Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2020-09-27/In the media

WIPO, Seigenthaler incident 15 years later: A celebrity quiz, Scots, and a Crypto-hating Wikipedia editor


A previous WIPO General Assembly meeting (2011)

Beijing blocks WMF from World Intellectual Property Organization, citing Wikimedia Taiwan

On September 23, at the general assembly meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, the Chinese government's delegation blocked the Wikimedia Foundation from joining WIPO as an observer. The incident was reported by Quartz ("Beijing blocked Wikimedia from a UN agency because of 'Taiwan-related issues'") and news media in various other languages (for example, ZDNet France [1], Der Standard [2] and Netzpolitik.org [3]).

As summarized by Quartz,

... the Beijing delegate said that China had “spotted a large amount of content and disinformation in violation of [the] ‘One China’ principle” on webpages affiliated with Wikimedia, thereby contravening established UN protocols and “the consistent position of WIPO on Taiwan-related issues.” The Beijing representative also suggested that Wikimedia Taiwan has been “carrying out political activities… which could undermine the state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” [...] Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, even though the ruling Communist Party has never controlled the country.

According to one eyewitness, Teresa Nobre of Communia,

This decision came as a shock to many observers of WIPO, since there has only been one case in recent memory where an observer status application to WIPO has not been accepted. In 2014, the Pirate Party International was rejected due to being a federation of political parties.

Beijing has long been known for its efforts to prevent Taiwan or Taiwanese organizations from participating in global associations (such as the World Health Organization, or, as a recent example, BirdLife International). However, excluding an international organization like WMF for such reasons seems highly unusual, with the US delegation pointing out "the established precedent at WIPO of supporting other existing observers and Member States that also have some affiliation with Taiwan. For example, the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Law Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization ..."

Wikimedia Taiwan reacted with a statement emphasizing its status as an independent organization and its commitment to neutrality, stating "we fairly display all points of view of a controversial topic, not the point of view from any particular country or government". The Wikimedia Foundation urged China to withdraw its objection, which would enable the application to go through next year.

On the Publicpolicy mailing list, Sherwin Siy from the Wikimedia Foundation gave some background about its motivations for joining WIPO:

WIPO is where the world's countries gather to write the treaties that shape the laws that govern the world's knowledge. If you've ever complained about DRM laws being ubiquitous, you can blame lobbying that took place at WIPO; if you're glad for recent laws that make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to access books, you can thank lobbying that took place at WIPO, too.

Those treaties are negotiated among country delegations that typically sit in a big impressive room in Geneva. Meanwhile, hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing publishers, broadcaster, record labels, libraries, and civil society organizations sit at the back of the room, observing the negotiations as they happen and, in between official sessions, those groups hold side briefings, pass out position papers and white papers, and try to make sure that the negotiators don't forget about their particular interests.

We wanted to make sure that the Foundation could be a part of those conversations, as a way to bring more members of the community to WIPO, and make sure that our movement's interests don't get left behind.

Creative Commons (itself already an observer at WIPO) and Wikimedia Germany reacted with statements supporting the Wikimedia Foundation's application.

Like Communia ("It was particularly disappointing that the European Union and its Member States remained silent in the discussion") and former European Parliament member Julia Reda ("Shamefully, the EU kept silent"), the German chapter also criticized the lack of support from EU member states, in contrast to the reactions of the delegations from the US and the UK.

As noted by Quartz, the Chinese government's action should be seen in the context of its previous blocking of Wikipedia and more recent reports about conflicts over Taiwan-related content on Wikipedia (see Signpost coverage: "The BBC looks at Chinese government editing"). The English Wikipedia's decision some months ago to describe Taiwan as a country also comes to mind. That said, besides Wikimedia-specific aspects, it's also worth being aware of current geopolitical developments, with almost 40 Chinese warplanes crossing the previously respected Cross-Strait median on the weekend before the WIPO incident, and observers warning that a military invasion of Taiwan is becoming a more realistic possibility.

Seigenthaler incident 15 years later

Wikipedia falsely said I was convicted of attempted murder. I expected online abuse, but not this: The editing described by this article in the Seattle Times was done by a user who states that he is a teenager. He has also requested that he be indefinitely blocked and his request was granted. Fifteen years ago this month John Seigenthaler discovered that Wikipedia had suggested that he was involved with the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. There have been over a hundred discussions on Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard involving the word "murder" since that time. We're still making the same type of mistake.

Both parties agree, curb Section 230

DOJ to Seek Congressional Curbs on Immunity for Internet Companies: (paywalled) The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Justice is seeking to change the Section 230 protections for internet platforms. According to the WSJ, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act "gives internet platforms broad latitude to police their sites and shields them from legal liability related to users’ actions, except in relatively narrow circumstances." While the WSJ did not mention Wikipedia in the article, Wikipedians might still feel threatened. Section 230 is central to the way Wikipedia operates: it says that the WMF is not responsible for your edits. Back in July Digital Trends stated the case bluntly in If Section 230 gets killed, Wikipedia will die along with it. It quoted Sherwin Siy, the Wikimedia Foundation’s senior manager for public policy saying

[If we were to] live in a world where there is no Section 230 in the United States, that changes things drastically ... It makes it a very different landscape. You’d see a lot of platforms being much more hesitant to allow users to publish things without any vetting. It would expose, for example, the Wikimedia Foundation to a lot more potential liability. It actually would just be a punishing amount of risk.

Bills cosponsored by Republicans and Democrats have been proposed to modify section 230, and presidential candidate Joe Biden has proposed revoking it.

In brief

This raises the question of "why not just skip to step 5 right away, especially if you are going to ignore the COI guideline?"
In earlier attempts to encourage the never-ending quest for free advertisements on Wikipedia, Entrepreneur has published

Odd bits

  • Which Celebrity's Wikipedia Pages Do These Random And Weird Facts Come From?: BuzzFeed tells us that Wikipedia's celebrity bios' "personal life section = everything." Then they give a quiz on some of the odd and bizarre facts contained in these sections - mostly about people in the entertainment industry. This reporter has not kept up on the personal lives of entertainers and only answered correctly on 4 out of 13 questions, but that was good enough to score better than "than 47% of quiztakers." Since there were only 4 possible answers to each question, by pure luck I'd be expected to get 3.25 answers correct. Perhaps the media outlets that tell us that people are especially interested in celebrities' personal lives are incorrect.

The Signpost in the media

“No crypto blogs, no crypto news sites — because these look like specialist trade press, but they’re really about advocacy: promoting their holdings. Many are blatantly pay for play, and very few ever saw a press release with ‘blockchain’ in it that they wouldn’t reprint.”



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