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I am an admin on SourceWatch.

The nice thing about SourceWatch is that the corporate hucksters and climate denialists are suppressed, unlike Wikipedia.

You may enjoy reading my essay about The Futility of Arguing with Anthropogenic Global Warming Deniers.

If this site appeals to you, please join up!

Wikipedia, a broken model?

Although I've been a member of Wikipedia since 2005, under one account or another, and have over 13,000 edits under my belt (and hundreds of hours of my time freely donated), I now think the Wikipedia model is fatally flawed.

In the early days, Wikipedia was more or less ignored by political parties and corporations, but as soon as it began ranking at the top of Google searches, that changed radically. I noticed that more and more editors lacked the disinterested aim of simply wanting to put as much useful and accurate information as possible into the project, and more and more would obsessively edit against anything negative being added to the article dealing with "their" idol/party/politician/product/corporation. Articles on euthanasia were soon besieged by the Pro-Life nuts. Well sourced information was excluded from numerous articles, and it became harder and harder to get data into articles.

The most egregious cases are the articles dealing with products, especially controversial, profitable products (eg aspartame). Some of the editors "protecting" articles nowadays are obviously legal people, letting legal terms slip into their language every now and then. Others have edit histories that show clearly their true identity as paid pro-corporate propagandists, as they go from article to article expunging information that could affect the profits of a wide variety of corporations. There must be agencies where you can hire people like this. And if you persist in trying to insert information they do not want disseminated, you'll find yourself reported quick-smart on an official noticeboard as disruptive, and if you don't have hours to defend yourself from their tightly-argued "wall-of-text" denouncements, you'll find an admin has blocked you, thus besmirching your record, and that in turn will be used against you in perpetuity by future editors with shady agendas. It's all incestuous now too, because these article watchdog editors know precisely how to network behind the scenes with like-minded admins, who will turn up on the noticeboard to put the boot in at just the right moment.

You'll also find yourself hounded all over Wikipedia, and have these people carefully study your habits, grammar, history etc, so that you are forced to start other accounts to escape them (and as soon as they tie these accounts together, you'll be reported as having sockpuppets and permanently banned). In my own case it all became too much, with stalking that intruded on my real life. Frightening stuff ... I suppose if you threaten people's profits or reputations, expect pushback, which can be violent. (That's why I think SourceWatch is such a courageous venture!)

Multiple editors now line up to oppose you on what, in the old days, would be a routine and uncontroversial edit, with peer-reviewed studies as sources. The cry of "undue weight", their final refuge when you've fulfilled all other requirements for inclusion, is essentially unanswerable. It's a deliciously grey area, entirely subjective, and so it all comes down to the Wikipedia idea of "consensus". Consensus is not supposed to be a system where the majority wins, but that's how it works in practice. So an article about a right-leaning journalist, for instance, will typically have at least two (and sometimes many more) right wing lick-spittles permanently in attendance. Unless you arrive at the article in force, IOW in the company of three or more like-minded editors, all determined to insert a detail, you are outvoted by the indentured sycophants who keep an eagle eye on the page. You can take the argument to a noticeboard, but if the information about the person is in any way negative, you will be shown little sympathy. Wikipedia is hypersensitive to legal threats and errs on the side of extreme caution. You may have good, or even excellent, sourcing, but the Wikipedia Foundation, which is now (December 2011) literally begging for money, is not going to back your edits. Truthiness is good enough at Wikipedia, because it's cheaper. That's the bottom line, in litigious America.

Another area of absurd stress and melodrama is the anthropogenic global warming article space. It's well documented now how big polluters (the Koch brothers for example), who gain vast sums selling coal or oil that results in the uncontrolled pumping of carbon dioxide without penalty into the atmosphere, have paid people to choke message boards and news websites' comment sections with denialism. With hundreds of billions of profits at stake, it's no surprise. Big Tobacco ran the same sort of disinformation campaigns with tobacco smoking, and it worked well for them (see the work of Naomi Oreskes). So editors, some of them climate scientists, end up in endless pitched battles with flat Earthers armed with propaganda talking points from the right wing blogosphere. Every syllable of every article connected to global warming is endlessly argued over. It's a shameful, unedifying spectacle.

Anyway, I've seen enough of Wikipedia to know that you cannot trust most of the data there, not just because of all the forum stacking, paid editing and compulsive obsessives, but because fewer and fewer editors do it for the pleasure of spreading information. I've found that more and more articles are neglected and contain frankly erroneous material (the medical articles are especially poor).

I think Jimbo Wales needs to do something radically different with the site. The current model is simply broken, and I'm sure someone else will create something better. IMO SourceWatch is much more reliable on the topics it covers (the anti-Fascist, anti-corporate agenda is refreshingly explicit). Perhaps what we need are numerous sites like SourceWatch (one for medicine edited by doctors, one for science edited by scientists, etc). But change is required, because Wikipedia leaves a nasty taste in one's mouth, and nothing that compromised lasts for long. ≡ SCRIBE ≡ 11:30, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

As further proof of some of my claims, see Lobbying Firm Caught Editing Wikipedia Article on Beer Brand ≡ SCRIBE ≡ 04:15, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

2013 update: it's all starting to come out now: Wiki-PR firm infiltrates Wikipedia with promotional editing. ≡ SCRIBE ≡ 08:22, 28 October 2013 (EDT)