We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Wikipedia’s [neutral point of view] is dead. The original policy long since forgotten, Wikipedia no longer has an effective neutrality policy. There is a rewritten policy, but it endorses the utterly bankrupt canard that journalists should avoid what they call “false balance.” The notion that we should avoid “false balance” is directly contradictory to the original neutrality policy. As a result, even as journalists turn to opinion and activism, Wikipedia now touts controversial points of view on politics, religion, and science.

– Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia writing Wikipedia Is Badly Biased

11 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • pete

    I was always sceptical of the claim that Wikipedia was unbiased and that the ability of anyone to edit articles would result in an authoritative source of information.

    In around 2005 I made several very small, harmless, uncontroversial test edits to the very long Wikipedia entries of two large liberal organisations. I’d noticed that the entries used product descriptions which were exactly the same, word for word, as the organisations used themselves.

    The edits were reversed almost immediately by another edit, far faster than they could have been done manually.

    I came to the conclusion that the articles were monitored automatically and returned to the ‘approved’ version when any changes were made.

    Since then I’ve only used Wikipedia for simple facts such as football stats and historical dates.

  • Fraser Orr

    To me this article illustrates what is fundamentally wrong with the modern internet. It is not that wikipedia is biased or lacking neutrality. I think that is certainly true in some controversial areas. The problem is that Wikipedia is so dominant. It is just the same with Google, the unassailable king of search, ad, mobile and many others, or FB, or Twitter, or a host of others.

    At its roots the Internet was, above all, designed to have no central authorities, no single point of failure. It was meant to be a cacophony of different solutions and different approaches. I really don’t care that wikipedia is biased, what I care about is that wikipedia is so dominant. There really is no reason why there can’t be a different wikipedia with different editorial policy, or a wikipedia where you can select your own editorial policy (and the deltas are filtered accordingly.) AFAIK the content is open for copying under the creative commons license. So if you don’t like what it is doing, start your own online encyclopedia, scrape the text, and re-edit it. And fifty others do the same.

    It the presence of diversity within the web (and the internet, why are we so dominated by http?) that makes for John Glimour’s famous saying “The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” What does that mean in practice? It means make your own blog (like this one) independent. Its means eschew the big guys, and use the many alternatives. It means get your reading material from RSS feeds or rings of content rather than through the censorious filters. It means wean yourself off gmail and google.

    There is a need for new technologies, (most of them really old technologies), such as the great and powerful technologies that underlay netnews readers, or content rings, or blog rolls (which seem to have been rapidly disappearing.) Stabilization of cryptocurrency would also help a lot.

    I want to make it clear that Parler and Gab are not the answer. They are just another big central point on which pressure can be brought to bear (as they recently learned.) The solution is a million web sites self organizing into a mass that is impossible to control. FFS, we are libertarians people, we don’t look for centralized solutions, we look for grass roots, market driven, self organizing solutions. This is the roots of the web and the internet more generally, and that is what we should be striving for. Not some big mega organization to save us with a set of biases better suited to our own.

  • Sam Duncan

    My thoughts pretty much exactly, Fraser.

    In other news, far-Left tech website Wired reports that Gab has suffered a data breach after a hostile attack.

    As you say, it’s not the solution.

    Distributed platforms like Aether and ZeroNet seem far more promising.

    The hacked data also includes a chatlogs.txt file that appears to contain private conversations between the site’s users. That file’s contents begin with an added note from JaXpArO: “FUCK TRUMP. FUCK COLONIZERS & CAPITALISTS. DEATH TO AMERIKKKA.”

    But it’s the “right wing“ Gab where all the “hate speech” is …

    Max Aliapoulios, a graduate researcher at the New York University Center for Cybersecurity … co-creator of the Social Media Analysis Toolkit, a project that analyzes online communities, argues that the leak of non-private data from Gab will serve a public interest. … “There’s so much hate, harassment, racism, neo-Nazism that occurs on a site like that,”

    … and hounding websites off their hosting platforms and badgering payment processors to deny them service them isn’t harassment. Not like disagreeing with people or calling them names on the internet.

    These people really are full of shit. (And no doubt that will be cited as an example of “hate speech” when the eyes of this Hydra inevitably turn to Samizdata.)

  • Wikipedia monitors everything it can but, like the old Soviet Union, misses things from time to time.

