Tracking Viral Misinformation – The New York Times


Two decades ago, Wikipedia emerged as a humorous online project aimed at documenting crude resources and human knowledge and history in real time. Suspects were concerned that much of the site contained unreliable information and frequently pointed errors.

But now, the online encyclopedia is often referred to as a place to deal with misinformation and misinformation that spreads elsewhere.

Last week, the Wikimedia Foundation, the group that oversees Wikipedia, announced in January that Mariana Iskander, a social entrepreneur who has worked for many years in dealing with youth unemployment and women’s rights in South Africa, would become its chief executive.

We talked to her about her vision for the team and how the company works to prevent misinformation and misinformation across its sites and the Internet.

Give us a sense of your direction and vision for Wikimedia, especially in such a rich information landscape and this polarized world.

There are some basic principles in Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, which I think are important starting points. This is an online encyclopedia. It was not trying to be anything else. This is definitely not trying to be a traditional social media site by any means. It has a structure guided by volunteer teachers. As you know, the Foundation has no editorial control. This is a very user-led community, which we support and implement.

Lessons to be learned from what we do, but how we repeat and improve, starting with this idea of ​​extreme transparency. Everything in Wikipedia is quoted. This is discussed in our talk pages. So even though people have different perspectives, those discussions are general and open, sometimes allowing the right kind of back and forth. I think it is necessary in such a polarized society you have to create space back and forth. But how does it explicitly lead to better product and better information in the end?

I will say last, you know, this is a community of very humble and honest people. As we look to the future, how do we build those properties based on what this site can continue to offer to the community and provide free access to knowledge? How do we ensure that we reach the full diversity of humanity in terms of who is invited to participate and who is written about? How do we ensure that our collective efforts reflect more of the global South, more of women and more of the diversity of human knowledge, and more of reality?

What is your opinion on how Wikipedia fits into the widespread problem of spreading misinformation online?

Many of the key features of this site are very different from some traditional social media sites. If you take misinformation about Govt, the Wikimedia Foundation has partnered with the World Health Organization. Together, a group of volunteers called the wiki project Medicine, which focuses on medical content and creates articles, which are then carefully monitored because these are topics you want to be wary of misinformation.

Another example is that the Foundation put together a working group before the US election and, again, tried to be more proactive. [The task force supported 56,000 volunteer editors watching and monitoring key election pages.] The fact that there were only 33 changes on the main US election page is an example of how misinformation can focus on key topics that pose real dangers.

There is a podcast called “The World According to Wikipedia”. In one episode, a volunteer was interviewed and made it his job to actually become one of the main viewers of the climate change pages.

We have the technology to alert these editors when changes are made to any page so they can see what the changes are. In fact, there is a possibility of temporarily locking a page if there is a risk of misinformation being infiltrated. No one wants to do that unless absolutely necessary. The climate change example is useful because the talk pages behind it are the subject of much debate. Our teacher says: “Let’s discuss. But this is the page that I am watching closely. “

One of the biggest discussions currently going on on these social media sites is this issue of information censorship. There are those on these sites who claim that biased opinions take precedence and that conservative opinions are eliminated. When you come to the helm of Wikipedia and think about how to handle these discussions, how do you judge by keeping this happening in the background?

For me, what inspires me about this organization and these communities are the key pillars that were established on the first day of setting up Wikipedia. One of them is this idea of ​​providing information with a neutral perspective, and understanding all sides and all perspectives on neutrality.

This is what I said before: Keep discussions on the talk page, but conclude with informative, documented, verifiable quotes about articles. I think this is a basic principle that, again, can teach something to others.

Coming from a progressive organization fighting for women’s rights, have you ever thought too much about the misinformation that is arming your background that it could have an impact on the calls you make about what is allowed on Wikipedia?

I will say two things. I would say that the most relevant aspects of the work I have done in the past are volunteer-led movements, which are much harder than others think, and I had a role to play in really understanding how to create systems. , I think it would be appropriate for an organization and a collection of communities trying to create culture and increase and achieve their size.

The second thing I would say is, again, I was on my own learning journey and I invite you to be on a learning journey with me. How I choose to be in the world is that we treat others with good faith and engage in respectful and polite ways. That does not mean that others will do it. But I think we have to have it as an aspiration and a way, to be the change we want to see in the world.

When I was in college, I did a lot of research on Wikipedia, and some of my professors would say, ‘You know, it’s not a formal resource.’ But I always used it. I wonder if you have any idea about that!

I think most professors now admit to sneaking into Wikipedia to search for things!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia. On the one hand, here was this thing, people made fun of and said they would not go anywhere. It has now become the most legally cited source in human history. I can tell you from my own conversations with academics that the sources on Wikipedia and the descriptions that use Wikipedia have changed.


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