Who owns Wikipedia?

Technically, there are two answers to this question.

The first is that “No one owns wikipedia” it is a crowd sourced encyclopedia with over 75,000 active registered editors from around the world, plus an uncountable number of unregistered editors who are all working together to try to make sure the information on Wikipedia is truthful and accurate.

The second answer is that this non-profit organization is owned by it’s 7 member board of trustees.  They are legally responsible for the wikipedia website and the collection of other Wiki Media projects which has sprung up around it.

But the “real” answer is more complex and a bit darker.

March Against Monsanto Dallas

March Against Monsanto Dallas

Five days ago i created the March Against Monsanto entry in wikipedia.  With a quarter of a million people signed up for this event, and possibly millions more likely to come, i was a bit surprised that no one had bothered to put it up on this popular free encyclopedia.  i was not surprised this morning when i got a message from wikipedia that my article had been proposed for deletion.

The case for deletion is pretty strong:

  • There is little media coverage for this event which was supposedly happening all over the world.
  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a newspaper. Articles need enduring notability to be included.
  • The article in wikipedia was created by someone with a conflict of interest (me)
  • News stories citing “millions” of participants seem to just be parroting the event organizers.

If you read the discussion about deleting the article there are thoughtful comments on both sides of the debate.  The current “vote” is 3 deleted and 6 keeps for the article.  In viewing the arguments and profiles of the people wishing to delete this article, i dont think any of them on are the take from Monsanto.

As much as possible, i try to avoid conspiracy theory thinking. Generally, i find it distracting, disempowering and at least somewhat fanciful (tho i do still fret about World Trade Center 7 collapsing).

No steel frame building has ever collapsed from fire alone - explosives are almost always involved.

No other steel frame high rise building has ever collapsed from fire alone – explosives are almost always involved.

But it would be foolish to think that Monsanto (and all large corporations) dont involve themselves in wikipedia monitoring and editing.  Looking at the “Talk” page on Monsanto article in Wikipedia reveals a couple of things.  There is lots of contention about the ill effects of Monsanto products.  Monsanto claims the scientific high ground currently, mostly because they are legally successful in blocking most studies of the round up ready product.  Certainly in the case of the entry on Monsanto in wikipedia, the post is owned by their legion of well paid writers, who are successful in keeping off most of the damning evidence from the wiki page (while there is quite a lot of it presented in the talk pages, which are view by well less than 1% of the people coming to the page.


But there is lots of contention over where or not the critiques of Vandana Shiva are worthy of entering in the article.  Mostly, they have been kept out – this does appear:

Critics, including Vandana Shiva, said that the crop failures could “often be traced to” Monsanto’s Bt cotton, and that the seeds increased farmers’ indebtedness, and argued that Monsanto misrepresented the profitability of their genetically modified cotton, Bt Cotton, causing farmers to suffer losses leading to debt.[236][237][238][239][240] In 2009, Ms. Shiva wrote that Indian farmers who had previously spent as little as 7 rupees per kilogram were now paying up to Rs. 17,000 per kilo per year after switching to BT cotton.[241] More recently, in 2012 the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) stated that for the first time farmer suicides could be linked to a decline in the performance of Bt cotton, and they issued an advisory stating that “cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” [242]

When we look at GMO effects on mice, we dont like what we see

When we look at GMO effects on mice, we dont like what we see

So years back a friend of mine who was an expert in cyborgs expressed his frustrations with wikipedia.  He had tried a number of times to correct the article on cyborgs, only to have his changes reversed and errors re-introduced.  Further the error recidivist was unwilling to communicate with him about the switch.  This left my friend feeling frustrated and hopeless that wikipedia would ever have the entry right.

i saw his some months back and asked how he was doing with wikipedia these days.  He replied he now makes part of his grad students work, maintaining and correcting the cyborg entry.  As for wikipedia he said “i love it now, because i own it.”

i have to wonder for how many pages does Monsanto feel the same way.

[Update:  The "vote" to delete the article is clearly swinging to keeping the article. With 15 keeps to 3 deletes at the time of this posting.]