Gender Trouble at #Wikipedia, again


via The Guardian, which reports that Wikipedia’s arbitration committee has banned five editors from making changes to certain articles “in an attempt to stop a long-running edit war over the entry on the “’Gamergate controversy’”.

This decision “bars the five editors from having anything to do with any articles covering Gamergate, but also from any other article about “’gender or sexuality, broadly construed.’ Editors who had been pushing for the Wikipedia article to be fairer to Gamergate have also been sanctioned by the committee.”

Blogger and former Wikipedia editor Mark Bernstein has written a series of posts condemning Wikipedia’s decision:  According to Bernstein, “This takes care of social justice warriors with a vengeance — not only do the Gamergaters get to rewrite their own page (and Zoe Quinn’s, Brianna Wu’s, Anita Sarkeesian’s, etc); feminists are to be purged en bloc from the encyclopedia.”

Wikipedia has replied to these critiques with a call for civility,   stating that “contributors on various sides of the debate have violated Wikipedia’s standards of civility. Civility is an important concept for Wikipedia: it is what allows people to collaborate and disagree constructively even on difficult topics. It ensures people are able to focus their energy on what really matters: building a collaborative free encyclopedia for the world.”

Wikipedia points out that “Several press stories have mistakenly claimed that Wikipedia has targeted and banned feminist or female editors. This is inaccurate. Although the Arbitration Committee may recommend that some editors be prevented from further contribution to this particular topic, they have not banned anyone from Wikipedia. The sanctions they are considering are broad, and affect many people. As of now, the Arbitration Committee is considering issuing some type of warning or sanction to around 150 people, from a range of perspectives, based on their participation and conduct. This is not about a small group of people being targeted unfairly. It is about a very large group of people using Wikipedia as a battleground.”

Readers of this blog know I’ve written about the woman problem at Wikipedia before, and hosted a women’s history Wikipedia edit-a-thon at the last Berkshire Conference on the History of Women last summer.

In March, my colleague Michelle Moravec is organizing a virtual Wikipedia edit-a-thon for the week of March 9-13.  If you’re interested in participating, sign up here.

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