Wikipedia is preparing to throw the last bits of their credibility down the waste disposal. In a long running and contentious internal debate between feminists and a flurry of throw-away gamergate accounts, an arbitration panel made up almost entirely of men has decided to prohibit anything but the gamergate position. Mark Bernstein has an excellent summary.
First, this is the end of the Wiki Way. We have a blueprint now that shows how any decently-funded group with a modicum of access to the media – which is to say any group (unlike GamerGate) not patently criminal – can take control of any part of Wikipedia it pleases. You need a PR agency with a few offices in different cities and a phone – resources whose lack complicated GamerGate’s position.
Worse, the decision is so egregiously bad that it may well permanently discredit not only Wikipedia but the entire open Web. If a mature and well-funded site like Wikipedia can’t distinguish between reason and perfidious slander, if it punishes volunteers who enforce its own policies against libel, then who will trust any publication that doesn’t bear the brand of ABC/Disney, Reuters, or Al-Jazeera?
I already struggle with Wikipedia in the classroom — it’s such a mess that I do not allow students to cite it in their work, ever. If they see something in the wiki that they’d like to use, they have to go to an original cited source instead.
But my problem has been the superficiality and spottiness of Wikipedia. Now you’re telling me I also have to deal with overt bias, and that the reputed independence of the editors is easily swayed by PR campaigns by even a gang of idiots?
Nope. Done. In my writing classes, I’ll be telling students to not trust Wikipedia at all, and to steer completely clear.
Of course, it still has one use: when I suspect students of plagiarism, the first source I compare their text to is Wikipedia. Wikipedia: the go-to resource for lazy, incompetent people. And now with extra added bias!