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Press Releases

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Arbs gone wild

by Yerucham Turing & Eric Barbour

There are two elements which form the structural bedrock of Wikipedia, and which combine to cause an insoluble problem:

1. Wikipedia insists upon the principle of anonymous editing. This is considered sacrosanct, and it means that ultimately, no real-life person is responsible for the accuracy or veracity of article content.

2. On any controversial topic, a Wikipedia article is a battleground in which the contestants vie for control of content. The stakes are high; the winner may use that Wikipedia article as a soapbox for propaganda, which will shoot right to the top of a typical Google search. Officially, Wikipedia wishes that this were not the case, but wishes are not yet horses. The battle for control is settled by two criteria: “consensus” (which in practice means majority rule), and debates over policy (which in practice means gaming the system). Disputes are resolved, on a temporary basis, by bullying and sophistry, but the only lasting resolution is via the banning by Wikipedia administrators of one faction of the contestants, generally through the connivance of the other faction. The banned editors are generally not prepared to simply give up and find another hobby; many are psychologically addicted to Wikipedia as a MMORPG. There is an appeals process for banned editors, which has roughly the same success rate as attempts to build a perpetual-motion machine.

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These two elements combine to ensure that Wikipedia is dominated by what it calls “sockpuppetry“. Because of the “majority rule” feature, and because Wikipedia editors are not real-life individuals, but rather, “accounts,” the temptation to create more than one account in order to sway the “consensus” is a powerful one. Consequently, many Wikipedians become sockpuppeteers. And as well, many Wikipedians who do not

…continue reading Arbs gone wild

Is the Social Network Mightier than the Sword?

By Hersch

With the advent of the internet, the social response time to mass communication has been radically reduced. This has made possible new social phenomena, as large numbers of people can quickly coordinate their activity in response to a particular set of circumstances. An early example of such phenomena was the “flash mob.” Because of the speed at which these sorts of events transpire, there is not much time for calm reflection, and so a sort of herd (or stampede) impulse comes into play. The political utility of social media was recognized early on, and it was discovered that for a relatively modest investment in infrastructure, one could achieve major political effects. For example, it has been suggested that a few organizations with deep pockets exploited social media to produce the Color Revolutions in former Soviet bloc nations.

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As Wikipedia emerged as the social networking site with the most Google juice, it became a magnet for propagandists of all varieties. This is despite the fact that Wikipedia has a policy called WP:NOTSOAPBOX, which states that “Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a battleground, or a vehicle for propaganda,” making this one of Wikipedia’s most widely ignored policies. Teams of contestants at Wikipedia use other social media to coordinate their activities and win content disputes, so as to skew Wikipedia article content toward their preferred ideological biases (see “How to control a topic”.) Of course, the way the Wikipedia game is played, all content is supposed to be cited to Reliable Sources. For rapidly-developing current events, there are no scholarly, peer-reviewed sources available. These things take time. Therefore, the only option which remains is to use the news media.

There were two noteworthy articles that recently appeared: “Media bias a problem in Ukraine reporting”,

…continue reading Is the Social Network Mightier than the Sword?