The Power of the Wikipedia Editor

I have been highly critical of Wikipedia in the past for the penchant of some self-styled Guardians of what should be allowed in Wikipedia deleting content. But since most of the time, those were issues regarding who was or not a web celebrity they didn’t matter too much in the greater scheme of things. But the potential for abuse was still there.

Take, for example, the Wikipedia entry for Naomi Oreskes. Read this version and this later one. Notice the differences. Then read the revision history. So, why the controversy?

Tabletop, it turns out, has another name: Kim Dabelstein Petersen. She (or he?) is an editor at Wikipedia. What does she edit? Reams and reams of global warming pages. I started checking them. In every instance I checked, she defended those warning of catastrophe and deprecated those who believe the science is not settled. I investigated further. Others had tried to correct her interpretations and had the same experience as I — no sooner did they make their corrections than she pounced, preventing Wikipedia readers from reading anyone’s views but her own. When they protested plaintively, she wore them down and snuffed them out. By patrolling Wikipedia pages and ensuring that her spin reigns supreme over all climate change pages, she has made of Wikipedia a propaganda vehicle for global warming alarmists. But unlike government propaganda, its source is not self-evident. We don’t suspend belief when we read Wikipedia, as we do when we read literature from an organization with an agenda, because Wikipedia benefits from the Internet’s cachet of making information free and democratic. This Big Brother enforces its views with a mouse. – Lawrence Solomon

In this case, it doesn’t even matter to me who is wrong or right. What is way more disturbing is the denial that there is any controversy and the systematic manipulation to suppress any mention of it. As long as Wikipedia is subject to the whim of the individual editors who are willing to not only delete things they disagree with but lock out furthering editing to ensure they retain control, Wikipedia will remain nothing more than a group wiki for a tightly-constrained oligarchy.

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Don’t Call the Magic Attic

Just to be the safe side, you might want to check your local library and see if they have any of these titles.
bq.Hillsborough County librarians spent much of Tuesday tracking down a series of children’s books that referred readers to a telephone sex line. Patricia MacMartin discovered the faulty phone number when her 9-year-old daughter asked to dial the 800 number in the back of her Magic Attic Club book. She notified library officials and when they didn’t remove the books, she checked out every Magic Attic book available from her local branch, the New Tampa Regional Library. – “Laura Kinsler(Librarians Hunt Children’s Books With Porn Link)”:http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/nov/06/librarians-hunt-down-childrens-books-porn-link/?news-breaking I first head about this last night during one of those sensationalized news breaks our local stations love so much: something about “Librarians failing to remove books from their shelves.” As it turned out, that actually wasn’t necessary. When we looked into things this morning, it only required removing a pre-perforated card. Nothing sensational at all, but then is sweeps month…

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The New NannyState

Apparently, some members of Congress were so impressed by John Edward’s “fictional campaign pledge(John Edwards Vows To End All Bad Things By 2011)”:http://www.theonion.com/content/news/john_edwards_vows_to_end_all_bad, that they are going ahead and planning to enact the measures now. The House of Representatives is going to focus on file-sharing.
bq.Members of Congress Monday lashed out at the chief executive of a popular filesharing service after it was revealed that classified information was easily accessible via his and other P2P systems. Mark Gorton, chief executive of The Lime Group and Limewire P2P service, however, appeared bewildered that people were using Limewire to access confidential information. “I had no idea that there was the amount of classified information out there or that there were people who were actively looking for that,” Gorton told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. – “Chloe Albanesius(House Targets Limewire on Leaked Classified Info)”:http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2162599,00.asp Rather than curb the behavior of government employees, it makes much more sense to regulate or even ban the software. Of course, The Senate isn’t going to settle for one class of application when there is a more obvious target.
bq.US senators today made a bipartisan call for the universal implementation of filtering and monitoring technologies on the Internet in order to protect children at the end of a Senate hearing for which civil liberties groups were not invited. Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) both argued that Internet was a dangerous place where parents alone will not be able to protect their children. – “Adam Thomas(US Senators call for universal Internet filtering)”:http://pressesc.com/news/78225072007/us-senators-call-universal-internet-filtering Perhaps it is time to look back on how the Supreme Court felt a decade ago.
bq.The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal. As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship. – “John Paul Stevens(RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, et al. v. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION et al.)”:http://www2.epic.org/cda/cda_decision.html This is no more constitutional than it was a decade ago. And interestingly, the two Justices who had the most reservations about the decision then (O’Connor and Rehnquist) are not even on the Court. But let’s hope we don’t go through all of this again.

