Wikipedia and GamerGate

There’s been a lot of press about the forthcoming Arbitration Committee decision on the conduct of editors on the GamerGate article. For instance, today The Verge reports that Wikipedia denies ‘purging’ feminist editors over Gamergate debate.

Reading the many articles and blog posts (especially Mark Bernstein’s – though you should appreciate he is banned) I’m reminded of how I began Good Faith Collaboration with the plan of Stormfront (white supremacists) to influence Wikipedia back in 2005. What the racists failed to in 2005, the misogynists managed in 2015.

The two lessons I drew from the “neo-Nazi attack” a decade ago was that it was useful for Jimmy Wales to be able to step in and say he’d intervene because WP’s process was not good at resisting such coordinated efforts. In general, I’m a supporter of the open community with benevolent dictator model (what I call “authorial leadership”) for this reason. However, in this case I’ve heard mixed messages about Wales’ response. (He was originally uninformed but he then tried to constructively challenge pro-GamerGaters to write their own article?). In any case, he has ceded his power to act unilaterally and couldn’t do much of anything anyway.

The second lesson of 2005 was that even Stormfront counseled its members to be polite and abide by WP’s norms. That was novel then, but manipulators and haters can be very good at this today. For instance, some colleagues were recently discussing “Sea-Lioning”, which I likened to as a type of derailing and a sibling of concern trolling. This is now part of what I call a “trollplex” in the Reading the Comments. Sadly, I see no easy solution for online life in general and Wikipedia in particular. That said, I don’t think it’s the end of the world quite yet: the article’s lede is still good – though I haven’t been able to track all the changes in the rest of the very long article.

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