Wikipedia Warfare, manipulation of wikipedia, online warefare, and the war on the web

Wikipedia used against Israel and the Jewish people

Wikipedia Warfare

Wiki-Warfare: Battle for the on-line encyclopedia

Wiki-Warfare: Battle for the on-line encyclopedia

By Andre Oboler, Jerusalem Post, May 13 2008

The Web site Electronic Intifada is running an exclusive report entitled "A pro-Israel group's plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia." It "exposes," with much hype, a Google Group in which CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, has been encouraging activists to become involved in Wikipedia to help one another learn Wikipedia policies and rise to positions of trust and authority within the Wikipedia community.

The idea of getting people involved in improving Wikipedia lies at the core of the Wikipedia ideology. Nonetheless, Electronic Intifada is ringing alarm bells, probably because those getting involved are Jews and supporters of Israel.

Wikipedia does have a problem, but to focus on CAMERA is to ignore the elephant in the room.

TAKE A look at the large banner promoting the story on the Electronic Intifada homepage. At first the banner displays the phrase "A 'war' on Wikipedia." This soon changes to the Wikipedia logo, a world globe composed of puzzle pieces. Each piece displays a letter from a different language.

"Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia" appears below the globe. The slogan fades and the globe then reappears, with each letter replaced by an Israeli flag. The text to the right of this new Wikipedia logo is headlined "CAMERA's Plan to Rewrite History."

The article itself says "the pressure group CAMERA... [is] orchestrating a secret long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia... to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure their changes go either undetected or unchallenged."

It reminded me of an advert for a film about an alien invasion set to take over Planet Earth.

CAMERA MADE a couple of novice mistakes in its approach, the most serious of which were trying to get involved in Web 2.0 "undercover" and trying to run a Web 2.0 campaign from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. However, it did take the initiative to help train and organize activists, and for this it should be praised.

Given the flaws, the end result should have been a few Wikipedia admins giving a scolding to CAMERA to the effect of "that's not how we work."

The intervention of Electronic Intifada puts a whole different spin on things. And it is mostly spin.

Labeling CAMERA a pressure group is a little rich coming from an organization itself founded as a pressure group. In 2001 Electronic Intifada's "About Us" page described itself as "a focused network of pro-Palestinian activists, inspired by a series of Internet projects... [that] aims to focus on just one aspect of the struggle, the war in the media for a representation of the Palestinian point of view."

This is hardly consistent with the Wikipedia policy of Neutral-Point-of-View.

The article - referring to a "secret long-term campaign" that was "orchestrated" to "infiltrate" Wikipedia - is saturated with the kind of language one usually sees in reference to fifth columnists or, indeed, the Jewish cabals of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The image of Israeli flags taking over the Wikipedia globe is also reminiscent of classic anti-Semitic imagery, such as that employed by the Nazis.

To understand why this accusation of "infiltration" is so poisonous one must understand the nature of Wikipedia. Its basic idea is that anyone can edit the on-line encyclopedia. How, then, how can anyone be said to be infiltrating it?

Some might protest, "But these people were seeking to coordinate and thereby achieve a level of control over the editing process!"

I say, "So what?" This is how Web 2.0 works. This is Web 2.0 democracy. It is not perfect, and many would argue it is not even a good idea. Yet this is the model on which Wikipedia is based.

There are other projects on Wikipedia where people work in groups to improve articles and ensure their perspective is included. The most insidious of these is WikiProject Palestine. This project seeks not only to develop content on Palestinian culture and a Palestinian view of the conflict in the Middle East (something I have no problem with), but also attempts to manage the public image of pro-Palestinian groups while attempting character assassination on any pro-Israel groups.

WIKIPEDIA projects work by maintaining a list of pages that form part of the project. These could be existing pages in Wikipedia, or new pages that people have asked to be added. Members of the project - all volunteers - then look at the list of articles and further develop or improve them. At least that is the idea.

A number of articles are tagged as relevant to both WikiProject Israel and WikiProject Palestine, e.g. the page on Jerusalem. The reasoning is obvious. Why CAMERA, NGO Monitor, MEMRI and StandWithUs are members of Project Palestine is far less clear. Two of these are only in WikiProject Palestine (and not in WikiProject Israel for example). Changes to the articles on these organizations, combined with the way qualifications intended to discredit them are added each time any of these organizations is cited in Wikipedia, suggests that some activists have already been rewriting history to suit their own agenda.

