Wikipedia controversy: Same old story

Published 08.05.2017 00:00
Updated 08.05.2017 00:16
Wikipedia controversy: Same old story

In an attempt to turn the Wikipedia debate in to a matter of the right to information, we are reminded of a similar bid in the past years with the Twitter controversy, which time showed to be a matter of national laws and company policy

When compiling a list of websites that are considered the cornerstones of the World Wide Web, one of the first things that come to mind is, without a doubt, Wikipedia. Not only is it considered the holy grail of informational access, it is also regarded as a treasure trove of information and, when we consider the cursory background information regarding an event, the context of a word, a historical event or the history of a name, Wikipedia is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

But, why? Why is this site the first one to pop up during a search for information when there are other, more comprehensive websites that specialize in whatever topic peaks our curiosity? The answer is simple: Wikipedia uses search engine algorithms to their full capability. Not to mention that the numerous references on every page improves these odds.

However, does being the most visible source of information on the internet make Wikipedia the most trustworthy source? Does having a huge database of information make it the most reliable? Of course not. Wikipedia is an open source website that relies on its users for the collection of data, which means that it can also be very easily manipulated. Serving more as a compilation of information rather than a content creator, the majority of information available at Wikipedia is taken from other sources.

During the process of collecting this information, it is possible to encounter misinformation, causes for speculation and personal opinions of web editors and writers whose opinions are masqueraded as cold, hard facts.

The end of April was marked with controversy between Turkey and Wikipedia. After the website was blocked in Turkey, many users from the country expressed their displeasure on social media. While these naysayers were not entirely wrong to express their frustrations over the blocking of the website, it is important to consider all sides of the story before casting blame on one party or another.

After all, Wikipedia is, of course, an essential part of daily life for many people nowadays. According to statements issued by official sources, there were four reasons that compelled the blockage of Wikipedia in Turkey.

- Denial of Turkey's request for Wikipedia to open an office in Turkey

- Wikipedia's disregard for international law

- Wikipedia's disregard of Turkish court orders

- Wikipedia's abetting of anti-Turkey smear campaigns; whether intentional or unintentional

Now, while the said four reasons may have contributed to the government's decision, from the perspective of the rule of law, the fourth reason is the most important one that led to the current situation. It will also probably be the main reason that will untangle this controversy.

Wikipedia was blocked because it has recorded Turkey as a supporter of Daesh in numerous lists. When we look at the Turkish court order that led to the block, it refers to the listing of Turkey amid subtopics on pages regarding the foreign involvement in the Syrian civil war as well as state-sponsored terrorism.

One might say that since Wikipedia is an open source, Turkish users could simply correct the information without the need for court involvement or a ban. However, despite protests across Turkey and the resistance of Turkish editors on the site, the controversial section of Wikipedia which is spreading the lie that Turkey supports Daesh was put into protected mode, thus leaving it untouchable by Turkish users.

After Turkey blocked Wikipedia, the site challenged the court decision, appealing that the verdict be overturned.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tweeted that, "Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right."

I have to say that considering the circumstances behind the situation, I find the tweet to be both funny and completely irrelevant; not to mention a bit familiar because the tweet itself, along with numerous articles published by Western media on the subject, are trying to paint this as a government crackdown on human rights or, even worse, as the tip of the iceberg in a banning frenzy in Turkey.

Considering that Turkey was the slandered party here, painting the country as the instigator can only be referred to as manipulation at worst and, at best, blatant disregard for the facts.

This is not about human rights. This is about international and national law with a dose of corporate policies. This was not the first time Turkey has been caught in the crosshairs of being portrayed as the big bad wolf who reared his ugly head against innocent, conglomerate internet companies.

I am sure many readers can recall other Twitter controversies in recent years. Twitter and Western media have followed suit by initially declaring the issue an "undemocratic crackdown on fundamental, communicative rights." However, the end result was finding a compromise between national and international laws, and corporate policy.

So, in the end, the most logical roadmap for Wikipedia moving forward should include a compromise and adherence to quality; in other words, Wikipedia should make it a priority to not allow their site to be used as a tool for slander and manipulation against Turkey, or any country for that matter.

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