Narrative control with Wikipedia

My comment on The Times’ article Kremlin drops plans for state-approved Wikipedia by Marc Bennetts, May 15, 2020. The text was blocked and did not appear among readers’ comments.

Lech Borkowski

Russia’s decision to abandon the official state-run equivalent of wikipedia does not make much difference. Wikipedia in Eastern Europe is controlled by the same people who control the state anyway. It is a perfect tool for controlling the public narrative about essentially everything. So while its editors are allegedly a bunch of enthusiasts, in fact they are not.

I was fired from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, in October 2015. I was contacted by someone unknown to me on October 28 with the suggestion that a Wikipedia page be made about me. I objected to it, but the page was created anyway. The next day, on October 29, I received a letter dismissing me from my job at the University, signed by a deputy Rector (university vice-president, there are several of them).

If you go to my Twitter feed, @LechSBorkowski, you can watch a brief video I and my wife made in 2016 after we were both fired from our jobs for political reasons.

I looked up the name of the Wikipedia guy on the Internet. He was apparently employed in the law section of one of the Polish dailies. It turned out that Wikipedia pages of the entire Department of Physics of the Adam Mickiewicz University were created at the time. This is, of course, atypical and very unusual. I remember that a recent Nobel Prize winner did not have a Wikipedia page. I do not know of any other university where all faculty members of the department, at the last count 124 of them, would have a Wikipedia entry.

If you go to Wikipedia’s Polish section and search for “Lech Borkowski” you will find the entry about me. This entry is arranged in a peculiar way with the aim to control certain keywords that would be associated with me and falsify the narrative about me.

To see the Dept. of Physics page, search for “Wydzial Fizyki UAM”. You will see all the faculty names. The departmental Wikipedia page shows the administrative structure and contains information typically found on institutions’ own websites. In other words, it duplicates information from the institution’s website without providing any new value.

Wikipedia is just another social medium and is easily abused. It is naive to ignore it. It is also naive to believe in a “self-correcting” myth of social media, including Wikipedia.