A interesting post from the Religion New Service (RNS) about the “Edit Wars” on the Religious Pages of Wikipedia clearly demonstrate the difficulty to Building Consensus.  But, there is a solution.  Clearly identify what are facts and what are conclusions.  Then identify the sources of both.  The key is Transparency!

Once the sources are transparent, votes can be taken and biases can be factored out.  Now, someone can intentionally mislead.  But, there should be fairly straight forward ways to mitigate intentional misdirections.

Here is the post.


Religion On Wikipedia Is A Recipe For Controversy As ‘Edit Wars’ Rage On
Religion News Service | By Sarah Pulliam Bailey
Posted: 07/27/2014 9:17 am EDT Updated: 5 hours ago Print Article WIKIPEDIA

(RNS) When he was a student at Brigham Young University three years ago, Anthony Willey came across a Wikipedia page on Mormons. What he read filled him with frustration.

The article focused on polygamy, which seemed odd since Mormons officially outlawed the practice in 1890. “It didn’t say what Mormons believe or what made them unique,” Willey said. “I had the thought, ‘Who’s editing this stuff?’ and that got me hooked.”

Since editing that page and adding 50 percent to the content, Willey has made more than 8,000 edits to the editable online encyclopedia, mostly on articles related to Mormonism. His top edited pages include entries on Joseph Smith, Mormons, Mormonism, and Black people and Mormonism.

The problem confronting many Wikipedia editors is that religion elicits passion — and often, more than a little vitriol as believers and critics spar over facts, sources and context. For “Wikipedians” like Willey, trying to put a lid on the online hate speech that can be endemic to Wikipedia entries is a key part of their job.

Religion is among several of the top 100 altered topics on Wikipedia, according to a recent list published by Five Thirty Eight. Former President George W. Bush is the most contested entry, but Jesus (No. 5) and the Catholic Church (No. 7) fall closely behind.

Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (No. 35) and Pope John Paul II (No. 82) are included, as well as all manner of religions, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, Christianity and Scientology. And countries and topics with religious sensitivities are also controversial, including global warming and Israel.

 

Wikipedia is the fifth most-trafficked website on the Internet and its complex policies and regulations for editing — more than 50 of them — for editing the open-source site total nearly 150,000 words (thick enough for a book).

Any registered user can create an entry on Wikipedia, a collaboratively edited encyclopedia. Volunteers write Wikipedia’s 30 million articles in 287 languages.

Willey, 29, is now a Wikipedia administrator, which gives him more administrative privileges within the volunteer-driven website. The physics graduate is looking for full-time work, so his editing is only an occasional side project. And it’s only partly driven by his faith.

“I don’t edit as an agent of my religion,” Willey said. “I’m not going out of my way to promote a certain point of view. I am motivated by when people say things that aren’t true.”

It could be tempting for Wikipedia editors to portray their own faiths in the best light, or for people outside of the faith to paint a negative picture. In 2009, Wikipedia banned people using the Church of Scientology’s computers and some of Scientology’s critics from changing Wikipedia articles about Scientology. Wikipedia said members of the church and some critics engaged in “edit wars” by adding or removing complimentary or disparaging material.

“The worst casualties have been biographies of living people, where attempts have been repeatedly made to slant the article either towards or against the subject, depending on the point of view of the contributing editor,” a committee wrote in its decision to ban users.

Some users might go out of their way to portray a religion in a bad light. Several years ago, a user who went by the name Duke53 attempted to ensure Mormonism’s sacred undergarments got as much exposure as possible — it’s not a topic the church generally likes to discuss. He added images to as many articles as possible, including to Wikipedia articles such as “Clothing” and “Church etiquette,” regardless of whether the images were relevant.

When Willey edits an article, he says, he avoids inserting opinions and instead uses a trusted source, such as Richard Bushman, a respected emeritus historian at Columbia University.

“Even if I don’t agree with something in his book, for the purposes of editing Wikipedia, it keeps me honest,” Willey said. “It makes it very hard for people to argue with me because when it comes to editing something on Wikipedia, it all comes down to who has the best source. If I’m promoting the view of the best source, I’m always right.”

