Why there is an Urgent Need for a Wikipedia Equality Movement
Traditionally, when we talk about civil rights movements, we generally mean the kind that is aimed at correcting injustices perpetuated by governments. Women’s right to vote and marriage equality are good examples. But then, governments are not the only entities with massive power over our society and culture.
Wikipedia is arguably the most important source of information on the internet today. Many people begin their research into unfamiliar topics with Wikipedia, a habit further encouraged by the fact that Wikipedia entries, where available, often come up in the top three Google results. There is also no practical alternative to using Wikipedia, as there is no other website that provides the same breadth, depth and timeliness of information, and it would not be feasible to aim to set up one from scratch. It has become like the Google or Facebook of online encyclopedias, in other words. As such, Wikipedia is no mere website. It has become an integral part of our culture, and holds substantial power over the formulation, articulation and imagination of cultural ideas in our world.
You see, Wikipedia has policies upon which content can be removed, many of which are either somewhat subjective or selectively applied. Once a decision to apply a policy and remove content is made, it is usually final. It’s not like one can appeal to a higher court or something like that.
While Wikipedia has many controversial policies, the most controversial of these policies is perhaps the Notability policy, which has resulted in the removal of an untold number of Wikipedia biographies. Moreover, when new Wikipedia contributors hear from other editors that their ‘heroine’ is considered non-notable and therefore to be expunged from Wikipedia entirely, it can discourage further participation. More than any other policy, the Notability policy is (literally) keeping the disprivileged out of Wikipedia, limiting the kind of ideas and conversations that are admissible to Wikipedia. From a Wikipedia Equality point of view, it needs to be the first domino to fall, if there is going to be any real and lasting change.
Wikipedia is notoriously resistant to change, and this movement may take some time to make any impact. Nevertheless, with Wikipedia being an entity that wields enormous power, it is a movement we need to have. I do have faith that, if we start the conversation and spread the awareness, change will come in the end.