Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

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Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

brian.mcneil-2
Absent Erik's irregular "State of the Wiki" reports on Wikinews we have a
number of developments that are going to need input from the wider WMF
community, potentially including Mike Godwin's input or that of board
members on formulation of policies. I will apologise in advance in case I
waffle or ramble.

 

The first issue I'd like to bring up is embargoed stories, we've had two
within the space of about a week. The first was the technology pioneers one,
the latest is the newest leak of the manual for Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay
(http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Standard_Operating_Procedure_changes_at_Camp_De
lta%2C_Guantanamo_Bay).

 

In both cases work was carried out in secret with static web pages updated,
invite-only IRC channels, and emails flying about. This isn't exactly what
we're meant to be doing, but if a source says they'll tell us something
provided we don't publish it before a specific time we have to either
respect their wishes or decline the offer. We lose credibility, stories, and
relevance if we decline these sort of chances.

 

My first thought on this was that a private wiki is required,
embargoed.wikinews.org or similar. Yet, the story up on Slashdot at the
moment, and accusations of a Cabal-esque secret mailing list would not be
mitigated by opening another private channel for communication and
cooperation. I cannot think of alternatives that would meet the needs of
these situations unfortunately.

 

Among the issues we need to deal are things like translation. Our Camp Delta
story is (when I last looked) up in 5 languages. The only mainstream media
also covering the story is the Washington Post, but more will follow as the
U.S. wakes up and the papers come out. We were first, but I believe we could
have had more language coverage and a more in-depth article had we had a
familiar (i.e. wiki) collaborative space. I am trying to chase up an Arabic
translator to get the story on ar.wikinews.org, and am in contact with
former Guantanamo chaplain James Yee who I hope to get to take a look at
their translation of the rules as well as answer some questions.

 

Moving on from that, and on to a related item; one that has probably been
asked by 1 in 5 of every new Wikinewsies that sticks around. "Why aren't we
listed on Google News?" The simple answer is we have no editorial control.
With an "anyone can edit" approach we fail some of the criteria Google
applies when approving or declining potential sources. We are forced to use
a poor man's workaround which is republishing stories on a blog which Google
have approved. So, for our Gitmo story the blog is listed
(http://www.google.com/news?sourceid=navclient-ff
<http://www.google.com/news?sourceid=navclient-ff&rlz=1B3GGGL_enBE176BE229&h
l=en&q=guantanamo+bay+camp+delta&ie=UTF-8>
&rlz=1B3GGGL_enBE176BE229&hl=en&q=guantanamo+bay+camp+delta&ie=UTF-8) but as
soon as other sources come up it will slip into obscurity. Actually having
the genuine Wikinews listed would not have us in that situation.

 

I have proposed one solution, and Angela has countered with another.
Angela's suggestion is the Foundation set up blog.wikinews.org and Wikinews
use that, but my reaction is whilst that address would be given a more
prominent Google listing it would still have all the technical issues
associated with updates, particularly when dealing with stories such as the
Virginia Tech shootings or London Bombings.

 

My proposal is the Wikinews adopt flagged revisions and create a policy to
select those who may flag revisions. Thus, those with the ability to flag
would become the editorial control team and collectively responsible for
editorial control. The Foundation remains independent of editorial control
(another thorn with Google).

 

Any input on this would be much appreciated. I have every reason to believe
that other languages, for example Polish, would also be interested in
FlaggedRevs. They are becoming increasingly active and if you check their
version of the Camp Delta story they've really gone to town filling it out.
They've also established good media contacts and I strongly suspect their
story, and their translation of the detainee rules will appear in tomorrow's
Polish newspapers.

 

 

Brian McNeil

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
> My first thought on this was that a private wiki is required,
> embargoed.wikinews.org or similar. Yet, the story up on Slashdot at the
> moment, and accusations of a Cabal-esque secret mailing list would not be
> mitigated by opening another private channel for communication and
> cooperation. I cannot think of alternatives that would meet the needs of
> these situations unfortunately.