He will occasionally edit pages on other religions, such as Islam or Baha’i, or general articles on Christianity. “Nobody likes to be misrepresented,” he said.

Those who engage in outright hate speech are dealt with swiftly and blocked, but combating more subtle hate speech can be tricky.

“If somebody’s abiding by the rules, it’s hard to block a contributor who’s writing an article if they’re ambiguously promoting something,” Willey said.

Roger Nicholson was on the same path as Willey, editing Wikipedia pages related to Mormonism for two years to experience what the editing was like. His story, featured in the Deseret News, ended after he decided all the “edit wars” weren’t worth the headaches.

“It’s kind of like the Wild West of the Internet,” said Nicholson, who works with a group called FairMormon instead. “You could spend days and accomplish the change of a few sentences and that was it.”

Among the Wikipedians, a large percentage self-identify as atheists, followed by Christians, Muslims, Pastafarians (devotees of the farcical religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) and Jews.

Most of the edits to Wikipedia articles, especially ones on religion, are made by men, according to a 2011 study by the University of Minnesota. Women accounted for just 7 percent of the edits on religion articles.

John Carter, a 51-year-old office worker in St. Louis who is Catholic, will sometimes help edit more controversial pages, including ones on Scientology, Martin Luther and Wikipedia’s list of new religious movements.

Many of the smaller religious groups have editors who are deeply passionate about them, but some smaller religions that aren’t as appealing to Westerners (including Native American or Central Asian American traditions) are covered less well, Carter said.

“An enemy (or friend) of a ‘cult’ in Ecuador could find sources supporting their personal positions and the obscurity of the topic in English will make it hard or impossible for most of us to confirm or deny,” Carter said.

Carter, Willey and other editors discussed editing religion pages in a Q-and-A with Wikipedia last year where an editor with the user ID Sowlos said there was quite a bit of overlap between religion and mythology on the website.

“If a mythology is a sacred narrative or collection of traditional stories, then all religions include mythologies as integral constituents of what they are,” Sowlos wrote. “However, many people feel uneasy referring to stories from their respective religions as ‘mythology’ for fear that it will be interpreted as indicating a lack of factual integrity.”

Using Wikipedia’s rules, Carter says, religion can be difficult to independently verify, especially when there’s a range of opinions about what events took place and what they mean.

“No one has any real evidence that Jesus rose from the dead or not — how do you give the various opinions balanced coverage? And was he God, or a god, or something else?” Carter said. “Even nominal Christians disagree on those and several other significant topics.”

Scuba Skip Rowland · Top Commenter · Rocket Surgeon at Retired Rocket Surgeon
Faith is deciding to allow yourself to believe in something that your intellect would otherwise cause you to reject.
Reply · Like · 23 · Follow Post · 5 hours ago

Vinny William Klimowicz · Top Commenter · Belgrade Lakes, Maine
Well Stated!
Reply · Like · 4 · Edited · 3 hours ago

Dennis Lurvey · Follow · Top Commenter · University of Phoenix
the problem is their intellect does not reject those beliefs generally. since its given to them from birth, as their brains were forming, its in there for good. their intellect rejects evolution in spite of being beaten on the head with a fish with feet.
Reply · Like · 4 · 2 hours ago

Scuba Skip Rowland · Top Commenter · Rocket Surgeon at Retired Rocket Surgeon
“Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.” ~ Mark Twain
Reply · Like · 4 · about an hour ago
View 2 more

Robin Boostrom
Please respectfuly apologize for labeling Pastafarianism as farcical. You left this disparaging adjective out when describing many other religious institutions in your article. Please have respect for people’s wild and outlandish (unscientific) beliefs, as someone who seems to show respect for other wild and unscientific claims it behooves oneself to be respectful of all wild and unscientific claims
Reply · Like · 14 · Follow Post · Edited · 4 hours ago

John Sharp · Top Commenter · Houston, Texas
All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Reply · Like · 8 · 3 hours ago

Michael Brett · Follow · Bend, Oregon
Ramen.
Reply · Like · 5 · about an hour ago

