The Dark Side of Wikipedia

As a rising singer and actor in Bollywood, I decided to do something we all have done — and probably not just once. I Googled myself.

I landed on Wikipedia, where an entire article had been written about me. Flattered, I read it from top to bottom and was excited to see a few details about myself that I had almost forgotten. Cool!, I thought.

A couple years later, I invented a space elevator design, which is basically a structure that would help space programs by making them cost effective (it’s called a Telescopic Exo Shell, if you’re into that “space” part of science). One night, I decided to use Wikipedia to search the name of a city where I would be traveling to for a solar exhibition on the following day to learn a little bit more about it and the companies that would exhibit there. After reading some cool history, I decided to look up the article about me on Wikipedia again. I found that an editor there, Skyway, who is a fan of (or employed by) an eager project called SpaceShaft, nixed my invention from the article about space elevators and then decided that I had invented a “space tower” (whatever that is) instead of a “space elevator”. I guess Wikipedia knows more about me and my work than I do!

It didn’t stop here however.

Another editor named Ronz then decided that my singing and acting careers were just “hobbies,” because he said so. I guess again, Wikipedia was teaching me new things about myself. I mean, who cares what The Times of India has to say right? After slicing and dicing my biography, Ronz put up a giant alert at the top of the article exclaiming that the article was an exaggeration. Even worse, he was backed up by an administrator there named Bilby, so he apparently felt like he could do anything he pleased. This resulted in one genuine user, who tried to help me out, getting banned and in turn that scared away others who were also trying to help me.

A bit annoyed, I decided to hire an editor to see if he could address Ronz’s concerns about the Wikipedia article. A giant alert on the first link that comes up about me in a preferred search engine could be potentially damaging, especially since I frequently look for investors for my inventions. The editor I hired promised that he’d try his best to talk to Ronz and see if they could work together to make some changes so the article could meet Wikipedia’s guidelines – which it probably did in a way as the article was stable without any issues for the last 24 months.

When I saw their interaction, it was obvious that Ronz was uninterested in addressing what he saw as problems in the article. Whenever the editor I hired would try to discuss issues and propose changes with Ronz, this know-it-all would just filibuster in order to try to keep the damaging alerts regular — maybe because he’s paid to? That being the case, my article, which once had 25,268 characters and 43 citations (involving links to an official online article from a leading newspaper), now was sliced almost in half, to 13,204 characters and 23 citations. This was the result of 60 edits made in order to attempt to discredit me and my work.

This compelled me to do some research of my own on one of the world’s most least-examined and most often-used sources. I had no idea of the can of worms I would open. Influential lobbies control a great number of the articles at this so-called encyclopedia. I guess this answers Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s July 2014 article in The Huffington Post about why articles relating to religion on Wikipedia are so biased. The Kellogg School of Management also reported that Wikipedia was heavily biased in other areas, such as politics. In the area of Women’s Studies, Professor Hannah Bruckner from New York University and Professor Julia Adams of Yale conducted research that found Wikipedia “underrepresented female academics and their work.”

What’s even more shocking is the fact that many of the individuals who participate in these organized tribes on Wikipedia are not mere users, but administrators (1,402 are active) as well. One administrator, User:Piotrus, organized an Eastern European mailing list (EEML) to promote nationalism, as well as an anti-Russian interpretation of history on a slew of Wikipedia articles. Remember, this is what many of your kids rely on when they write research papers in middle and high school.

Anyone, yes anyone, can create an account on Wikipedia and start editing there (possibly as a recruit of a larger lobby). On Wikipedia, each user is allowed three reverts. If you cross three reversals, you’re banned. However, if you have an email list or organized lobby of editors (and sometimes administrators) to help, you can be sure that your point of view will emerge as the victor in an article, for hundreds of thousands of people to see. And if you’re on the losing team, you might get banned altogether.

