Wikipedia the latest battleground in Lebanon's protests

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Lebanon's parliament in session. Activists on Monday managed to change a section heading of the Wikipedia page “Parliament of Lebanon” to “Lebanese Robbery.” (AFP/File Photo)
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The page before being "vandalized," as malicious editing of Wikipedia pages is known. (Screenshot)
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The page after being "vandalized," as malicious editing of Wikipedia pages is known. (Screenshot)
Updated 12 November 2019

Wikipedia the latest battleground in Lebanon's protests

  • Web users edited the ‘Parliament of Lebanon’ Wikipedia page several times
  • Wikipedia’s editorial team has locked a section of that page

LONDON: Lebanon’s anti-government protesters have taken their battle from the streets of Beirut to the pages of one of the world’s most viewed websites.

Activists on Monday managed to change a section heading of the Wikipedia page “Parliament of Lebanon” to “Lebanese Robbery.”

Within a couple of minutes, Wikipedia’s editing team had reverted the page back to its original title stating that they were “reverting vandalism.” 

However, a cat and mouse game began thereafter and the web user operating from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address, kept changing the title to “Lebanese Robbery” as the Wikipedia team kept reverting it back to its original name.

 

 After about six minutes, the section was locked by a senior Wikipedia editor to “protect ‘Parliament of Lebanon’ from disruptive editing,” according to the page’s revision history.

The section has been locked until Nov. 25.

Lebanon has been plunged into political and economic turmoil by a wave of protests that erupted on Oct. 17.

“Vandalism” of Wikipedia pages is common involving celebrities, sports events and entertainment, but it is rare for a major change on a page related to a highly sensitive political issue to remain unnoticed for more than a minute.

Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia that relies upon a community of volunteer users to create and curate the content.

The demonstrations in Lebanon against corruption, the ruling elite and the sectarian system of governance, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The protests have also led to the biggest financial crisis faced by the country since its civil war.


Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

Updated 12 December 2019

Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

  • The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
  • He said Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it

Twitter Inc. plans to set up an independent research group to create an “open and decentralized” system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could relieve pressure on the company to appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.
The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, Dorsey said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.
Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.
“Centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people,” Dorsey tweeted.
He said the new approach would also allow Twitter to “focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past.”

The idea, as outlined in articles Dorsey shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.
For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other types of content.
The open standard, however, could upend Twitter’s business model in the process, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.
In an article that Dorsey shared called “Protocols, Not Platforms,” tech news site Techdirt founder Mike Masnick outlined how an open standard could give rise to a “competition for business models” among developers.
Some providers might collect less user data for ads, while others might abandon advertising altogether, instead charging users for access to premium services like filters or data storage, Masnick wrote.
Dorsey said Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.
He went on to suggest that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralizing content hosting, oversight and even monetization of social media, without elaborating on possible alternatives to Twitter’s ads-driven business.