This article is a translation from a German original, mainly executed by the AI - translator DeepL.com, in part corrected or complemented manually. Please be aware that many of the examples, sources etc. may have relevance only for german speaking or central european readers. - You are invited to edit this article and adapt it to better relevance for english speakers. The original of this article is taken from the German online encyclopedia Pluspedia
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia founded in 2001. Wikipedia is available in numerous languages. In many markets, the lexicon-like forum has replaced printed and editorial universal lexicons. The German and English sections of Wikipedia have been under severe criticism for some time due to intransparent, oligarchic structures and the formation of various manipulative groups, who try to turn this mass medium – especially in the political field – to an unfree course. The leadership is increasingly composed of problematic characters, and the number of Wikipedia victims is constantly increasing.
This article focuses on criticism. For the history and positive appreciation of Wikipedia see the article Wikipedia in Wikipedia.
Size and competitors
With at present approx. 2 million articles the German-language Wikipedia - behind the English version with over 5 million articles - is the second largest Wikipedia expenditure. Wikipedia has developed into a leading medium according to a study commissioned by the magazine Stern.
Independent alternatives to Wikipedia as a universal lexicon are PlusPedia in German-speaking countries and Everipedia for the English language, both of which are libertarian and try to get by without the usual quarrels in Wikipedia. There are numerous Wikipedia alternatives with different focal points.
Criticism of Wikipedia
Throughout the world, Wikipedia, although available in many languages, is more or less left to chance in its development. This distinguishes them from an encyclopedia that has been systematically built up. Some call it swarm intelligence. However, there are some areas in which Wikipedia has done exemplary work. In 2016, for example, the "Prize of the Society of German Chemists for Journalists and Writers", awarded every two years, went to the Chemistry editorial team of the German-language Wikipedia; however, this editorial team is a voluntary association and consists only of around 15 honorary members.
The scientific project Wiki-Watch was developed at the renowned European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder. It deals critically with Wikipedia and also assesses the reliability of the texts.
In an interview with the filmmaker Markus Fiedler on 24 February 2017, the journalist Ken Jebsen said KenFM about Wikipedia on YouTube: "Wikipedia has developed into a defamation tool, especially in Germany. As a neutral source, Wikipedia can no longer be saved. Whoever links to them makes themselves ridiculous. It is the fault of a manageable group of people who are driven by an obsession that is otherwise only known from Scientology."
In the meantime, there are various tools available to uncover manipulations in Wikipedia, some of which have been found to be frightening. There is no effective protection against these manipulations.
In the Wiki-Watch project the net journalist Stefan Mey is quoted. In his opinion, it bubbles under the surface of Wikipedia. There's bullying, mobbing and even threats of violence. The Wikimedia Foundation, which supports the Wikipedia project as a foundation, has also dealt with the phenomenon of violence.
The Australian Professor of Social Sciences Brian Martin has made a close study of how articles are manipulated in Wikipedia since he himself has become a Wikipedia victim: Persistent bias on Wikipedia: methods and responses.
With the help of several thousand volunteers and a large amount of donations, the company has become a professionally run business.
In addition, there are increasingly critical voices that are of the opinion that Wikipedia is slipping into the hands of various interest groups and roped parties. Severe forms of undemocratic manipulation are increasingly being detected. University research generally rejects Wikipedia articles as serious tools and sources. Even medical research results are not presented neutrally. Most articles on alternative medical topics are subject to massive manipulation and misrepresentation, with all attempts at correction being blocked.
After a steady growth in the first years, the number of authors is now declining strongly. The working group Wiki-Watch at Viadrina University Frankfurt (Oder) has made the serious grievances at Wikipedia the object of its work to help Wikipedia victims, whose number is constantly increasing. In particular, the fact that Wikipedia's leadership structures are "problematically staffed" is cause for great concern with regard to opinion manipulation by a knowledge oligarchy by persons recruited from confessing anarchists, former Stasi cadres and similar structures. According to Wiki-Watch, they now have a firm grip on Wikipedia.
The biggest Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche has been pointing out the shortcomings of Wikipedia for years. In 2013 P. M. Seiter reported in detail in the Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten. Also Heise,Telopolis and Russia Today reported 2015. In 2015 historians found more than 130 technical, sometimes serious errors in the Wikipedia article Massacre of Katyn, written by main author Gerhard Sattler and rated as "excellent". Only a few dozen Wikipedians had taken part in the vote on the classification as "excellent", but this was initially cited as the only argument for justification.