There is a difference between lake of transparency and secrecy. Having
an embargo sub-wiki should be fine as long as its existence and
purpose is transparent. What is happening on it at any given time has
to be secret, but that doesn't mean people can't know that the site
exists. The other key point is that embargoes are, by their very
nature, temporary - things happening on the embargo site will be
transwikied to the main site after a fairly short period of time. I
suggest keeping all discussion about a particular embargoed story on
that article's talk page, and transwikiing that as well, then people
know exactly what's going on, just not straight away.

> Moving on from that, and on to a related item; one that has probably been
> asked by 1 in 5 of every new Wikinewsies that sticks around. "Why aren't we
> listed on Google News?" The simple answer is we have no editorial control.

One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
anything illegal on the site.

I'm surprised the current workaround works - if the blog just reposts
every story without any editing, then I can't see why Google accept
it, if the person running the blog is taking editorial responsibility,
then they are putting themselves at significant risk (unless they do
verify every article they post, which is a hell of a job).

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

brian.mcneil-2
Thomas Dalton wrote:
>Brian McNeil wrote:
>> Moving on from that, and on to a related item; one that has probably been
>> asked by 1 in 5 of every new Wikinewsies that sticks around. "Why aren't
>>we
>> listed on Google News?" The simple answer is we have no editorial
>>control.

>>One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
>>editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
>>libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
>>added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
>>editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
>>anything illegal on the site.

I am aware of this. I do not see how something illegal and unflagged would
become the responsibility of an editorial committee or board. The point
would be to say, "Here is *raw* Wikinews", or "Here is editorially checked
Wikinews". The latter being the default for Google and all anonymous
visitors. Registered users should get a choice which to view. (I am not
aware of technical details of FlaggedRevs).

>I'm surprised the current workaround works - if the blog just reposts
>every story without any editing, then I can't see why Google accept
>it, if the person running the blog is taking editorial responsibility,
>then they are putting themselves at significant risk (unless they do
>verify every article they post, which is a hell of a job).

Not every story gets posted; lead stories usually go up, and they generally
have more eyeballs paying attention to them. However, the process is manual,
and impractical for rapidly developing stories.

As I mentioned I am aware that anyone who took on the responsibility is at
risk and many, if not most, of our contributors would be bankrupted were
they taken to court over an article. However, I do not believe that a
significant portion of other contributors are fully aware of this.
Personally? I'd take on the responsibility. Here in Belgium you have to
first convince a judge there is a case to hear. I've fought that on behalf
of my partner as the libelled party - so I'm not completely clueless.
Someone sues or tries to get me prosecuted in absentia? I don't think it is
an extraditable offense. I just have to keep a list of countries not to
visit or transit through and hope I don't suffer an extraordinary rendition
for approving something nasty about the current U.S. regime.


Brian McNeil



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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
On Dec 4, 2007 11:57 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
> editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
> libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
> added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
> editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
> anything illegal on the site.
>
Where does this understanding come from?  And what jurisdiction(s) are
you talking about?

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Robert Rohde
On Dec 4, 2007 9:58 AM, Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Dec 4, 2007 11:57 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
> > editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
> > libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
> > added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
> > editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
> > anything illegal on the site.
> >
> Where does this understanding come from?  And what jurisdiction(s) are
> you talking about?
>
>

Both for copyright and libel there are provisions in the US that limit the
liability of "service providers" for the actions of their users.  Generally,
part of liability protection comes from the conclusion that the service
provider is unaware of the negative behavior of the users.

My understanding is that if there were a full-fledged editor responsible for
approving every story then that person (or organization) could be liable in
the event that something they approved was found to libelous or otherwise
injurious to a third party.  Or in other words once you put in a filter on
submitted content, you may be responsible when negative content
inappropriately gets through that filter.

