Twitter thread by @Soumyadipta
Years ago, my friend and I collaborated to write an investigative article on Wikipedia.
The plan was to expose the entrenched gang of Wikipedia editors who earn money by creating and editing Wikipedia pages.
A Bollywood producer helped me with the contact of an agency. The plan was to pose as the PR agency of a relatively unknown actress and create a wiki page as per our instructions on email.
The agency demanded an annual contract of 30K for keeping the page up and purge unwanted edits.
A gang of about 50 Indian editors are on top of a chain of editors and they have complete control over Wikipedia . The top 50 editors are mostly from IT companies with much free time on their hands and they are on Wiki the whole day.
Google changes its algorithm frequently but they used to heavily favour Wiki because it is an open source, publicly edited charity platform.
Here’s a payment structure for these Wiki editors in the command chain:
1. Top Editor: 30% (one)
2. Senior editor: 25%
3. Mid editor: 15%
4. Young editor: 10%
5. Agency: 20%
Anybody working with Bollywood actors know about such PR hangouts which contain favourable but innocuous information, like the news of an unknown award or bring a youth icon etc
All the information edited were complimentary & showed the page in good light.
Every time the top editors approved the edits and they were never reversed.
Even if somebody reversed it, they were brought back
1. The top editors make about 5 lakhs every month as “consultants”.
2. The agencies make about 3 lakh per month.
3. Students are enrolled as interns and may later on become mid-level editors.
Wikipedia is a big business opportunity, hence tightly controlled
But nowhere do they mention Wikipedia anywhere.
It’s all projected as IT related consultation of an Ad agency or a PR agency.
Ans: It takes years to climb up the hierarchy.
Wikipedia gives you badges, stars etc in recognition of your work.
You won’t get promotions unless you have the tacit support of the “gang”
There is a very well-known process here
If your edits get reversed or deleted frequently then Wikipedia understands that you are not a talent.
This is the game that is played on the platform.
If they want you out, they will reverse your edits.
Backed with data, you edit the article on Wikipedia only to find that it has been reversed the next day.
Imagine this happening to you frequently. Day after day.
You get frustrated and angry.
What is the point of research and editing articles if they get deleted?
Wikipedia has a system where you can “Talk” to your “seniors” about why your edits have disappeared.
This is where the bullying happens.
It is here that the senior editors will bully you by clever usage of words.
They’ll tell you that your edits were “pretty pointless” or “vague”
If they find you intimidating, they will try to block you permanently
These editors ensure by one method or the other that their narrative on a particular page does not change.
This is mainly the case with political pages.
They’re staunch Leftists and their job is ensure that Wikipedia doesn’t say nice things about non-left personalities and media
For personalities, they will highlight their flaws.
For example, create a separate section for an unverified allegation levelled against him just by citing a newspaper report.
But for others, they would ignore it
They scour the internet for publicly available articles that show you in bad light. Once they get such an article, a new editor will edit and the senior editors will ensure that it sticks to the page
They will form a team. Usually such teams are formed on secret chat rooms outside of Wikipedia.
They will ensure that the edits come from different locations. So it’s impossible to figure out that it’s a coordinated attack
Everytime new senior editors will come and block you from editing or will reverse the edit
* The actor didn’t give us written consent
* My friend quit because the agency was asking for more money
* The editor didn’t sound too excited either
His Twitter profile got verified as Twitter apparently considers Wikipedia as a credible signal to decide if an user should be verified
This Wikipedia page makes or breaks your online image.
So, I continued my research on the side about how editors rise up the ladder to the top of the command chain
Then they go on to create pages of an ongoing news: Like #CoronaOutbreak.
These pages are factual and aren’t controversial. But they establish you as an editor whose edits stick.
Now you turn your sights on the controversial pages.
Usually the A-listers are protected. Like you cannot vandalise Narendra Modi’s page or Shah Rukh Khan’s page.
The seniors won’t allow
1. Moderately famous personalities including politicians and people with strong political views
2. New Media houses (Like @OpIndia_com)
3. Bollywood actors
4. Communal events (#DelhiRiots)
5. Terms (eg Hindutva or #JaiShriRam)
BJP leaders, personalities who publicly support Narendra Modi and those who speak in favour of majority Hindus often have derogatory edits approved.
Wikipedia Editing is actually a game of citations from publicly available sources. The hidden cheat sheet is approving the citations that align with your narrative.
Let me talk about them now.
Then there are Administrators who are like an Editor-in-Chief of a Media house. They have ultimate powers.
Currently there are 1,144 administrators of English Wikipedia
Wikipedia had to ban the user because it was proven that he was running a mafia syndicate to favour a business house.
Wikipedia apologised after the user was outed.
The obvious question is: what are Wikipedia bosses doing about this?
Like a mother who thinks her son is the best!
Not only does ideological bias and bullying exist on Wikipedia. There has been many cases of sexual harassment and targeted gender harassment on Wikipedia. Female editors have been harassed by the gangs of male editors. Here is a documented case from 2015.
Co-Founder Larry Sanger has gone on record about Wikipedia’s biased narrative
Jimmy doesn’t listen.
A prominent criticism of Wiki is its gender gap and unfair targeting of women public figures, eg, women of colour.
Here’s a case study of how a scientist’s page kept on disappearing from Wikipedia and the battle to restore it. There are many such cases.
Wikipedia has done nothing to check their platform of biases that come in many forms: political narrative, gender, historical perspective, religion etc
But he has always praised his creation.
The complex wheels of Wikipedia grind very slowly. It is effectively the opposite of twitter in this regard. Twitter is therefore prone to angry mobs and extreme disinformation. Wikipedia can make mistakes, of course. But it is a very different environment from social media.
Please add your experiences in the comments section if you are (were) a Wikipedia editor.
Please ask Wikipedia to be neutral or else they are doing a disservice to humanity.