There’s been a lot of recent debate about the tone and sourcing of articles on Wikipedia—just this week, doctors protested the encyclopedia’s labeling of acupuncture as pseudoscience.
Now several of the site’s editors are attempting to take matters into their own hands by banning one of the site’s most controversial sources, The Daily Mail.
User Hillbillyholiday first proposed prohibiting the British tabloid’s use as a source last month, and his post on a message board for Wikipedia editors sparked vigorous debate.
Some users stuck up for the paper, pointing out that “blacklisting” one media outlet may send the wrong message.
“There is no justification for the blanket banning of a mass-circulation newspaper as a source,” Tiptoethrutheminefield wrote.
“Whether it’s a ‘well-established news outlet’ matters, and it is,” user Peter Gulutzan added (the Mail was founded in 1896). Other editors defended the paper’s sports and crime coverage.
But the vast majority of comments painted the Mail as an unreliable source. Users referred to it as “trash, pure and simple” and “a fake news organ,” pointing out that many of the paper’s stories (including one about NASA hiding aliens) had been thoroughly debunked.
Editor Guy Macon was particularly passionate in a post titled “Kill it. Kill it with fire.”
“Under NO circumstances should the Daily Mail be used for anything, ever,” Macon wrote. “Nothing they say or do is to be trusted.”
User JzG also pointed out the paper’s bad reputation in England and linked to a video called “The Daily Mail Song,” in which two British comedians sing the paper’s most absurd headlines like “Photo feature on schoolgirl skirt styles.”
This mindset prevailed, and yesterday the editors drew up a statement prohibiting the Mail‘s future use as a Wikipedia source.
“The Daily Mail is generally unreliable” with a “reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication,” the statement read.
The group determined that an edit filter should be put in place warning future users against linking to a Mail source. It also asked for volunteers to “review, remove and replace” existing Mail citations to comply with the new guidelines.
It just so happens that this reporter has personal experience with the Mail‘s methods—in 2015 a story I wrote was repackaged by the Mail
In spite of my own misgivings about the Mail, a full-scale ban of the tabloid on the internet’s most popular encyclopedia seems a little extreme. Time will tell whether the Wikipedia editors’ Mail purge is a wise move, or leads to heightened, unnecessary censorship.