However, as far as I know, there is very little in the way of case law that
actually addresses the liability associated with massive collaboration
systems, like wikis.  It is unclear to me what liability a volunteer editor
might have when confronted with the injurious statements of another
volunteer contributor.

-Robert Rohde
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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Anthony-73
On 04/12/2007, Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Dec 4, 2007 11:57 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
> > editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
> > libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
> > added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
> > editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
> > anything illegal on the site.
> >
> Where does this understanding come from?  And what jurisdiction(s) are
> you talking about?

The understanding comes from having spent far too much time reading
Wikimedia mailing lists. The jurisdiction? Primarily US, but the same
applies to any other jurisdiction with similar protection for hosts.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by brian.mcneil-2
> I am aware of this. I do not see how something illegal and unflagged would
> become the responsibility of an editorial committee or board.

I was thinking about flagged articles. I imagine a simple disclaimer
for unflagged articles (similar to the one there is already for all
articles, I imagine - I haven't looked to see what disclaimers
Wikinews has) would be fine to stop flaggers being liable for them.

> As I mentioned I am aware that anyone who took on the responsibility is at
> risk and many, if not most, of our contributors would be bankrupted were
> they taken to court over an article. However, I do not believe that a
> significant portion of other contributors are fully aware of this.
> Personally? I'd take on the responsibility. Here in Belgium you have to
> first convince a judge there is a case to hear. I've fought that on behalf
> of my partner as the libelled party - so I'm not completely clueless.
> Someone sues or tries to get me prosecuted in absentia? I don't think it is
> an extraditable offense. I just have to keep a list of countries not to
> visit or transit through and hope I don't suffer an extraordinary rendition
> for approving something nasty about the current U.S. regime.

As long as the people taking on the responsibility know what they're
doing (as you seem to), it's up to them, but it does need to be made
clear to anyone volunteering that they are at personal risk. Someone
would also need to check with Mike Godwin to make sure the WMF isn't
also being put at risk (I would imagine not, but I don't know the ins
and outs of it all).

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Robert Rohde
On Dec 4, 2007 1:59 PM, Robert Rohde <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Dec 4, 2007 9:58 AM, Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > On Dec 4, 2007 11:57 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > > One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
> > > editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
> > > libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
> > > added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
> > > editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
> > > anything illegal on the site.
> > >
> > Where does this understanding come from?  And what jurisdiction(s) are
> > you talking about?
> >
>
> Both for copyright and libel there are provisions in the US that limit the
> liability of "service providers" for the actions of their users.  Generally,
> part of liability protection comes from the conclusion that the service
> provider is unaware of the negative behavior of the users.
>
I think you're going to have to cite some sources for that, post
Section 230, as far as the US goes.  Because the cases I have read
have contradicted that point.  Specifically, I'm thinking of [[Barrett
v. Rosenthal]].

> My understanding is that if there were a full-fledged editor responsible for
> approving every story then that person (or organization) could be liable in
> the event that something they approved was found to libelous or otherwise
> injurious to a third party.  Or in other words once you put in a filter on
> submitted content, you may be responsible when negative content
> inappropriately gets through that filter.
>
Again, in the US, that argument has explicitly been brought up and
rejected.  The whole point of Section 230 was to *encourage*
self-policing and filtering.  If services which filtered content were
held to a higher standard, that would *discourage* self-policing and
filtering using the very argument you are now making.

> However, as far as I know, there is very little in the way of case law that
> actually addresses the liability associated with massive collaboration
> systems, like wikis.  It is unclear to me what liability a volunteer editor
> might have when confronted with the injurious statements of another
> volunteer contributor.
>
The fact that it is a massive collaboration system likely is
irrelevant.  Section 230 of the CDA provides immunity to both a
"provider or user of an interactive computer service".  It has been
said that this immunity is essentially applicable to anyone who
communicates over the Internet, so long as the information is
"provided by another information content provider".

