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A Wikipedia landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen. A Wikipedia landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, Jan. 18, 2012 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Wikipedia’s Feel-Good Story Has a Darker Side

Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021

Last week, Maggie Dennis, Wikimedia’s vice president of community resilience & sustainability, announced that it had removed seven Chinese nationals as editors on Wikipedia, following a year-long investigation into “the unrecognized group Wikimedians of Mainland China.” The internal investigation by Wikipedia’s parent organization uncovered evidence of “infiltration” resulting in members of the platform’s editorial community facing the risk of physical harm and other threats to their safety. Though Wikipedia is banned in mainland China, there have been press reports of hotly contested “edit wars” relating to political content on the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the status of Taiwan

The episode reignites uncomfortable debates about whether Wikipedia’s arcane, male-dominated editorial processes are fit to meet future challenges, not least the growing reliance of artificial intelligence algorithms on Wikipedia content for bulk training data. It also provides a case study on the ease with which open processes can be exploited by adversaries who do not share the founders’ values. ...

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