteer editors, as they should. Editors included in this article include Andrew Lih, Netha Hussain and Liam Wyatt.

Larry Sanger, Fox News, the Daily Mail, and The Washington Times take on Wikipedia's bias

Fox News interviewed Larry Sanger in Inside Wikipedia's leftist bias: socialism pages whitewashed, communist atrocities buried. Sanger's views on Wikipedia's "leftist bias" and chaotic governance have been well-known since 2007. Over the years he's made a few good points, for example his claims that Wikimedia Commons contained some child pornography, but Fox's claim that he told them that "many Wikipedia pages have become merely left-wing advocacy essays" is exaggerated. Bias is difficult to define without having a grasp of the range of views typically accepted within a population. Fox's hard right views do not define bias within the US. Wikipedia's editors come from many countries beyond the US that generally have views to the left of the US. Fox does score points when looking at Wikipedia's coverage of Communism. Coverage of genocide by Communist governments is all but missing on Wikipedia – even when we call it "mass killings".

Bias in political science articles

Wikipedia’s political science coverage is biased. I tried to fix it. in The Washington Post. Samuel Baltz, a Ph.D. candidate at the U. of Michigan in political science and computing, spent a year trying to correct the biases he sees in Wikipedia articles on political science.

Could it be Valentine's Day?

Placeholder alt text
This image of a flower got 90 million hits per day on Wikimedia servers after India banned TikTok

In brief

After the birthday party

Anyone who has ever tried to correct errors in a Wikipedia entry, only to find them repeatedly reinserted by other contributors with a competing agenda, will attest to the site's unreliability. Even counting on Wikipedia as a repository of basic information, such as names, dates and places, is a crap shoot. Perhaps the vast majority of its articles are indeed accurate, but which ones constitute that majority, and at what point in time? Literally no one knows; it has become so vast that moderating its millions of entries in any comprehensive way would be impossible. This is how the site is designed to work.

— b.e.

Wikipedia may be unique online because it "sells no advertising". However, it does provide a free platform for companies to display their corporate messages, written by their marketing departments. Are these true statements vetted by Wikipedia? No. Wikipedia also has a devil’s bargain with Google. No matter what you search for on Google, from "cats" to "Catullus", Wikipedia is positioned first. If you do enter "cats", to learn about the animal, you get what reads like a Wikipedia advertorial for the movie "Cats".

— p.t.



Do you want to contribute to "In the media" by writing a story or even just an "in brief" item? Edit next week's edition in the Newsroom or leave a tip on the suggestions page.