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Internet Censorship is the New Black

bq.There’s an inverse correlation between the regulation of speech and the freedom of a society. In the new global world of censorware, we all live on Syria’s internet, China’s internet, filtered by companies whose first priority is to ensure that Beijing is happy with its work. – “Cory Doctorow(See no evil?)”:http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/cory_doctorow/2007/06/see_no_evil.html There is a certain bitter irony that the biggest purchases of these products are repressive regimes, corporations, and libraries. Note: The title of this post was inspired by an “idea(Amnesty: “The Struggle for Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace”)”:http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/archives/001209.html of Seth Finkelstein.

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Safer Surfing through Tagging

bq.The Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2007 is being sponsored by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and is designed to protect children from viewing pornographic images on the Internet by requiring the operators of adult sites to provide secure logs-in with age verification as well as home pages that are devoid of explicit material. It would also require adult Web site operators to include an electronic tag on their sites that make it easier for filtering software to block adult material. – “Jaikumar Vijayan(Legislation Again Tries to Protect Kids Online)”:http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,130975-c,kidsteens/article.html I immediately had to wonder if the Senators were familiar with the “Platform for Internet Content Selection(Platform for Internet Content Selection)”:http://www.w3.org/PICS/. Back in my first semester of library school (in 1995), I wrote a paper about the issue of content filtering and libraries. PICS was going to be the thing that solve it all. I used to dutifully tag all my sites even long after I knew the initiative wasn’t going anywhere. It will be interesting to see if things turn out different this time. I kind of doubt it.

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Delinquency of Minors

bq.My concern does not lie with the content of the novels, rather my concern is with the illustrations and their availability to children and the community… Does this community want our public library to continue to use tax dollars to purchase pornography? … We may as well purchase the porn shop down at the junction and move it to Eastwood. Some day this library will be drawing the same clientele. I sincerely hope the board will listen to the community. Let’s not contribute to the delinquency of minors. – “Louise Mills(Library considers removing Blankets, Fun Home)”:http://blog.newsarama.com/2006/10/06/library-considers-removing-blankets-fun-home/ Apparently, the devotees of “Fredric Wertham(Fredric Wertham)”:http://art-bin.com/art/awertham.html are alive and well. — I was looking at their card catalog and I noticed what their “hottest title(Chobits)”:http://150.199.100.34/uhtbin/cgisirsi.exe/y30w0Bd1KL/227580010/5/1?searchdata1=Chobits&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^TITLES^Title+Processing^&match_on=EXACT&library=ALL is. That says to me that the local teens have discovered their library, which would seem to most of us, to be a very good thing.