Especially the documentaries "The Dark Side of Wikipedia" and "Censorship" by Markus Fiedler and Frank-Michael Speer show grievances with concrete examples. There is also strong evidence that Wikipedia activists are trying to infiltrate other open media. Thus PlusPedia is also constantly the target of a systematic infiltration by riot users, who should discredit the seriousness of PlusPedia.
"Guerrilla Skepticism" on Wikipedia
The manipulations within Wikipedia are not only attributable to individual authors or cliques whose machinations are not sufficiently controlled. There is also a grouping whose sole purpose, according to their own website, is the targeted manipulation of Wikipedia articles. Special training courses are offered for this purpose.
This group comes from the movement of pseudo-skeptics, a fundamentalist and fanatical group of materialists and atheists who call themselves "skeptics".
In 2010, Susan Gerbic launched Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia' (GSoW), a "project to improve sceptical content on Wikipedia". In 2017, Gerbic was appointed a companion of the "Committee for Skeptical Investigation". She and her GSoW team received an award from the James Randi Educational Foundation that "is given to the person or organization that best represents the spirit of the Foundation by promoting critical questions and seeking unbiased, relevant answers. We are pleased to acknowledge Susan's efforts to recruit and train a team of editors who continuously improve Wikipedia as a public resource for rationality and scientific thinking."
In July 2018, Wired magazine reported that the GSoW team had grown to more than 120 volunteer editors from around the world and that they were jointly responsible for "creating or improving some of the best-selling Wikipedia articles on sceptical topics". By July 2018, GSoW had created or completely rewritten more than 630 Wikipedia articles in many languages, collectively collecting over 28 million page views.
From encyclopedia to opinion influencing machine
Patrick M. Seiter worked on Wikipedia for research purposes for many years and made more than 1000 edits. The "Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten" reported on his results:
"No question, if you want to know something about a simple topic like the common hare, Lake Constance or the London Symphony Orchestra, you are still in good hands with Wikipedia. The situation is different with controversial topics, however. People are defamed and overwhelmed with criticism, ... The same applies to many ideological, political, scientific, ideological, religious and many other areas. Here objectivity, freedom, independence and differentiated observation have almost completely fallen by the wayside. Opinions are deliberately suppressed, falsified, changed and you write the world as you like it.
... There are numerous groupings that observe all the articles they are positive about and do their utmost to make them look as good as possible. Criticism is kept as minimal as possible. You only allow them if something is so clear that you can't discuss it away without attracting attention. Any changes in these articles will be immediately and thoroughly reviewed and, if not acceptable, will either be removed or at least mitigated if the facts are too clear to justify a reasonably conclusive deletion. ... Overdoing it risks attracting the attention of decent Wikipedians. Here experience is required, if you have it, but it is easy to romp around unrecognized in the grey areas. After months of research, our informant succeeded in investigating and researching a large number of cases. The open and transparent structure makes this theoretically possible. ... Establishing contact with admins and discussing problems in detail is hardly possible. It has to be quick and very obvious. Nobody feels responsible for the fundamental and time-consuming. ... Almost every case is dealt with separately, and no one knows whether it was the first or the thousandth complaint about this fact. The Wikipedia supervisory authority almost exclusively takes action against relatively new inexperienced users. Old-established people, who also know some other old hands well, have to be very clumsy to get into serious trouble. This is not least due to the fact that due to the opacity it would take a great deal of time to precisely examine the 10,000 machining operations of a power user. What you don't see in 5-10 minutes remains hidden. You usually don't take a minute. This is precisely where certain mechanisms are missing - rating systems or user logbooks, in which much more is entered. Mechanisms that show you at first glance whether a power user has just had a complaint five times or whether you are constantly complaining about him. ...
It's not just sad that such a great idea could have crash-landed by relatively small mistakes. The real tragedy lies in the influence this has on our society. This is extremely alarming, if not dangerous. History has taught us many times what can arise from propaganda, opinion making and the lack of opposition. Wikipedia responded to an inquiry about this problem with a relatively bored, meaningless standard answer. We can be curious to see whether Wikipedia will keep its eyes and ears closed to this problem, as it has done so far, or whether it will get its act together shortly before the end. Our informant, who has been working his way into the Wikipedia world for six months now, unfortunately regards this as rather unlikely. ..."