Al Rubin · Top Commenter
I wonder why other fairy tales don’t garner as much controversy.
Reply · Like · 13 · Follow Post · 4 hours ago

Ric Neil
George Bush is the most contested? who knew?
Reply · Like · 2 · 3 hours ago

Lincourt Ellen · Top Commenter · Works at WPI ATC
Because people like to focus on what OTHER people believe, rather than worry about themselves. If they had to look at themselves honestly in a mirror, they might have to change. So, it is so much easier to argue about things that will distract them from their own iniquities.
Reply · Like · 44 minutes ago

John Sharp · Top Commenter · Houston, Texas
Hmm, compared to changes made in the bible over the years, these changes on Wikipedia are pretty light weight.

But they are a beautiful representation of the direct manipulation of religious books and religious mythology in real time.
Reply · Like · 10 · Follow Post · 3 hours ago

Mini Carlsson · Follow · Top Commenter
“The problem confronting many Wikipedia editors is that religion elicits passion”

nope, it elicits ego.
Reply · Like · 7 · Follow Post · 3 hours ago

Tom Underwood · Florida State College at Jacksonville
You got that right. ECC. 1:2; “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” VANITY = EGO
Reply · Like · 2 · 3 hours ago

Mini Carlsson · Follow · Top Commenter
Tom Underwood GOD = ego
Reply · Like · 3 hours ago

Pat Baker · Top Commenter · University of North Alabama
College professors won’t let students use Wikipedia as a source when writing papers. I guess this is one of the reasons they don’t.
Reply · Like · 6 · Follow Post · 4 hours ago

Coventry Kessler · Top Commenter · The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I’m an editor at a large university who works on online courses. Wikipedia can use useful for a general overview of topics, but not for definitive knowledge for precisely this reason.
Reply · Like · 1 · about an hour ago

David Larsen · Oakland, California
The Book of Mormon also has it’s fair share of revisions.
Reply · Like · 6 · Follow Post · 5 hours ago

John Sharp · Top Commenter · Houston, Texas
And this book is much less than believable than any written on Pastafarianism.
Reply · Like · 5 · 3 hours ago

Dennis Lurvey · Follow · Top Commenter · University of Phoenix
wiki is about history, not so much about proselytizing. I study religion and use wiki as one of my sources. Christians, for instance, dont like it when you question the history of their texts, they would rather you just believe them. When i say I study religion including christianity, they assume I’m very religious. In fact I’m an atheist. It gives me a neutral view of how religion works and dont work. I think that’s what wikipedia does.
Reply · Like · 4 · Follow Post · 2 hours ago

Bob Davis · Top Commenter · Univ of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
Hopefully, one day in the not-too-distant future, entries for all religions will state: “Beliefs once held by humans who were unable to grasp the intellectual studies of science and reason.”
Reply · Like · 2 · Follow Post · 2 hours ago

Robin Boostrom
Manifestations of bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, intolerance, tribalism will undoubtedly crawl under the porch to die when they aren’t allowed to live in the house anymore. The only problem with this cat is it can arm itself with earth shattering weaponry- now instead of kicking the cat out and ignoring it’s mewling cries we make excuses for it’s bad behavior and continue to clean up the piss.
Reply · Like · Edited · 57 minutes ago

Lincourt Ellen · Top Commenter · Works at WPI ATC
Robin Boostrom Do you not see the irony in your statement about bigotry. Like you aren’t bigotted about people of faith?
Reply · Like · 1 · 40 minutes ago

Alfred N. Montestruc · Top Commenter · Houston, Texas
The concept of “deity”, is an illegitimate assertion of authority of one or more beings over others.

In principle, regardless of levels of intellect, and knowledge, and physical power, legitimate authority is either based on wholly voluntary knowing consent, or parental authority over a child too young to care for themselves, or the equivalent.

That a supposed “god” has X powers and is Y smarter than you, does not give him the right to own you, or legitimate authority over you, nor does it give priests of said “god” such rights.

Note this is true, regardless of whether said “god” exists, or is a flim-flam.

Other forms of “authority” than based on knowing voluntary consent are simply illegitimate, and worthy only of contempt and ridicule.

Skip to toolbar