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
On Dec 4, 2007 2:04 PM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 04/12/2007, Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > On Dec 4, 2007 11:57 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > > One reason we don't have editorial control of any kind is because with
> > > editorial control comes editorial responsibility. At the moment, any
> > > libel (or whatever) is solely the responsibility of the person that
> > > added it (at least, until WMF is formally notified). If someone takes
> > > editorial control, by my understanding, they would also be liable for
> > > anything illegal on the site.
> > >
> > Where does this understanding come from?  And what jurisdiction(s) are
> > you talking about?
>
> The understanding comes from having spent far too much time reading
> Wikimedia mailing lists. The jurisdiction? Primarily US, but the same
> applies to any other jurisdiction with similar protection for hosts.
>
Wikimedia mailing lists are not a reliable source for such
information.  In fact, for this particular topic it seems to largely
be a horrible source for information.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

brian.mcneil-2
In reply to this post by Anthony-73
Anthony wrote:

>The fact that it is a massive collaboration system likely is
>irrelevant.  Section 230 of the CDA provides immunity to both a
>"provider or user of an interactive computer service".  It has been
>said that this immunity is essentially applicable to anyone who
>communicates over the Internet, so long as the information is
>"provided by another information content provider".

That's all well and good for the Foundation.

I'm not certain that editorial liability is the same thing as what you're
talking about. Newspaper editors are responsible for what they accept and
publish from their reporters. I am sure some areas would hold to that same
principle with an online news source with an editorial team approving what
was being picked up and listed in Google News. I think [[w:Ian Hislop]]
would agree with me, at least were someone from the UK found to have pushed
the button to publish libel about a UK figure.


Brian McNeil


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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Mike Godwin-2
In reply to this post by brian.mcneil-2

Brian writes:

>  I am aware of this. I do not see how something illegal and  
> unflagged would
> become the responsibility of an editorial committee or board. The  
> point
> would be to say, "Here is *raw* Wikinews", or "Here is editorially  
> checked
> Wikinews". The latter being the default for Google and all anonymous
> visitors. Registered users should get a choice which to view. (I am  
> not
> aware of technical details of FlaggedRevs).

Boy, I sure would hate to be the lawyer who had to explain this point  
to a judge.


--Mike



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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by brian.mcneil-2
On Dec 4, 2007 3:14 PM, Brian McNeil <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Anthony wrote:
>
> >The fact that it is a massive collaboration system likely is
> >irrelevant.  Section 230 of the CDA provides immunity to both a
> >"provider or user of an interactive computer service".  It has been
> >said that this immunity is essentially applicable to anyone who
> >communicates over the Internet, so long as the information is
> >"provided by another information content provider".
>
> That's all well and good for the Foundation.
>
> I'm not certain that editorial liability is the same thing as what you're
> talking about. Newspaper editors are responsible for what they accept and
> publish from their reporters. I am sure some areas would hold to that same
> principle with an online news source with an editorial team approving what
> was being picked up and listed in Google News. I think [[w:Ian Hislop]]
> would agree with me, at least were someone from the UK found to have pushed
> the button to publish libel about a UK figure.
>
My comments were strictly limited to the US, which Robert and Thomas
both mentioned in response to my question of jurisdiction.  In fact,
outside of California, Barrett v. Rosenthal doesn't even hold as
precedent, though I believe the legal argument makes sense.  Don't
take my word for it, though.  Read it yourself, or at least read the
Wikipedia article about it.

I also suspect Congress is going to have to act if this precedent
holds.  Something like the DMCA for libel, with takedown notices and
such, would probably make a lot more sense.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Anthony-73
> Again, in the US, that argument has explicitly been brought up and
> rejected.  The whole point of Section 230 was to *encourage*
> self-policing and filtering.  If services which filtered content were
> held to a higher standard, that would *discourage* self-policing and
> filtering using the very argument you are now making.