A long-time user writes: "In the first years of Wikipedia there was no obligation to provide evidence or this was handled much looser. Essays were the order of the day. And of course it is desired that everyone can add an article. ... Apparently, users whose knowledge is fed only by new media and who no longer know the historical terms mean that they are no longer relevant encyclopedically."
Wikimedia is not liable for content (13.04.2010): The Landgericht Hamburg has decided in favour of Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. that Wikimedia cannot be held liable for the content of Wikipedia (see Wiki-Immunity. A former politician from Hamburg had sued and demanded that the article including discussion about him be deleted and that Wikimedia pay him a compensation for pain and suffering of 5000 euros. Although Wikimedia cannot be held responsible for the content of the article due to the ruling, the version history of the article has been deleted.
Recently, it has been proven that automated censorship on Wikipedia - Filter 248 - Stories from Wikihausen #19</ref> is not a prerequisite for the Wiki community, since people who are members of the Wikimedia board of directors are also administrators at Wikipedia and have a considerable influence on the text design there..
The German Wikipedia is criticized for systematically circumventing German law and not adhering to it. This is especially true for articles about people. According to Wiki-Watch, it is practically impossible to take any legal action, even to the point of a complaint, since the German version of Wikipedia "hides" behind the legally immune Wikimedia Foundation and thus effectively escapes German jurisdiction. In jurisprudence one speaks meanwhile already of "Wiki-Immunity", thus the immunity of the Wikipedia authors before each juridical tangibility. This phenomenon is particularly evident in people who deviate from the usual ("mainstream") opinions. Persons who hold unpleasant opinions are often the victims of unobjective, non-encyclopaedic and one-sided articles about you. In many cases this would not be possible according to German law (insult / damage to reputation). Since Wikipedia hides behind the court denied liability of the Wikimedia Foundation, there is practically no possibility to act against such cases.
This becomes clear above all in articles about politicians of the established parties, in which little or no criticism of the person is found, whereas in articles about persons of somewhat controversial parties very much, partly largely critical voices are interwoven. Sometimes the subitem Criticism is larger than the rest of the article. For some people, positive press releases are incorporated exclusively, and for others, negative press releases are incorporated exclusively. As has already become known in some cases, this is done  - obviously by the members and paid staff of the parties represented in the parliaments. This often results in a completely unbalanced and one-sided picture. Transparency is also not guaranteed. Authors write with pseudonyms or even only with IP addresses. In the meantime the names of numerous viewers and administrators as well as their methods are known. According to a report by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, internationally program-controlled manipulations take place against which legal or other measures are ineffective.
Further Wikipedia is accused of nepotism. The circle of "heavy users" is very manageable. If you don't belong, you have nothing to report in case of doubt. The accusation of targeted manipulation by small groups and rope teams is also heard again and again. The circle of "heavy users" should be limited to about 500. If an internal interest group of only five to ten authors or administrators is formed here, manipulation is possible which cannot easily be discovered. These phenomena are now part of scientific research.
Lack of systematics
There are many "hobby topics" - such as ornamental fish. The difference in size, content and volume between the articles is considerable. So the shortest article in the subcategory:colored carp has 1071 bytes, the longest in the category:aquarium fish (freshwater) has 14,116 bytes. Besides the relevance and the quality feature "Readable article" there is in the German Wikipedia in contrast to the English no evaluation whether an article is sufficient or the topic exhaustively treated (see Wikipedia article Blue Congo Tetra). This means that every user can expand an article at will. There is no systematic recording of important and relevant topics. Although attempts are being made to create order via the category system and the portals, this is only possible in those areas where experts in the field are also involved.
With regard to gender justice, it should be noted that on 20.11.2017 there were 564,423 entries in the category "man", while "woman" had only 102,730 articles - more than five times as many men. Compared to this, Pluspedia is somewhat better off: on the same day there were 2,662 biographies about women and 6,105 about men - so the men are only slightly more than twice as strong. There is also the urgent suspicion that many self-representations are written in Wikipedia or that this portal is misused as an advertising machine, which is in clear contradiction to the systematics of an encyclopedia.
In some areas there is no interest in systematic work. Instead, the authors argue about the spelling of individual words. An example is the history of euthanasia - obviously too delicate for most to touch.
