A politicised Wikipedia? What happened to neutrality?

So, let me get this right, Jimmy Wales…

I should start out by stating that I have read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more and I am aware that you have left access to Wikipedia open on mobile devices or by disabling javascript (fine for those of us who know how to do that – and to switch it back on again for the many sites on which it’s needed or useful), but…

In order to register your protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act – potential legislation being proposed in the United States, you’re going to punish the English-speaking world (not even just users in the United States) by depriving them of access to a service which they have built up for you.

This is legislation which is opposed by President Obama and already appears to be a non-starter, based on what I have read in the media. But, even if that is not the case…

I live in the United Kingdom. You may want to look on a map of the world to see where that is. I have no sway or influence over the politics of your sovereign nation, even if I wanted to. You do not appear to have a UK English version of your site, despite the fact that we are ‘two nations divided by a common language’, nor have you implemented your ‘protest’ in a way which uses visitors’ IP addresses to identify their country of origin, so you are not in the position to act in a way which only affects users who may, and I mean ‘may’, be able to have the tiniest impact on this legislation.

Wikipedia represents an open source of knowledge. It may not always be perfect, but the beauty of its open nature is that people in a position of knowledge do indeed have the option to correct errors instantly, and have their work reviewed by peers; something it does have over printed encyclopedias. Indeed, although the perception that Wikipedia is full of inaccuracies (hardly surprising given the vast subject areas covered), I have heard experts in various fields complement the site for its accuracy. The site presents sources clearly and I have found it to be an extremely useful reference in the past. I defend the concept of Wikipedia.

What I can’t get past is the logic behind this action. You may have consulted core members of the Wikipedia team (Wikipedians), but couldn’t you have offered a vote to your readers before you made your futile gesture? It is they ultimately and not just the hardcore Wikipedians who have built up your power and influence – all with their own time and effort, and in some cases money. And now here you are acting in a way which affects the very people who support you! It is fundamentally against the spirit of openness. Yes, I know that’s your point, but you are targeting the wrong people.

Support you? You’ve just alienated me and politicised a site which supposedly celebrates its ‘neutrality’. I don’t want to see your face at the top of the page asking for my financial support again after this fiasco. No wonder the head of Twitter called your gesture ‘silly’. Your visitors deserve better. And if you don’t think so, would you mind confining your actions to those who can have any influence over your politics. Google have behaved far more responsibly and fairly in their protest, by symbolically blacking out the Google logo on the US version of the website. Likewise WordPress, whose home page is very striking as I write this. In both cases, they make their protest in a powerful, but unintrusive way.

As one of countless similar comments (by a Wikipedian) on your own site has stated…

“I am saddened and aggrieved that some people want to use Wikipedia as a political tool. If people have objections to legislations they should make their protests known by acting as individuals, not by utilising the work that I and thousands of others have done. I am not contributing to Wikipedia to provide anyone with a means to add weight to their opposition to legislation. If you’re not happy, write to Congress – you can use OpenCongress, or some other means. A handful of vocal editors should not be able to force the closure of a website used by millions.”

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