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Wikipedia - friend or foe to #MeToo? 
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Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:50 pm
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#MeToo is all about publicising the prevalence and general acceptance of sexual assault, right?

So let's see how well Wikipedia plays its part in this noble movement. You might assume given their renowned liberal bias and painfully progressive self-aggrandizement, that they're totally on board, and are doing everything they can to assist - while of course abiding by the fundamental principles that they need to remain neutral and contain only verifiable information.

This post isn't about non-neutral or unverified information. It is, rather surprisingly, about how they often simply fail to ensure variable and neutral information pertinent to #MeToo is quite easily kept out of Wikipedia entirely, using means that are basic, indeed obvious.

I shall use the example of businessman Michael W. Ferro Jr., who retired hours before Fortune published the following on 19 March..... ... legations/

On 20 March, novice editor Clawgoose duly updated his Wikipedia biography with a sentence in the introduction and a full section in the biography, using Fortune as the source. On 5 April, Aschetter24, an editor with an extremely unusual and probematic edit history, spread over years, blanked all that information. A day later, a slow edit war ensues between Clawgoose and Aschetter24 over just the sentence in the introduction. In this period, Aschetter24 succeeds after just two attempts, removing it for a week (10-17 April).

On 13 April, having come to the attention of well known and experienced editor Jytdog, Aschetter24 declared on his user page they are a paid editor, and after some further exposure and dispute, he is blocked indefinitely the next day as a spam/advertising only account. None of this attention resulted in a reversal of their blanking of the information about Ferro.

An attempt by an unregistered (IP) editor on 16 April to add a sentence on the allegations in the introduction, was reverted by an established editor using an automated assistant after just nine minutes, for being unsourced.

On 20 April, a brand new editor Mstubbs80 is on the scene, and in their first edit, resumes the edit war with Clawgoose. They succeed in removing it for another week, to 27 April, even though in that week the article also undergoes a substantial clean-up by experienced editor Scope creep. Another revert succeeds in removing it for three days (27-30 April). By this time Mstubbs80 was finally on the radar of experienced editors, Scope creep and others, so their further attempts only succeeded for minutes, or occasionally an hour or so. However, through sheer persistence, undettered by a three day block on 2 May, he managed to get it scrubbed for another eleven days (7-18 May). Then another three days (22-24 May). Then another two weeks (25 May-5 June).

On 6 June, the media drops a story exposing this farce..... ... 1826610494

In the early hours of 6 June, novice editor Maimonides26, who had only a few edits back in Nov/Dec 2017, makes a single edit which finally restored the whole of the content, intro sentence and main section. As they explan....
‎ (Re-added the section on allegations of sexual harassment and assault that were previously deleted by an account (potentially belonging to Ferro) that has repeatedly removed any mention of the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Ferro. The added information includes sources from Fortune, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Wall Street Journal.)
Mstubbs80 then tries to remove it all, twice, before finally being blocked a second time, albeit only for two weeks.

At no time did Aschetter24 or Mstubbs80 ever explain why they were removing this information. At no time was Aschetter24 asked to explain or warned about this specific article. Mstubbs80 was warned (with impersonal templates) countlessly, almost exclusively, their only other message from Wikipedia being a hand written note suggesting another more constructive course of action, which was also ignored, coming as it did only on 7 May.

Despite both editors being obviously problematic in their history and disruptive in their deeds, they succeeded in getting this information scrubbed from this article quite well, certainly well enough to justify being paid handsomely for their efforts, if we assume Mstubbs80 isn't Ferro himself. The detailed article section added on 20 March, remained out until 6 June, a grand total of 78 days. In that period, they also managed to ensure the Wikipedia article didn't mention the allegations at all, by removing the single sentence in the introduction, for a grand total of 45 days.

It took specific media exposure before they were finally stopped, and it remains to be seen, when the two week block of Mstubbs80 expires, if the farce will resume, either at his hands or via another new account.

The roots of this farce are not even terribly complex to identify. We critics know because they are so prevalent they can be called commonplace. Overall, Wikipedia's ability to track changes to articles and monitor what users are doing, especially immediately upon the first instance of attack, or when the attack is spread over (not very) long periods, is wholly inadequate.

They're logging it all, every change, which is how I'm able to give you the information I have here about what happened when. The experienced volunteer editors are just, well, too lazy or incompetent to deal with it properly. Doesn't really matter which. Poor design and management does the rest, although poor management is somewhat inevitable when the design dictates nobody is obliged to do anything at all, even if they are aware of something where action is required.

Their system of warnings and blocks, like their overall culture regarding how you communicate with others, friend or foe, is wholly inadequate. Not quite incoherent, but inefficient and ineffective. An admirable culture of 'assume good faith' all too often falls down because they fail to recognise when the assumption is no longer valid.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect is how an inexperienced editor, Clawgoose, seemingly had no idea, and was certainly never told, that he wasn't just supposed to keep edit warring with these people. The only communication they received from Wikipedia, was an automated welcome. Not much for their sterling albeit misguided efforts. Just as tragic was the virtually imediate removal of the IP edit, nominally for lack of sourcing, but wholly wrong because it was sourceable, not least because it had already been added to Wikipedia with a source.