Most people take Wikipedia for granted, depending on it for such topics as science and history, especially since it always ranks first in searches around the globe. Would the Wikimedia Foundation accept responsibility if pupils learn a biased version of history that promotes one group of people above another? Would the Wikimedia Foundation pay for damages caused to individuals whose articles are slanderous? If not, I think it’s time to invest in something more reliable, or at least ensure genuine people are editing the articles, people with real names taking responsibility for their content and their actions.

In the current situation of my page, it has become a war-zone of edits and reverts and continues to remain that way. Unless perhaps an administrator would intervene to cast his “fair judgment” on this perpetual problem that readers of the future would one day unassumingly read as true fact.

Interested to know how it works? Wikipedia Q & A

Q: How do editors add more edits to their credit? What are edits and how does an editor get rated because of the number of edits they possess?

A: Every article on Wikipedia are “enabled” to be modified by those with a Wikipedia account, as well as by anonymous editors. However, some articles are protected in order not to allow anonymous editors to edit and furthermore, some articles are only modifiable by administrators. Each edit a user makes on Wikipedia gets logged in his/her contributions, increasing the number of edits that they have in their record. Different service awards are available for editors on Wikipedia, based on the number of their edits. A registered editor must have one edit on their account and the highest service award is that of a Vanguard Editor, a user who has 132,000 edits and around 16 years of experience.

Q: When are they considered a senior editor?

A: On Wikipedia, a Senior Editor has crossed 24K edits and has edited for approximately four years.

Q: What powers do they have compared to a junior editor?

A: A Senior Editor does not have more power unless they possess certain user rights or administrative privileges. However, these user rights and privileges are generally granted to experienced users while those with little editing experience do not have these powers. Examples of user rights include the ability to review and patrol articles and move templates. Administrators have the power to block users, view content of deleted articles, among other privileges.

Q: Who bans an editor? Reasons to get banned?

A: An administrator is the usual person in charge of blocking an editor from editing. Blocks are usually imposed for edit warring, especially violating the three revert rule. In addition, editors can be blocked for using sockpuppets, being disruptive, plagiarism, canvassing other editors to vote a certain way on articles, and for being uncivil. A ban is a more grievous form of punishment in which an editor is prohibited from editing some or all Wikipedia pages. Usually bans are levied by the Wikipedia Community, after discussing a certain user, by the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee, and in some cases, administrators.

Q: Things editors usually do to log in more than usual edits, could one action usually solve the issue? Do they deliberately edit articles to falsely increase edit numbers and what are the signs. Is a single alteration counted as an edit? How do they come across articles? Or do they randomly search for some? Is it random?

A: Most users do not seek to boost their edit count intentionally, although there might be some editors who do. Of course, the more articles a user edits, the more his/her edit count will increase. A single alteration to an article, policy page, or talk page increases a user’s edit count. An individual can find more articles to edit by simply clicking on a piped link (available in blue) on one article to jump to another one. However, individuals can reach other Wikipedia articles by entering a subject of their interest in the search bar there. There is a link that enables users to go to a random article too.

Q: Explain edit war. When does an admin step in? Can an admin favor someone and be biased?

A: An edit war is when one editor reverts another editor repeatedly. An admin steps in whenever one editor reports another editor who has crossed three reverts on the same article, typically within twenty-four hours, although it could be less reverts or more time if the editor has been warned not to edit war before or has been blocked for some time for committing this offense. Although admins are not allowed to show favouritism, it could happen and an unassuming user could get blocked. It should be noted that administrators are appointed by the Wikipedia community (Wikipedia users) that votes to accept or decline the application of a user to become an admin.

Q: Wikipedia looks down upon paid editors and has made recent changes to their policy stating paid editors must declare they are working for the client but, are they creating an environment that forces corporations and notable individuals to hire paid editors and defend their articles since Wikipedia links take precedence over official websites?