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Banning Fahrenheit 451

bq.Alton Verm, of Conroe, objects to the language and content in the book. His 15-year-old daughter Diana, a CCHS sophomore, came to him Sept. 21 with her reservations about reading the book because of its language. “The book had a bunch of very bad language in it,” Diana Verm said. “It shouldn’t be in there because it’s offending people. … If they can’t find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn’t have a book at all.” Alton Verm filed a “Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials” Thursday with the district regarding “Fahrenheit 451,” written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1953. He wants the district to remove the book from the curriculum. “It’s just all kinds of filth,” said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read “Fahrenheit 451.” “The words don’t need to be brought out in class. I want to get the book taken out of the class.” – “Kassia Micek(Parent criticizes book Fahrenheit 451)”:http://www.hcnonline.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17270600&BRD=1574&PAG=461&dept_id=532215&rfi=6 Is it just me or is there a certain irony in calling for the banning of a book that theorizes about a future where all books are banned? Actually, I know “it isn’t just me.(Texas Parent Wants Fahrenheit 451 Removed from Classroom)”:http://killfile.newsvine.com/_news/2006/10/02/383946-texas-parent-wants-fahrenheit-451-removed-from-classroom#c312986. Add the fact he hasn’t even read the book, and the whole thing is more than sad. It is just the sort of thing that gives responsible, thoughtful parents a bad name.

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DOPA in the House

Remember when I wrote back in May about “DOPA(Deleting Online Predators Act)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2006/05/13/dopa? Guess what?
bq.Web sites like Amazon.com and MySpace.com may soon be inaccessible for many people using public terminals at American schools and libraries, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives. By a 410-15 vote on Thursday, politicians approved a bill that would effectively require that “chat rooms” and “social networking sites” be rendered inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the Internet’s most ardent users. Adults can ask for permission to access the sites. – “Declan McCullagh(Chat rooms could face expulsion)”:http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6099414.html?part=rss&tag=6099414&subj=news So what does this mean for libraries and our patrons?
bq.The Internet is changing how we live, learn, work, and interact with one another. If today’s young people are to succeed in the workplace of the future, they must learn information literacy skills for the technologies of today and tomorrow. Libraries are far and away the best places to learn these skills, and social networking sites, which introduce kids to the world of online interaction, are key to successful development in that field. – “Beth Yoke(DOPA testimony)”:http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/WOissues/techinttele/DOPA_testimony.pdf Of course, this means that if the Senate passes the bill, we will soon be blocking access to notorious sites like “LISNews(Bill Mandates Libraries & Schools Block MySpace)”:http://politics.lisnews.org/Politics/06/07/28/1316207.shtml which is one of those social networking sites that allows for profiles and user-generated content. And if this becomes a law, this definitely proves “the ties(The Age of Murdoch)”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200309/fallows between News Corp (the owner of MySpace) and the Administration are somewhat overestimated.

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Deleting Online Predators Act

Congress is back at it again. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick has introduced the Deleting Online Predators Act, known as DOPA.
bq.MySpace and other social-networking sites like LiveJournal.com and Facebook are the potential targets for a proposed federal law that would effectively require most schools and libraries to render those Web sites inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the category’s most ardent users. – “Declan McCullagh(Congress targets social network sites)”:http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6071040.html?tag=nl.e777 I think DOPEY might be a better name for it. I understand their concerns but blocking all websites that let users create public “Web pages or profiles” seemed strangely Deja Vu to me. And then I realized: that is the sort of thing that “China does(Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2005/06/16/democracy.
bq.The term ‘commercial social networking website’ means a commercially operated Internet website that – (i) allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and (ii) offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger. – “Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006(Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006)”:http://www.politechbot.com/docs/fitzpatrick.social.networking.051006.pdf This bill is obviously aimed at MySpace but it would block access to just about every site on the Internet. I don’t think is constitutional but I expect there will be a long court battle before it is decided if this passes.

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Stones of Silence

Apparently, the No-Fun-League decided to “obscure(Super Bowl Satisfies ABC, Quiets Stones)”:http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,18307,00.html some of the lyrics of the Rolling Stones performance during the Superbowl Halftime show. Personally, I thought the show was much duller than Paul McCartney’s show next year. But I have to wonder: With “Bart Starr(Starr’s return links first and 40th Super Bowls)”:http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060205/GPG0101/602050670/1206/GPGnews putting in a couple of appearances, did the NFL get confused and think it was still “1967(Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan Show)”:http://www.thefileroom.org/html/249.html?

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