Unreliable Guidelines: Reliable Sources and Marginalized Communities in French, English and Spanish Wikipedias

Report of the research project Reading Together: Reliability and Multilingual Global Communities

Released June 2021

This research was led by Amber Berson, Monika Sengul-Jones and Melissa Tamani and was partially funded by Wikicred. The report is initially available in English.

Executive summary

In a historical moment typified by concerns about the proliferation of propaganda and misinformation online, we ask to what extent are contributions from and content about marginalized communities affected by guidelines about reliability in three language versions of the world’s largest crowdsourced online encyclopedia? This report takes on this question and addresses how Wikipedia trainers involved in the Art+Feminism movement approach the reliable source guidelines in French, English and Spanish Wikipedias. Based on community conversations and interpretative analysis of the guidelines, the report shows that on Wikipedia source authority is facilitated by social and technical processes which elevate the decisions of a small number of self-selected editors. Trainers play an essential role in translating guidelines and processes, and take on additional labor in managing editorial friction. We also highlight that translations of texts about reliability between different language versions of Wikipedia tend to center Western knowledge formations. This report describes our methodology; our findings; and the effects for marginalized communities and readers writ large. Reliability should not mean exclusion: we end with recommendations for enacting more inclusive and diverse Wikipedias.