There was missed chance after missed chance, before, during and even after highly experienced editors were in a position to know, or were indeed aware, of what these users were attempting to achieve, and why.

Wikimedia Foundation propaganda happily tells the world that occasional attacks where reliably sourced pertinent information is removed with no explanation, is the price they pay for allowing anyone to edit. This propaganda would also have you believe that the very strength of Wikipedia is that such attempts are rebuffed within minutes, and those who then resort to edit warring, are quickly blocked. They even claim that if they come back with a new account, the article is swifltly protected so that only experienced doctors can modify it. All this supposedly happens without prodding by the media or critics.

This case, which is by no means unusual, has proven these claims to be nothing but a tissue of lies. This article has never been locked down, it has remained open for editing (and thus scrubbing) by anyone. Nobody should ever believe what they are told about how Wikipedia supposedly works, least of all if the source is the Wikimedia Foundation. And nobody should be under any illusion that it is fixable. Critics and the media have been highlighting failures like this for over a decade. Nothing is getting better. Hardly anything ever changes, and what they do change, invariably makes things worse.

The increasing focus on spammers is arguably why Jytdog at al just missed or didn't care about what was a basic and obvious example of sustained removal of content. The increased reliance on automation, because thinking and typing takes time, partly explains the treatment of the IP and the other communication failures. If the measures to make Wikipedia less complex and more inclusive had worked, Clawgoose wouldn't have had the experience they had.

Everything else that contributed to these failures, really is long standing stuff they've simply tried to pretend isn't even in need of a fix, because it either cannot be fixed without huge investment in code and/or huge changes in culture, or cannot be fixed at all, not without turning Wikipedia into something else entirely. An entity where heads roll and changes happen in the wake of things like this being exposed.

As such, do not expect any Wikipedian, least of all the Foundation, to address the points made in this post in any meaningful way. If at all. You can expect only more propaganda, or to be arrogantly told that since you don't pay for Wikipedia, this is all somehow OK. The best solution for everybody, #MeToo included, is if Wikipedia is destroyed. If not, it will continue to be the top result in relevant Google searches, and even be relied on by certain media companies as a reference work, even though for more than half the time it is there, it won't even be reflecting what you can find in the sources just below it.

This was an obvious failure to ensure valid content is retained and protected, leading to an ommission easily spotted by those looking at other more reliable sources. And yet it still happened. And it might keep happening even on this now well publicised article (check back next year if you doubt it). In other cases, Wikipedia's failures will be less obvious.

In so many ways, #MeToo have set more realistic and indeed achievable goals than anyone who sets out to ensure Wikipedia simply does what the Foundation says it does, indeed have claimed they do for years now. Let that sink in for a minute.

Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:37 am
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Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:50 pm
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Interesting to note that even the Wikipedia internal project dedicated to fixing one aspect of its gender problem, the lack of minimally acceptable quality articles on notable woman, is seemingly blind to the issues of sexism. And the project includes several women editors!

They rather crudely use the term "Hot 100", and it is depressingly, exactly for the reasons you might suspect.

This is the sexist title the project gives to their list of the "100 women biographies we see as among the most urgent to be brought up to minimum GA status". Hotness equating to urgency of attention? Nice. A line-up of 100 hot women just waiting for the attention of the largely male Wikipedia population. Bleeergh.

You can check out these hot ladies touching! That costs extra.

It almost seems irrelevant to dig into the details. But here goes.

This "GA" (Good Article) status is merely an indicator the article "meets a core set of editorial standards". This in turn being a rather grandiose way of saying it is well written, properly sourced, reasonably complete, neutral, stable and illustrated. You might wonder why they even have articles that do not meet these criteria, and if so, you probably shouldn't be told only 0.5% of the whole of Wikipedia's so called "knowledge", meets this standard.

Bearing in mind the significance of this list, and how long the encyclopedia has been seemingly trying fix its gender issues, which is for years now, you should probably also be quite surprised the current list includes Florence Nightingale, Mother Theresa, Boudica and Rosa Parks. If there is any meaning to the ordering, it surely cannot be based on signifance.

In a sad sign of the reality of Wikipedia's operating model, only Florence Nightingale has never been near the level of a GA, much less the heady heights of FA (Featured Article). Someone tried twice to get Boudica to certified as an FA in 2005 and 2007, so it is odd this effort couldn't even manage to land her at GA, or that nobody has tried in the decade since. Mother Teresa was a GA from 2007-2011, then someone shot straight for FA in 2016, their failure yet again not even yielding a GA. Rosa Parks was an FA for seven years, 2005 to 2012, and has since been abandoned to her fate.

With that record of abject failure to even maintain the levels they do reach for some of the most recognisable women in world history, it seems rather over ambitious to even have a list of 100. Most, if not all of those delisting events will have merely been because the articles will have failed to be continually upgraded, as the Wikipedian's understanding of how to apply the specific GA/FA criteria have evolved. It could well even be the case that elevating one or even three of those four to GA might only involve relatively little effort, and yet even that seems beyond the Wikipedians.

Understandably, the list seems to skew toward figures of inspiration. There may not even be any objectively bad people on the list. You would have to assume Aung San Suu Kyi was added to the list some time ago.

Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:13 pm
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