Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2023-01-01/In the media

Odd bedfellows, Elon and Jimbo, reliable sources for divorces, and more: Sometimes you need to read more than just the headlines!
In the media

Odd bedfellows, Elon and Jimbo, reliable sources for divorces, and more

The stories you are about to read are true, or at least they have been reported in sources we generally consider to be reliable. But on some of them you might think we are pulling your legs, or that we just made them up out of whole cloth. Is the WMF really climbing in bed with Google and Facebook? Do Russian troops in Ukraine really train by reading Wikipedia? Can you really announce your divorce in a Wikipedia article? Does Elon Musk really think that anybody will believe a word he tweets? Does a single Wikipedia article get 250 million pageviews each month? No, we didn't make these stories up. But please use your own better judgement in evaluating whether what the media writes about us is true.

Odd bedfellows, journalists, and the WMF

The proposed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was defeated with the help of a dormitory-full of odd bedfellows including Alphabet (formerly Google), Meta (Facebook), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and the Wikimedia Foundation. Editor & Publisher reported the defeat of the bill, which was not included in the final omnibus bill of the 117th US Congress.

The proposed act would have given news organizations the right to collectively bargain with social media organizations – by creating a four-year antitrust exemption – to get a share of the social media's advertising revenue for news posted on the platform (similar to the News Media Bargaining Code implemented in Australia). Meta responded that, rather than being forced to pay for news content that it did not post on their own platform, they would "consider removing news from our platform altogether rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations," according to CNN.

CNN and The National Review highlighted the WMF's participation. – Sb

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Rebecca MacKinnon, WMF's Vice President, Global Advocacy, and Phil Bradley-Schmieg, WMF Lead Counsel, point out in the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA):

The UK's proposed Online Safety Bill would require platforms to screen and monitor all activity and content when uploaded to predict whether it is illegal or harmful. Such a general monitoring obligation is prohibited in the European Union's Digital Services Act.

One may be forgiven for predicting that this is not a simple task, and probably not possible; accordingly, the authors urge the UK to reconsider the proposed bill. – Sb

Untrained Russian troops learn from Wikipedia how to use their guns

Men in civilian clothing standing in a military formation
Ruslan probably was mobilized in 2022 as a civilian into the Russian Army, as these men were.

According to an hour-long read in The New York Times on the way the combat in Ukraine is being managed [1], "Russian soldiers go into battle with little food, a few bullets and instructions grabbed from Wikipedia for weapons they barely know how to use." A printout of the Wikipedia article VSK-94 [ru] (probably from the Russian Wikipedia) was in the possession of a soldier named Ruslan, who "seemed to be learning to use his weapon on the fly" and "had little else besides the printouts" in his pack, which Ukrainian soldiers recovered with what they believed to be his body in September. The rifle next to him suggested he was a sniper. But while snipers in modern military units often go through weeks of additional special training, "Ruslan's teacher appeared to be the internet."

A banner article on banners

Prolific Wikipedia reporter Stephen Harrison turned his attention to Wikipedia's fundraising banners (covered in last month's issue) in his latest column for Slate, headlined "The Huge Fight Behind Those Pop-Up Fundraising Banners on Wikipedia".

Though "many people see the banner ads on Wikipedia as something like the site's version of a PBS fundraising drive – a bit annoying because they distract you from your regularly scheduled wiki browsing, but not particularly painful," for others, "many of Wikipedia's most dedicated contributors, this year's proposed banner ads presented something like a moral crisis," he writes. "The Wikipedia editing community recently held a poll rejecting the proposed banner ads, pressuring the foundation that supports the site into drafting alternative ads with softer language."

Harrison discusses the aforementioned RfC and the foundation's response, quoting extensively from well-known Wikipedians including Lane Rasberry, Jim Heaphy, and Ryan McGrady.[a]

Harrison explains to readers the difference between the foundation and the community, the latter of which CEO Maryana Iskander tells him produces "healthy democratic noise." He also traces the foundation's growth from its early days operating on a "shoestring budget" to its current status as a large, well-funded nonprofit.

On the question of whether or not those with means should donate, Harrison writes, "It depends. In my view, people who volunteer a lot of time improving Wikipedia's content have already made their 'gift' and should feel no obligation. For everyone else, the calculus is personal."

He concludes: "Clearly, Wikipedians are right to engage in vigorous discussion about how donations are solicited from visitors, and to oversee how those funds are actually spent." – Sdkb

  1. ^ Disclosure: all editors quoted by Harrison are present or past contributors to The Signpost.

How to get divorced on Wikipedia

"Hi Example! Thanks for letting us know that your last name contains two q's and a z rather than two z's and a q. But can you prove it with a reference to a reliable source?" This sort of interaction may be part of our daily grind, but the outside world still finds it more than a little perplexing.

Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel recently had this experience trying to get the article on her updated to reflect her divorce earlier this year. An unidentified IP, presumably Mandel, made a COI edit request for the update at the article talk page, surpassing the vast majority of COI requests by including a source in the form of a court record number. But it was declined, with the comment, "The requested edit violates Wikipedia policy as expressed in WP:NOR and more specifically in WP:BLPPRIMARY: 'Do not use trial transcripts and other court records, or other public documents, to support assertions about a living person.' Basically, Wikipedia should not be the place of first publication of any information that has not already been published elsewhere, particularly in WP:BLP articles. If this information is sufficiently public and important enough to be reported by reliable third-party sources, then it may be updated here."

Emily St John Mandel - 2017 (cropped).jpg
Emily St. J. Mandel Twitter

Friends, did you know that if you have a Wikipedia page and you get a divorce, the only way to update your Wikipedia is to say you're divorced in an interview?

December 17, 2022

Mandel then took to Twitter, tweeting, "Friends, did you know that if you have a Wikipedia page and you get a divorce, the only way to update your Wikipedia is to say you're divorced in an interview?"

She continued, "It sounds crazy, but wikipedia runs on citations! So anyway all I want for Christmas is for a journalist writing a story for publication (online-only is fine!) to ask me if I'm still married. Also if you're reading this and you're one of my girlfriend's friends, she's not actually dating a married woman, it's just that my wikipedia page is a time capsule."

Wikipedian Hayden Schiff replied to her that, per WP:ABOUTSELF, her tweet should be sufficient. But Mandel had been (mis-)informed by "a guy who's been a Wikipedia editor for a very long time" that nothing short of media coverage would do.

Thus, two hours after her tweet, Slate ran the article, "A Totally Normal Interview With Author Emily St. John Mandel," in which Dan Kois asked her, "So, are you married these days?"

"My Wikipedia entry was essentially a time capsule," Mandel told him. "It bothered me that it was no longer accurate, but also it was kind of awkward for my girlfriend. I didn't love that if her friends looked me up, they'd think she was dating a married woman."

The BBC, which had gotten scooped, ran their own article a few days later, which referenced a similar incident in 2012 with author Philip Roth. Business Insider also ran coverage, choosing to contact a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson rather than learn to read a talk page. Upworthy arrived late to the party the next day with a GIF-filled article that nevertheless ran with "scoop" in the URL.

Back on Wikipedia, discussion has moved to whether we ought to modify WP:BLP (consensus is leaning no as of press time) and whether we ought to mention the incident in Mandel's bio (consensus is leaning yes). – Sdkb

Twitter files, tweet, tweet, delete, no keep, and Wikipedia is not for sale

A remarkable spat started on December 2 when Elon Musk promised an "awesome" announcement and then the Twitter files were released via a series of tweets, followed by a series of similar stories in cooperation with Musk, all critical of Musk's newly purchased Twitter platform and its reaction to a news story about Hunter Biden's laptop.

A Wikipedia article on the Twitter files was soon started and quickly nominated for deletion. An AfD participant called the story a "nothing burger". Musk was tweeted and he called the proposed deletion evidence of Wikipedia's "non-trivial left-wing bias" tweaking Jimmy Wales in the process. Another tweeter asked Musk if he was considering buying Wikipedia. Wales said that Wikipedia was not for sale.

Fox News, Metro (UK), Vice, Gizmodo and others noticed the Twitter spat between Elon Musk and Jimmy Wales involving the supposed offer from the former to buy Wikipedia. Fox characterized it as a "slam" against Wikipedia for considering deleting the article Twitter Files. Vice countered with the label "conspiracy theory" for reading left/right content inclusion intent into the deletion debate. Gizmodo, puzzlingly, says in a headline that Wales "Indirectly Tells Elon Musk the Site 'Is Not for Sale'" emphasis ours, but in the same article states that he's "going head-to-head with" the billionaire.

The deletion request was snow closed as "Keep".

In the meantime

Jimmy Wales, who has serious experience running a social media platform, is not likely to be foolish enough to apply. Neither would any other qualified applicant. So was this whole episode a charade or a publicity stunt right from the beginning? – B, Sb

In brief


Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, and Giorgia Meloni
"The world's largest e-waste dump" (see 3:00 minutes)
March of the Volunteers, the national anthem of the People's Republic of China since 1982
External video
video icon Glory to Hong Kong, written by "Thomas dgx yhl" and Hongkongers in 2019 on YouTube
The official Hong Kong anthem is March of the Volunteers – Mainland China's anthem. An alternative that has been used by protesters is Glory to Hong Kong.

The top results of an English search of "Hong Kong national anthem" on Google is the Wikipedia page for "Glory to Hong Kong" with text saying that some have dubbed it the "national anthem of Hong Kong." The next result is the Wikipedia entry for "March of the Volunteers"

See "Hong Kong demands Google bury protest song in online anthem search results", from The Washington Post via MSN.
Pageviews-20211201-20221130 for French cookies.png
Monthly pageviews were over 250 million in November (note logarithmic scale)

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