BBC Click interviewed me for a segment on possible manipulation of Wikipedia by the Chinese state (below). Manipulation of Wikipedia by states is not new. What does seem to be new here, though, is the way in which strategies for intervening in Wikipedia (both through the election of administrators and at individual articles) are so explicitly outlined.
Remember, though, that we can never know who is editing these articles. Even wikiedits bots only pick up edits within government IP address ranges. We have no way of knowing whether the person represented by that IP address in that sitting is employed by the government. The point is that there is a lot to be gained from influencing Wikipedia’s representation of people, places, events and things given Wikipedia’s prioritised role as data source for digital assistants and search engines.
It makes sense, then, that institutions (including governments, corporations and other organisations) will try to give weight to their version of the truth by taking advantage of the weak points of the peer produced encyclopedia. Guarding against that kind of manipulation is critical but not a problem that can be easily solved. More thoughts on that soon…
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