One of my pastimes is writing on Wikipedia. It’s almost unavoidable since I use the encyclopedia daily and keep running into stuff to correct — facts, spelling, stylistic mishaps. In the past, though, I’ve been really discouraged when trying to improve the articles about Falun Gong (a.k.a. Chinese Scientology). They used to be a battleground between Chinese Communist Party loyalists and Falun Gong devotees, both sides trying to cram as much propaganda into the articles as possible. Then the FGers managed to get the CCP guys banned from editing, which was excellent in itself. Unfortunately it led to a prolonged situation where the articles were entirely taken over by cult propagandists, some of whom checked the articles five times a day. And then I got involved. As it turned out, I could do very little on my own.
But back in May, English Wikipedia barred all users on servers belonging to the Church of Scientology from editing the encyclopedia, and two dozen individual user accounts on Wikipedia were zapped too because they had been used extensively to push the Scientology agenda. The crackdown took a lot of work since these decisions aren’t made lightly: you need to document in detail why somebody needs to get kicked out. And now a similar clean-up effort has reached the Falun Gong pages. A swarm of experienced Wikipedians with no pro-FG or pro-CCP agenda has descended on them. Yesterday the nastiest of the FGers (a fellow Scandy, no less) was banned for six months from touching any of the FG articles. And the delicious irony is that this is the very same guy who got the CCP propagandists thrown out!
The reason behind all this clean-up is of course that if a person looks up an organisation on Wikipedia, then the article will be pretty useless if it’s written by people with any sort of passionate relationship to that organisation. If they hate it, if they love it, they’re not the right people to write about it. Myself, I dislike both FG and CCP since I see them as a crazy cult and a totalitarian regime respectively, but I can’t say that I have any strong feelings about either. I just want those articles to be fair, well-sourced and factually correct.
I must admit that I am kind of passionate, though, about those FG propagandists on Wikipedia who kept erasing everything I wrote. So the ongoing change is a double pleasure for me: a set of much-read Wikipedia articles will finally become worth reading, and the doublespeaking cultists I’ve had to deal with get their just deserts.
But on Wikipedia, vigilance must be eternal, because one day new propagandists will appear. They’ll start small just to see if anybody’s paying attention…