2018/09/24: Snippets are being edited to improve/damage reputation or send certain signals to different audiences.
While the changes in the Bipartisan Report panel illustrate the possible use of the Wikipedia snippets to either damage or salvage the reputation of a publisher, there are other changes that are puzzling in their nature. Here is one, concerning the magazine American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication.
Figure 5: Knowledge Panels for American Renaissance on Jan and Sep 2018. The change of the text snippets makes one wonder which audiences are being targeted.
Both text snippets shown in Figure 5 acknowledge that American Renaissance is a white supremacist publication, but the provenance of the categorization differs. In January, the snippet lists third-party, well-known organizations as sources for the “white supremacist” label, however, in the September snippet, we read that the publisher self-describes as a “white-advocacy organization”. This shift of perspective (who does the labeling?) needs to be a matter of debate. Should these information panels tell us what the organizations think about themselves (how is this different from “About Us” pages which literacy experts suggest to avoid) or how other (especially watchdog) organizations regard them?
I don’t know how we can solve these issues without increasing the burden on Wikipedia editors. However, I think it’s important to raise awareness about these issues, so that we continue to actively address them. Furthermore, Google and Facebook need to better acknowledge the limitations of their initiatives and increase their support for Wikipedia and other knowledge production organizations.