A: In cases where notable persons and companies have an article, it could be understandable that they wish to improve their image, especially when Wikipedia articles rank number one on search engines for many topics. If certain editors are flagging certain articles and are adding defamatory content to those articles, it makes sense that the subject of the article would want to hire an editor to correct any misunderstanding. However, notable persons or corporations could also hire paid editors to remove factual scandals that have occurred in order to improve their self-image. It’s a two-sided coin.

Q: Trick to create an encyclopedic content and make it stick. What does one need to do?

A: In order to create a solid Wikipedia article, it must meet the notability guideline. After this is in order, the article must be written neutrally, in an encyclopedic tone. In addition, an article must have several references which are formatted into in line citations and must not include content that is the editor’s opinion or synthesis, i.e. no original research is allowed.

Q: Why Wikipedia cannot be sued. What law was passed?

A: From my understanding, it is possible to sue the Wikimedia Foundation or individual editors. A Wikipedia article actually exists documenting these cases, although it is somewhat outdated:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litigation_involving_the_Wikimedia_Foundation This happens all the time! The following are some links to recent cases: http://www.dailydot.com/news/wikipedia-lawsuit-yank-barry-10-million/ & http://popdust.com/2014/08/07/photographer-suing-wikipedia-for-using-his-monkey-selfie-david-slater/

Q: On what grounds can someone win a case against Wikipedia if ever? Would it be first?

A: One might be able to win a case against Wikipedia on the grounds of defamation (slander/libel), receiving threats, and copyright infringement, possible among other criminal acts. One notable case is that of Louis Bacon, whose case resulted the London High Court forcing the Wikimedia Foundation to reveal the names of editors who had defamed him (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/09/louis-bacon-wikipedia-defamation-lawsuit_n_859499.html for the full story).

 Q: How much would a corporation have to spend on paid editors to defend their tarnished image because of influential paid editors and admins that work against an article?

A: The answer to this question depends—it could be a dollar or it could be an infinite amount of money. If a group of editors are bent on damaging the reputation or an individual or corporation, it may be difficult for a paid editor to make progress on the article. In most cases, however, editors are understanding and are willing to better the encyclopedia—a paid article can usually bring an article to meet Wikipedia’s guidelines for about $500.

Q: Can your page get deleted because you have spoken against Wikipedia? Provide examples.

A: If an individual/company who/that is notable (meets WP:N) should theoretically not have his/her/their article deleted. However, the fact that they sued the Wikimedia Foundation would most probable enter the Wikipedia article of the individual/company. For example, Louis Bacon’s article on Wikipedia still exists, although it contains mention of his lawsuit against the Wikimedia Foundation. The FBI, Fuzzy Zoeller, and American Academy of Financial Management have also tried to (unsuccessfully) sue or threaten to sue the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia contains references to these cases either on these articles, or on a collective list.

[[ After looking at the history of my page, the article has been stable since 2012. This was the version of my article before editors (SkywayRonz )were hired to disrupt this page by putting up alerts, deleting content and discrediting my work https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nofel_Izz&direction=prev&oldid=615600760 ]]




4 responses to ‘The Dark Side of Wikipedia

  1. OMG. no

    one would have known until this RED ALERT. thank you Nofel for sharing this. i am an avid WIKI reader, thinking the knowledge/ or articles i get from it are 100% researched and based on facts than opinions. this surely is an eye opener. brilliant find, and i hope you are able to resolve this not just for yourself but for a lot of us commoners who read this stuff. – Natasha Shrimanker.

    • Well, it seems to be a dark place when you have to deal with so called volunteers. I had my singing, acting and inventing careers erased because someone wanted to.

  2. This design is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great
    job. I really loved what you had to say, and more
    than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  3. So true! The untrustworthy non-academic encyclopaedia Wikipedia has European-minded liberal modern secular bias. For example, when people of truth-seeking conscience read and analyse carefully the LGBT, prostitution and abortion on Wikipedia, they will notice such bias (it generally considers LGBT marriage as clearly natural and normal that needs to be completely recognised. The title reads: LGBT “rights” in each country!).

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