I use Wikipedia frequently but I have not taken the time to understand the architecture behind the website very well. I decided that my foray would begin with the Wikipedia entry on Internet censorship, a topic that I have referred to often.
The current Talk page was quite scant so after a lot of browsing around Wikipedia, I learned that I was able to look at earlier histories of the Talk page to get fuller discussions. I didn’t know which history to choose because there are 500 revisions dating back to 2002. After some more browsing, I realized that I could search through the archives and I found this archive index that listed discussion topics and the number of replies. The most popular topic with 27 replies was on “Absence of network neutrality = Internet censorship.” Furthermore, I found this archive of past discussions. I was very impressed by how well Wikipedia is organized.
The discussion on network neutrality started when an anonymous user tried to add savetheinternet.com (a pro-network neutrality website) to the external links section. The discussion went back and forth between the main user named LegitimateAndEvenCompelling (LAEC) and “Anon”.
LAEC claimed that the “Sock Puppeteer” was raising speculative issues about net neutrality:
While your arguments may be perfectly legitimate and valid, they are not wiki worthy yet, and especially on this Internet censorship page. Perhaps on a Net neutrality page, if there is one, your arguments may be appropriate if a section is presenting the arguments by all sides of the issue. But not here… You see the problem is not the content, rather it is the wiki policies that are designed to enhance the chances of getting really encyclopedic articles, not soapboxes for people to promote their own view of the world.
Anon claimed that it was legitimate for him to remain anonymous:
My understanding is that anonymous editors are permitted and even encouraged under Wiki policy. If the edit is potentially legitimate, as Davidwr seems to concede, my anonymous status should have no bearing on any decision about the edit’s propriety. Even more important, consideration of the link should not be based on LAEC’s objection to one of the members of the coalition, or the fact he seems to believe that anonymous editors are not allowed under Wiki policy, or the fact that I disagree with his evaluation of the link’s appropriateness
Another user, by the name of Davidwr, corrected Anon:
Assuming this is true, it is better if an established editor with no history of ties to web site or any of its “charter members” put their name on that particular link. This will avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest and will hopefully end this edit war once and for all. If such a person is not available, an established user who does have ties to that web site but who has a demonstrated history of adhering to Wikipedia policies can restore the link the next time it gets removed.
Moreover, LAEC gave a smattering of criticism against Anon:
Further, you have violated quite a number of other policies, and generally you do not work with the community. Rather you plow ahead and do what you want despite the community. Your edits have been reverted again and again by a number of editors. I don’t even revert all your self serving POV edits anymore because people are catching on to your tactics and complying with wiki policy. And all my claims about you being a sock puppeteer? Well frankly you prove it again and again. Just during the course of this Talk section you have morphed 4 times! Exactly what is it you are trying to hide? –LegitimateAndEvenCompelling 03:00, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
There was also some humor thrown in:
Morphing? A charitable explanation might be that he’s moving from one library computer to another. :) Davidwr 03:06, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
Anon claimed that he didn’t have a conflict of interest:
As for conflict of interest, first, as I said earlier, I didn’t add the original link; I simply agreed that it was useful. Second, I’m not a member of Save the Internet, but am thinking it must be useful to support them, since someone who promotes Internet censorship through filtering is so anxious to prevent anyone knowing about them. – Anon.
In summary, the two main reasons for the discussion were the appropriateness of the link and the appropriateness of allowing an anonymous IP address with a likely conflict of interest to post this particular link.
Finally, a subtopic was set up by a 3rd party: “Call for immediate truce and dispute resolution”. This was the conclusion:
The “vote” seems to be “everyone to 1″ against allowing this person to post this link at this time. Technically this is not a 100% consensus but it’s close enough for this issue. If the person using this anonymous address’s goal is to have the pride of making the link himself, [bolded from actual Wikipedia entry] he should use the Wikipedia dispute resolution process as outlined above. If his ultimate goal is to get the link added, his best course of action is to cool it for a few weeks, register an account and use it for non-censorship-related edits, then use this talk page to propose adding the link. If he already has an established account, then wait a few weeks to let passions cool down. At that time, he should propose the link here and discuss it. Why not add the link directly? Two reasons: One, the link itself is still the subject of debate. Two, there is an actual or perceived conflict of interest with anyone associated with the ALA adding this link. Either case is grounds for discussing it here before adding the link. If nobody objects or you have a lot of people saying “yes” and few people objecting after a few days, then make the link. Davidwr 13:57, 4 May 2007 (UTC)
Fast forward to February 2014: The link is off.
I was quite absorbed following this discussion because I was not aware of the passion behind Wikipedia. After reading both sides, I believe that net neutrality should be a permissible topic under Internet censorship that shows balanced views, so I am a bit dismayed not to see it on the Wikipedia entry. But I agree with LAEC that Anon should not be allowed to post the link because it would compromise the objectivity of its writers and the values of Wikipedia. This exploration of Wikipedia was very informative for me and I have a greater appreciation for the editors’ commitment to the values of Wikipedia, their meticulous attention to details, and their transparency in addressing issues.