Influencing Wikipedia

According to Amazon’s online research arm Alexa.com, Wikipedia.org is the 5th most visited website in the world. It is consistently ranked in the first few search results a Google search on any topic. The website boasts over 40 million pages as of this writing and the English Wikipedia averages over 600 new articles per day. Editing a Wikipedia page is amazingly easy and anyone, anywhere on earth can either create or edit pages at any time of day. Wikipedia’s accuracy has improved over the years and totally dominates the landscape for reference websites. Founder Jimmy Wales has repeatedly emphasized his commitment to keeping Wikipedia free of ads and open to the world.

It would be difficult to think of an easier way for ideologically friendly forces to influence the national conversation than ensuring Wikipedia entries are accurate in their facts and tone of presentation. As is characteristic for this blog, a ranking of the importance of pages should be undertaken and editors and contributors mobilized to assess the accuracy of those pages starting with the most important and spreading out to others less so. Page importance will be determined by various factors including the number of visits, role of the topic in current events, historical perspective and so on. Certain pages prone to vandalism or malicious edits are locked from casual editing. There is a dynamic and dedicated core group of volunteer ‘wikipedians’ who maintain the integrity of the site. Based on the popularity, growth and widespread use of this website, it is in our interest to have our own writers maintain an ongoing presence in the governance and content of Wikipedia and any other important open source reference sites. Mr. Wales – a libertarian – has also advertised his ambitious WikiTribune project to develop another open source reference platform dedicated to the news landscape. It goes without saying that the right should also be heavily involved in the visionary WikiTribune project as soon as possible.

Mr. Wales’ objectivist philosophy should reassure us that the founder of these major companies is not inherently opposed to our views. Conservatives and Republicans are notorious for their belief that the mainstream media is hostile to them. Unfortunately, this outlook betrays an unsophisticated interpretation of the media world as it cannot be simply understood as a monolith of unfriendly minions. No industry of this size and scope has total uniformity of views and intensity of belief. When possible, opportunities should be exploited and people and institutions open to debate should be confronted with thoughtful, compelling arguments from our side. We should understand the motivations of our opponents and craft a methodical approach to introduce our opinions into unfamiliar territory in a way that does not evoke a viscerally antagonistic backlash. This will depend on what issues are presented, tenor of language used and how the issue is framed. Wikipedia and its sister projects are low hanging fruit – free and easy to write, with a disproportionately broad range of impact to the wider society. It reflects poorly on our side that such an approach has not yet been fully harnessed.

The mobilizing of other dedicated groups should remind us that we are in constant competition with others to shape the national and international conversation. Sharyl Attkisson has given insight about the manipulation of Wikipedia for various special interests. A proactive plan to influence Wikipedia is yet another tool we may develop in our arsenal to induce the general public to our worldview.

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