Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2022-04-24/In the media

The battlegrounds outside and inside Wikipedia: What's hot in the media this month.


German government IPs get nasty

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports (paywalled, in German) that government employees have made 17,000 edits mainly to the German Wikipedia in recent years. As summarized by golem.de (in German) some of the edits were traced to the IP addresses of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and contained vandalism and slurs.

In a very recent case Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck of the Green party was accused by an anonymous editor from a BSI IP of enriching himself with funds intended to fight COVID. A criminal investigation of Habeck was dropped in March and the edit was removed.

In June 2021 a government IP edited articles on "Illegal immigration" and "Illegal residence", trying to criminalize immigrants. In an article about journalists, a government IP described a professional society as "the rectum of the powerful" and described journalists as "press whores." These edits were also reverted by the Wikipedia community.

The Signpost can confirm these reports to the following extent:

  • The German language editing history of one IP range identified with BSI [1] extends from 2008 up to this week.
  • Another IP traceable to BSI has edited the English Wikipedia since 2015 through 10 March 2022. Their work includes edits to articles like two oversighted edits to Algirdas Paleckis in 2020. Paleckis is a Lithuanian diplomat and politician convicted in 2021 of spying for Russia. The conviction is currently under appeal.
The IP also edited in 2019 North Korean leaders' trains and in 2017 several minor edits to Mass surveillance in the United Kingdom. Similar edits include Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (2017), and Korean Demilitarized Zone (2017). While the typical edits tend to be small, many are about political and security related topics that could cause concern to citizens of the affected countries if it were known that BSI was secretly editing these articles.

Altogether there are about 1,000 English-language edits traceable to BSI, about 10,000 German language edits, and likely more in other languages.S

Pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets on Wikipedia

Do Kremlin-related sources publish disinformation on Wikipedia? If so, how well does Wikipedia deal with the problem? Some basic answers to these questions were provided this week by the European Union's East StratCom Task Force in its publication EU vs Disinfo in the story Pro-Kremlin Disinformation Outlets Referenced By Hundreds Of Wikipedia Articles which was republished by Stop Fake, a Ukrainian organization that fights Russian disinformation.

East StratCom researchers "ran a pilot study last year focusing on four well-known pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets – SouthFront, NewsFront, InfoRos and Strategic Culture Foundation. All four are linked to Russian intelligence services and are sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury for attempts to interfere in the 2020 US elections." (wikilinks added)

They examined mentions of these websites, such as in references, over multiple versions, for at least 625 articles. Southfront.org accounted for the majority of the mentions (57 per cent), with news-front.info at 27 per cent. Twenty language versions of Wikipedia were represented, with five having the majority of mentions: Russian (136 articles), Arabic (70), Spanish (52), Portuguese (45) and Vietnamese (32).

The English-language version is not included in the tables for the sample period because a Reliable Sources Request for Comment deprecated southfront.org and news-front.info as reliable sources in 2019.

The article continues with an examination of whether the links were inserted intentionally as disinformation and what strategies could be used to limit these links.S

A good month for Annie Rauwerda's "Depths of Wikipedia"

Starting in 2020 as a "pandemic project" Rauwerda posted odd Wikipedia articles on her Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok accounts under the title Depths of Wikipedia. The project grew until now she has "about a million followers".[1] In March people really began to notice her with an article she wrote for Slate on Russians downloading complete versions of Wikipedia, followed by an article she wrote about Reddit, and the New York Times wrote [open-access link through subscriber referral] about her in a long article on March 31. The Times followed up with a student opinion on April 12. The New Yorker then gave her first try at a live comedy show a plug in their new issue. The recent show in Manhattan featured three comedians, Rauwerda as MC, and a sold-out crowd of 150. Add in a new Wikipedia article on Depths with a DYK on the main page. Several other newspaper articles piled on including one in the University of Michigan's The Michigan Daily. She'll be graduating from U of M with a degree in neuroscience in a couple of weeks. Check back here next month for more strange and exciting stories.

Rauwerda modestly told The Signpost "I'm still pretty surprised that any of this is news. All I do is take a bunch of screenshots. But hey, if another publication wants a feel-good story with goofy fun facts, I'll happily oblige. By the way, I think Wikipedians are the best (both on and off Wikipedia). Thank you all for always being so nice to me!" S

Did a Wikipedian shoot up a D.C. school?

A shooter opened fire on a school in Washington D.C. at about 3:20 pm on Friday, April 22, as classes were letting out for the weekend, injuring four people, including one minor. No deaths were reported until later in the evening, when a suspect was reported as having possibly committed suicide, according to several articles published in The Washington Post. The suspect was found dead in a fifth-floor apartment across from the school. He was surrounded by a tripod, ammunition, and several guns, which may have been used to shoot down at the school, according to the Post.

The Post also reported that the suspect was active on social media, 4chan, and Wikipedia, soon after the shooting began. He had previously edited Wikipedia articles on two other shooting incidents.

A thread at the administrators' noticeboard shows that the newspaper report had been noted; a user account, which was less than two weeks old, had been blocked and renamed; and several edits by the user had been removed from the article about the school.

The edits that were oversighted included one from four days before the shooting and three starting about 40 minutes after the shooting.S

In brief

Marysville Strawberry Festival Float.jpg
Marysville, Washington, 25 miles (40 km) north of Seattle, known for its strawberry festival and, now, a certain Wikipedian

Notes

  1. ^ Sun, Michael; Gorman, Alyx (20 April 2022). "Mining for gold in the Depths of Wikipedia. Plus: what happens if you stop looking at your phone?". Saved for Later (podcast). The Guardian (Australia). Retrieved 20 April 2022. 8:15-35:20
  2. ^ Kavanaugh, Ryan (March 29, 2022). "Ryan Kavanaugh: Wikipedia Has Become Anti-Democratic – Op Ed". ExecEdge. Archived from the original on March 30, 2022. Retrieved March 30, 2022.



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