Contradictions in relevance
Over time, rules have been established as to what is allegedly relevant and what is not. Every lake, every small town and every building is now considered relevant. This has led to a very rapid increase in the number of articles in Wikipedia, as diligent users have captured all the names of geographical indications found in various atlases and on maps. There is often no more detailed information on this, the articles are referred to with the English term Stub. At present there are about 68,000 articles alone which are classified as "less important" geographical articles in the English Wikipedia. Each of the 180 meridians in East and West also has its own article.
The place of birth of a person is classified as relevant without closer examination, although many of these people do not see it as the centre of their lives. The mayor of a city for many years has the same status as a person who was only born in this city by chance. The place of birth may be interesting for statistical reasons, but for relevance it is of no importance at first. Every MEP in a parliament appears relevant, even if he has never made a public appearance. Thus, it is quickly possible to record all members of the German Bundestag who can be found on the website of this institution anyway.
On the other hand, the relevance of other people is checked carefully, e.g. whether they have written several books, are mentioned in newspaper reports, etc. So it can quickly happen that articles about known artists or writers are deleted, because the author of the article has not yet taken the trouble to mention other sources. A constructive cooperation often does not take place.
- For critical information on Wikipedia see: Truthwiki.
- Gruppe42.com is a portal with numerous critical contributions to Wikipedia in German language
- Die dunkle Seite der Wikipedia, Ein Film von Markus Fiedler und Frank-Michael Speer
- Zensur. Ein Film von Markus Fiedler und Frank-Michael Speer
- Lexikon ohne Schreiber: Wikipedia kämpft mit Autorenmangel Badische Zeitung, 24. März 2011
- Die unwissende Müllhalde Wikipedia und ihre sympathischen Bewohner, kanzleikompa.de am 13. Juni 2009
- Gezielte Diffamierung?! Die PAZ bei Wikipedia – eine Dokumentation. Wie „Alter Toter Mann“ die PAZ zur „Neuen Rechten“ machte - Preußische Allgemeinen Zeitung (14.12.11)
- Marvin Oppong: Verdeckte PR in Wikipedia – Das Weltwissen im Visier von Unternehmen. Arbeitsheft 76 der Otto Brenner Stiftung. https://www.otto-brenner-stiftung.de/fileadmin/user_data/stiftung/02_Wissenschaftsportal/03_Publikationen/AH76_Wikipedia_Oppong_2014_01_13.pdf.
- Danisch: Politisch-ideologische Filterung in der wikipedia (2012)
- Katrin McClean: Die Gesinnungswächter der Wikipedia
- [http://www.stern.de/digital/online/stern-test-wikipedia-schlaegt-brockhaus-604423.html Stern.de article:
- [http://www.chip.de/news/Wikipedia-schlaegt-Brockhaus_29732778.html Chip.de
- Wikipedia statistics
- Wiki-Watch Blog: Wiki bullying: The dark side of Wikipedia. From Falcon, July 1, 2016
- http://deutsche-wirtschafts-nachrichten.de/2013/11/04/wikipedia-wir-machen-meinung/ Wirtschafts Nachrichten Wikipedia: We make opinion
- Youtube: Wikipedia - Reference book with Hidden Agenda?|JeUX4ob81s8; Author: Russia Today; Date 1 February 2016
- Wikipedia: More than a hundred mistakes, Süddeutsche Zeitung on 16 December 2015
- Petition demands end of anonymity in Wikipedia, Critical science - critical science on 25 October 2015
- http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/wikapediatrician_susan_gerbic_discusses_her_guerrilla_skepticism_on_wikiped; 8 March 2015
- https://web.randi.org/home/2017-jref-award; accessdate=27 March 2018
- https://www.wired.com/story/guerrilla-wikipedia-editors-who-combat-conspiracy-theories/; access-date=25 July 2018
- Löschdiskussion to the article "Urgesellschaft".
- [http://heise.de/-977028 Heise-Artikel:
- shown using the example of Harald Krichel, Deputy Chairman of the German Wikimedia Foundation, who, according to his own statements (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Seewolf read on 25.2.19), is active as a "Seewolf" in Wikipedia and has installed filter 248 there, which, among other things, has the function of protecting references to the illegal website psiram.com from deletion
- Hilfsseite für Betroffene
- yes - what is the correct spelling for the word? Apparently more important than the content.