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Wikipedia fighting against a tide of false information that is polarising nations Canva

Wikipedia fighting against a tide of false information that is polarising nations

Written by  Nov 21, 2021

False reports of dying from Covid-19, gender inequality, Nazism - these are just some of the dangers that volunteers on Wikipedia, which has tens of millions of articles, are struggling with every day. For every correct article on the internet there are another fifty that are completely inaccurate.

The world's largest online encyclopaedia is usually the first result that 'pops up' when users ask something on the Internet and is therefore a very influential source of free information, but also a reflection of the flaws of humanity.

In theory, Wikipedia articles can be written by anyone with an Internet connection, in approximately 300 languages, and the content is edited and controlled by mostly anonymous volunteers. "I carry my laptop wherever I go to edit Wikipedia," said Ala Najar of the Middle East, who asked for details of his identity to be omitted to protect his privacy. “My friends say it’s an addiction. I say it's my passion," he wrote to AFP by e-mail.

Najar says he contributes to Wikipedia with nearly 500 entries (content) per week. He is a doctor, so he is occupied with the fight against the flood of false information that appeared in the pandemic. And at no time before in the history of the internet has there been so much inaccurate information, and information that is polarising nations.

In the multitude of misinformation in the encyclopaedia, he noticed false reports that covid-19 had killed some celebrities and that the numbers of infected and dead in some countries were higher than they were. "I have reviewed hundreds of articles in the coronavirus pandemic and rejected many pieces of information that are inaccurate or misleading," said Najar, the winner of the 2021 Wikipedia award for work.

 

 

The encyclopaedia has existed for 20 years, and even has an article dedicated to its own controversies. In recent years, it has received positive accolades for his ability to verify facts. Although the platform is expanding, it is not its goal to make money, so it is not subject to criticism that its profit is more important than security like Facebook. Instead, Wikipedia has volunteers who are deeply involved in its mission to provide access to summaries of all branches of human knowledge.

Removing suspicious articles from the platform can be a thankless job. "One editor called me a 'vandal' because I was removing information that had no source," said Ksenia Coffman, who fought what she said was "fan fiction" about World War II on Wikipedia, including the way Nazis and Germans were portrayed. It is a series of records that ignored the historical context of war crimes such as the Holocaust and instead romanticized German forces.

Another problem is the much smaller representation of women than men in written works. Only 15 percent of English-language biographies in 2015 were about women, so efforts were made to reduce that gender gap. Six years later, that percentage has climbed to 19 percent of biographies, said volunteer Rebecca O’Neill.

Last year, she wrote one article a day on Wikipedia, in the ratio of 19 biographies of women to one biography of a man. “I can offer something as an individual. I will take the time to simply do it,” she said.

Wikipedia requires reliable, published sources from newspapers or academia to support the article. “Wikipedia is an embarrassing mirror of the world because it outlines all of our systematic gaps in knowledge,” O’Neill said.

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