Wiki People: One Cannot Find Online Information If It Is Censored

September 2, 2021

Women have born the brunt of erasure from history, but thanks web sites like Wikipedia, their stories are shared more than ever. There is a problem with Wikipedia though, says CBC in the article: “Canadian Nobel Scientist’s Deletion From Wikipedia Points To Wider Bias, Study Finds.” Wikipedia is the most comprehensive, collaborative, and largest encyclopedia in human history. It is maintained by thousands of volunteer editors, who curate the content, verify information, and delete entries.

There are different types of Wikipedia editors. One type is an “inclusionist,” an editor who takes broad views about what to include in Wikipedia. The second type are “deflationists,” who have high content standards. American sociologist Francesca Tripodi researched the pages editors deleted and discovered that women’s pages are deleted more than men’s. Tripodi learned that 25% of women’s pages account for all deletion recommendations and their pages only make up 19% of the profiles.

Experts say it is either gender bias or notability problem. The notability is a gauge Wiki editors use to determine if a topic deserves a page and they weigh the notability against reliable sources. What makes a topic notable, Tripodi explained, leads to gender bias, because there is less information on them. It also does not help that many editors are men and there are attempts to add more women:

“Over the years, women have tried to fix the gender imbalance on Wikipedia, running edit-a-thons to change that ratio. Tripodi said these efforts to add notable women to the website have moved the needle — but have also run into roadblocks. ‘They’re welcoming new people who’ve never edited Wikipedia, and they’re editing at these events,’ she said. ‘But then after all of that’s done, after these pages are finally added, they have to double back and do even more work to make sure that the article doesn’t get deleted after being added.”

Unfortunately women editors complain they need to do more work to make sure their profiles are verifiable and are published. The Wikipedia Foundation acknowledges that the lack of women pages, because it reflects world gender biases. The Wikipedia Foundation, however, is committed to increasing the amount of women pages and editors. The amount of women editors has increased over 30% in the past year.

That is the problem when there is a lack of verifiable data about women or anyone erased from history due to biases. If there is not any information on them, they cannot be searched even by trained research librarians like me. Slick method, right?

Whitney Grace, September 2, 2021

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