Facebook has an army looking for foreign interference: who can police Wikipedia?

Over at Israellycool last night Dave published the following pretty astonishing post by Mike G:

Unsurprisingly, this bias to the left also extends to a systematic bias against Israel. One key way in which Wikipedia is systematically biased against Israel is related to the website’s fundamental policy that all information presented in its articles be verified through the use of citations to “reliable sources.” The problem, therein, is that on Wikipedia what are considered reliable sources are generally “legacy media” (e.g. The New York Times) and works from academia, both of which are already known for their own systematic bias against Israel.

Within Wikipedia, like in the broader public sphere, matters related to Israel are controversial and fraught with disputes, resulting in a highly disproportionate amount of time and energy being consumed on this subject on the site. Due to these long-standing disputes, Wikipedia has adopted special rules governing editing articles related to the Arab–Israeli conflict (other controversial subjects are also subject to special editing restrictions, including abortion, the Syrian Civil War, and global warming).

Veteran anti-Israel editors are adept at gaming the system by using these special rules to limit the influence and efficacy of pro-Israel editors, if not to get them outright banned from editing in the topic area or from all of Wikipedia.

Incidentally, when I tweeted about this story (which was retweeted by OAN anchor and journalist Jack Posobiec) I got back a typical response from an Israel hater:

You and I both know this is nonsense, since the Israel gov’t pays to have pro-Zionist articles..

This tweeter linked to an old, old video story from 2010 about a single training day to teach people how to edit in Wikipedia. I seem to remember I might have been invited to it. The first person on the video is Naftali Bennet back when he was running Yesha Council which wasn’t a significant Israeli government backed institution even back then. I absolutely know for sure there is no determined or co-ordinated “Zionist” effort paid for by the Israeli government to counter the bias on Wikipedia though I wish there was!

I’ve known for a long time that Wikipedia entries on Israel (and often on Jewish matters too) are very slanted. It’s not always the most obvious of lies but it is every form of deceptive framing, suppression of explanatory background and nearly always geared to make the Israel look bad.

This coincides with something David Collier has just published about a text book used to teach about Israel to UK school children:This book has NO PLACE inside a classroom. It is poisonous – it rewrites history – it whitewashes anti-Jewish violence – and every child who has studied from it – has been exposed to hard-core anti-Zionist revisionist material. Faithfully delivered to them by their teacher, their school and the taxpayer.

‘In August 1929, angry clashes occurred over holy sites in Jerusalem. These grew into 4 days of bloody riots and mob violence throughout Palestine, leaving 133 Jews and 116 Arabs dead.’

Here is one example from the book. The year is 1929.

That is how the ‘school’ book describes the bloody massacres of Jewish communities as Arab mobs ran riot throughout Mandatory Palestine. As ‘Arab / Jew’ clashes:

school textbook

The comparable fatality count is more than deceptive. The reason 116 Arabs died, is because the British killed them as they tried to stop them massacring Jews.

This trick used with the fatality count is an absolutely textbook (excuse me) method of reframing to demonise Jews and whitewash the actions of those who murder Jews. This is the kind of thing that is all over Wikipedia. Which is why it comes as no surprise in Collier’s full report that some of this textbook is even sourced from Wikipedia (something the school kids are told not to do!).

School by Wikipedia extract from David Collier’s report on UK Pearson Textbook.

Now lets cross reference this with something in the New York Times:

In his conference call on Monday, Mr. Zuckerberg said that Facebook had become better able to seek out and remove foreign influence networks, relying on a team of former intelligence officials, digital forensics experts and investigative journalists. Facebook has more than 35,000 people working on its security initiatives, with an annual budget well into the billions of dollars.

“Three years ago, big tech companies like Facebook were essentially in denial about all of this,” said Ben Nimmo, head of investigations at Graphika, a social media analytics agency. “Now, they’re actively hunting.”

Facebook is a huge money spinner: Wikipedia begs for donations (though it has some pretty rich sustaining donors from (left leaning) Silicon Valley.

There is no way Wikipedia can ever invest the fortune that Facebook is spending every year on security and weeding out deceptive content. I would contend that Facebook’s model is heading away from profitability too but its immense market power will ensure that it remains profitable for a long time to come.

I believe Wikipedia is a much bigger problem for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment than any of the social media fights we hear a lot more about. In many respects, corruption of this kind of long standing reference material is going to be a far bigger societal problem than ephemeral social media posts and adverts.

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