    Wikipedia example:

    Following a period of warming during the second half of the 20th century, the Antarctic Peninsula region has experienced a period of cooling in the early 21st century. For Livingston Island this cooling has reached 0.8 °C (1.4 °F) over the 12-year period 2004–2016, and 1 °C (1.8 °F) for the summer average temperatures over the same period. That has resulted in a longer snow cover duration in the coastal ice-free areas,[23] which could be exemplified by comparing the January snow line configurations shown on the 1996 and 2016 maps of the Bulgarian base.[24]

    C. Recio, F. Navarro, J. Otero, J. Lapazaran and S. Gonzàlez. Effects of recent cooling in the Antarctic Peninsula on snow density and surface mass balance. Polish Polar Research 39 (2018) 4. pp. 457–480
    ^ L. Ivanov. SCAR SCAGI National Report 2017 Bulgaria. Bremerhaven, 12–13 June 2017. (Mapping on slide 9 of the linked report)

    So wrote researchers either ignorant of or just ignoring the party line on Global Warming, so far missed by wikipedia censors ignorant of obscure articles on little-known islands from non-anglosphere sources.

    – Soviet example: early in 1941, Russia issued propaganda that included some school class size data in Bessarabia (very recently-annexed from Rumania) and the Ukraine (nearly a decade after the never-admitted famine). Carelessly, they included enough data to show that in Bessarabia the average seven-year-old class was one-and-two-thirds the size of the average eleven-year-old class, whereas in the Ukrainian areas, the seven-year-old class was two-fifths the size of the eleven-year-old class. (The eleven-year-old cohort suffered huge loses in the famine, when they were four-year-olds, but the missing seven-year-olds were mostly never born at all.)

    As in more recent cases, the 1941 censors failed to realise that, although they obscured any data that could let readers deduce absolute numbers, comparisons were still possible.

    As the OP link notes, wikipedia will certainly not let that historical fact get onto their pages on communism and socialism.

  • I use Wikipedia, but try to avoid ideology and politics. That means no politicians, world figures, or ideologies. And some things are ideological even if they don’t have political content – anything with sides and/or fans. (Don’t trust Wikipedia on football teams, nor on Sailor Moon et al.) Religion and politics are, as always, taboo. These days you can’t even trust discussion of the weather. But — atomic isotopes, asteroids and planets, valences and such can mostly be trusted. History of technology is often okay. Plate tectonics and continental drift have consensus enough that those who disagree are obvious.

    You can usually tell when contributors are paddling with the left oar. There’s risk in automatically ignoring leftists, of course, but it’s better than paying attention.

  • MadRocketSci

    What prevents someone from inserting a stray minus sign in a difficult derivation and flipping the chirality, of, say, light propagation? I think I noticed an error in an article on the Lawson criteria for fusion reactors a few years back. Lawson’s actual paper is clearer and doesn’t contain the error.

  • Fraser Orr

    @MadRocketSci because there are people who do monitor these things and they look at the deltas. So such a change would be more readily apparent than you might imagine.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby that is very interesting link, thanks for sharing. I guess in a sense it brings back the point that many of the things we need for a liberated Internet free of censorship are already there, it is a matter of using them, and encouraging others to use them. The solution is not some “alternative Google” it is an alternative modality to google, namely a distributed system. It is why federalism is such a great system and why the massive sucking up of power into Washington is such a disaster.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr, my imperfect understanding is that it was set up as a fork off of the Wikipedia database, with the difference that there were to be no edits, merely additions.

    If you read an article with which you disagree, you add an entry setting out that disagreement, and so readers will see both.

    At least, that was the basis for it some time ago. No idea how well they’ve lived up to that ideal.

  • Paul Marks

    Wikipedia will often not even allow conservatives and libertarians to defend themselves – they are locked out of articles (written by opponents) about themselves.

    Generally speaking Wikipedia demands leftist sources for the content of edits – even if the source has a long history of LYING, such as the infamous New York Times (which has lied, with horrible frequency, since the 1930s).

    Sometimes the bias of Wikipedia is amusing – for example in the article on Agenda 21, it is presented as real when the article talks about SUPPORTERS of Agenda 21, but it is suddenly just a “Conspiracy Theory” when the article deals with OPPONENTS of Agenda 21 (and the fact that the opponents accurately quote, in context, from the official documents – is brutally disregarded), “Conspiracy Theory” has become the standard leftist establishment (Collectivist) response to any fact they do not like.

    If a conservative or libertarian tries to correct factually incorrect statements (on a wide range of matters) – they will be censored, and (if they persist) they will be BANNED by Wikipedia. So much for “anyone can edit”.

    Bizarrely this even influences the history of thought – accounts of thinkers from centuries ago.

    There is a very much a “party line” at Wikipedia – for example, such writers as Sir Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes are presented as proto liberals (they were nothing of the kind – they believed in absolute state power, with no rights against the state) and the history of thought is presented as a gradual progression (with no real backsliding) with a string of fashionable thinkers, Bacon, Sir William Petty, Hobbes, Bentham….. building on each other in a noble progression of goodness.

    It is total nonsense, the “facts” Wikipedia presents about these thinkers are often the reverse of the truth. But it is the establishment view – so, as far as Wikipedia is concerned, that is the end of the matter.