That would suggest that, say, The New York Times would not be liable
for libel in any article on their website submitted electronically by
a member of the public. That's a hell of an interpretation. If it's
correct, then it's excellent for us. Not so great for anyone libelled
about by an anonymous contributor using a public computer whose
reputation is ruined by people trusting the reputability of The New
York Times.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Mike Godwin-2
> Boy, I sure would hate to be the lawyer who had to explain this point
> to a judge.

You know, as the person paid to be the legal expert here, it would be
helpful if you would make straight points as opposed to unhelpful
rhetoric.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

David Gerard-2
On 04/12/2007, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> > Boy, I sure would hate to be the lawyer who had to explain this point
> > to a judge.

> You know, as the person paid to be the legal expert here, it would be
> helpful if you would make straight points as opposed to unhelpful
> rhetoric.


That was an extremely straight point: that argument is unlikely to fly.


- d.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
On 04/12/2007, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 04/12/2007, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > > Boy, I sure would hate to be the lawyer who had to explain this point
> > > to a judge.
>
> > You know, as the person paid to be the legal expert here, it would be
> > helpful if you would make straight points as opposed to unhelpful
> > rhetoric.
>
>
> That was an extremely straight point: that argument is unlikely to fly.

He didn't say that, though, although I agree that's probably what he
meant. There is a difference between something being difficult and it
being unlikely to succeed. He said the former and (I think) meant the
latter. Some form of explanation would also be nice, of course...

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Andrew Whitworth-2
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
> That would suggest that, say, The New York Times would not be liable
> for libel in any article on their website submitted electronically by
> a member of the public. That's a hell of an interpretation. If it's
> correct, then it's excellent for us. Not so great for anyone libelled
> about by an anonymous contributor using a public computer whose
> reputation is ruined by people trusting the reputability of The New
> York Times.

The courts have already ruled that what an anonymous contributors
posts to an online message board is not the responsibility of the
owners of that message board. An online version of the New York Times,
if it's open for anonymous submissions, would fall under the same
category.

Now, the New York Times paper, the printed edition, is not open for
anonymous editing, and so is probably held to different standards.

--Andrew Whitworth

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

brian.mcneil-2
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
Thomas Dalton wrote:

>> Again, in the US, that argument has explicitly been brought up and
>> rejected.  The whole point of Section 230 was to *encourage*
>> self-policing and filtering.  If services which filtered content were
>> held to a higher standard, that would *discourage* self-policing and
>> filtering using the very argument you are now making.
>
>That would suggest that, say, The New York Times would not be liable
>for libel in any article on their website submitted electronically by
>a member of the public. That's a hell of an interpretation. If it's
>correct, then it's excellent for us. Not so great for anyone libelled
>about by an anonymous contributor using a public computer whose
>reputation is ruined by people trusting the reputability of The New
>York Times.

If the comments are not subject to editorial control and not in print, you
might as well be talking about Slashdot.


Brian McNeil


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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Andrew Whitworth-2
> The courts have already ruled that what an anonymous contributors
> posts to an online message board is not the responsibility of the
> owners of that message board. An online version of the New York Times,
> if it's open for anonymous submissions, would fall under the same
> category.

No-one is disputing that. I'm talking about an online newspaper taking
submissions from the public, not a public message board. The key
difference is that the newspaper selects stories it thinks are good
from the submissions.

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Re: Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by brian.mcneil-2
> >That would suggest that, say, The New York Times would not be liable
> >for libel in any article on their website submitted electronically by
> >a member of the public. That's a hell of an interpretation. If it's
> >correct, then it's excellent for us. Not so great for anyone libelled
> >about by an anonymous contributor using a public computer whose
> >reputation is ruined by people trusting the reputability of The New
> >York Times.
>
> If the comments are not subject to editorial control and not in print, you
> might as well be talking about Slashdot.

It didn't say there was no editorial control. It should be obvious
from context that I was assuming editorial control, since that was the
entire point of my argument.

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