THE CAMPAIGNS are not all negative, however. They also remove criticism - of organizations that support their cause (such as the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, also part of Project Palestine). In both cases the same agenda is being pushed.

This has nothing to do with secret cabals, the Jewish lobby or alien landings. It's on-line war, and Electronic Intifada is not a neutral observer. It is one of the combatants and it is attempting to use conspiracy theory, racism and public ignorance to wipe one side of the debate out of the chamber while the other, currently more effective, side continues to rewrite history.

If you want to ensure that an accurate record of history is presented, log in to Wikipedia and get involved. You don't need an organization to "coordinate you." You don't need group instructions. Just do your best to correct mistakes, remove propaganda and play by the rules.

Vote for those who do good work; report those committing vandalism. The rest, as they say, is up to history.

The writer recently completed a PhD in computer science in the UK. A post-doctoral fellow in the political science department at Bar-Ilan, he is also a Legacy Heritage Fellow at NGO Monitor. For the past three years he has run www.ZionismOnTheWeb.org, which monitors and combats on-line anti-Semitism.




The Electronic Intifada, CAMERA, Wikipedia incident

The following articles are all related to this topic

Introduction: the Wikipedia, Electronic Intifada and CAMERA story  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 14 2008

In April the online Palestinian advocacy group Electronic Intifada released a story stating that CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) a pro-Israel media monitoring group was attempting to take over wikipedia. This collection of articles reveals Electronic Intifada's use and manipulation of Wikipedia to attack CAMERA, promote their content and "point of view" and use the administrative process at wikipedia to first ban members of CAMERA and then increase some of these bans so they become perminent. While Electronic Intifada present CAMERA's actions as a new and serrious threat to Wikipedia, research shows that Palestinian advocates have been using the same tactics for years unchecked.

Electronic Intifada's Manipulation  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 14 2008

Electronic Intifada wrote the story, boasted publically to a member of CAMERA's Wikipedia group, then sought to have CAMERA listed as an unreliable source. This was probably the extent of damage Electronic Intifada originally planned, however events soon moved forward as Wikipedia administrators started to react to the story. Electronic Intifada nurtured the fears of Wikipedia administrators and sought to work with some in order to impose penalties on members of CAMERA.

Evidence of the secret Palestinian group  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 14 2008

The penalties imposed on members of the CAMERA group were harsh in part because it was argued that this was a new threat to Wikipedia and an example needed to be made. The feeling was that recruiting people from within grass roots advocacy organisations, enlisting experienced editors to help, and having the discussions outside of wikipedia could all contribute in a way that went against the nature of wikipedia. This was naive. Our research shows past attenpts, by Palestinian advocates, some of whom commented and pushed for sanctions in the CAMERA case, that meet all of these criteria. The admins considering the case found some of this information too, their attempts to investigate did the equivalent of starting the shredding machines.

Back Story on Wiki Project Palestine  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 15 2008

This article explains how I first became concerned about Wiki Project Palestine.

Wikipedians for Palestine: Further facts  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 15 2008

The evidence that there was a secret pro-Palestinian group off Wikipedia has been presented here. In this article we examine actions surrounding a user who is a member of this group and a member of Wiki Project Palestine. We provide details of on Wikipedia recruitment tactics for the off Wikipedia group, and evidence of the use of Project Palestine to target articles and influence Wikipedia democracy.

Exposed - Anti-Israeli Subversion on Wikipedia  
By Andre Oboler & Honest Reporting staff, Honest Reporting, May 14 2008

A special report from Honest Reporting, co-authored by Zionism On The Web's Dr Andre Oboler examins the issue in depth.

Wiki-Warfare: Battle for the on-line encyclopedia  
By Andre Oboler, Jerusalem Post, May 13 2008

The issue of warfare on Wikipedia is introduced, along with the role of Palestinian activists in manipulating Wikipedia

MidEast Wars hits Wikipedia  
By Tamar Snyder, The Jewish Week, May 14 2008

Tamar Snyder gives additional background, citing the Honest Reporting special report and interviewing key commentators including Zionism On The Web's Dr Andre Oboler.






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