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Polish Wikipedia and Communist intelligence

Comment on the article Wikipedia has transformed knowledge – so why is it still looked down on? by Simon Ings in The Telegraph, 10 January 2021. English version: Polska Wikipedia i wywiad komunistyczny.


Lech S Borkowski comment The Telegraph 10 January 2021
Lech S Borkowski, comment in The Telegraph 10 January 2021

Lech Borkowski
10 Jan 2021 7:01PM

The article’s author represents an enthusiastic approach to Wikipedia.

Quote from the article:

Dariusz Jemielniak (author of the first ethnography of Wikipedia, Common Knowledge?, in 2014) stresses the playfulness of the whole enterprise. Why else, he asks, would academics avoid it? “When you are a soldier, you do not necessarily spend your free time playing paintball with friends.”

On his webpage, Jemielniak proudly quotes words of praise he received from Zygmunt Bauman, the late sociologist, former political officer (politruk) in the Communist army and member of the Polish Communist party and Communist military intelligence. Bauman himself used Wikipedia texts without providing attribution, see “Problematic elements…” by PW Walsh and D Lehmann (2015). In this context, the comparison of academics to soldiers does not seem out of place.

One day in 2015, someone I didn’t know sent me an email with information that a Wikipedia page in Polish with my name was just created. I replied with an objection. The page was created despite my disapproval. It was 28 October 2015. I was a faculty member at the Department of Physics of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. The next day, I received letter terminating my employment.

As it turned out, Wikipedia pages of all the faculty in the Department of Physics were created at the same time. This was most unusual for at least couple of reasons. The information on those pages was of the most trivial type and mostly reproduced information bits usually appearing on academic departmental pages. It was also clear that some of the sentences used in personal descriptions were selected not as a way of describing each person but rather as a way as emphasizing the person as ‘one of many’.

I verified that other University departments and physics departments of other universities in Poland have not received this kind of treatment. So, something significant happened that day in the Polish Wikipedia. When I let someone from the Wikipedia board know about it in 2019, he shrugged it off.

My person and the fact that I was being fired from the faculty of the Department of Physics of the Adam Mickiewicz University were the only reasons for creating the nearly hundred personal Wikipedia pages.

Shortly afterwards, my pianist wife was fired from her job of a piano teacher in the State School of Music in Zielona Góra in Poland, on the basis of a fake document fabricated by the state service of occupational medicine. The authorities have been carrying out an intense bullying and harassment campaign against our family for years. Now they decided to eliminate us from our jobs.

One needs to keep in mind that Wikipedia pages come near the top of Internet searches. If someone somewhere was looking for Lech Borkowski the physicist, it would certainly be picked up by the snippets of code serving the search engines. And indeed, some time later, I could observe how the viewing numbers of the Wikipedia containing my name page rose, whenever I was more active in contacting other people. Wikipedia simply serves as a giant listening device. The information it collects enables identification of people and places looking for certain keywords.

The Polish Wikipedia has nothing to do with its English language counterpart, despite sharing the name. It is used for purposes contrary to those officially proclaimed. It is a social medium and a perfect tool for the exercise of power. Control of information and story telling (in general sense) are among the most basic instruments of power. The individuals controlling Polish Wikipedia are well organised. There is a great degree of similarity with actions of Communist intelligence, both inside and outside the country.

It is no accident that the military Communist political and intelligence officer Bauman praised Jemielniak’s enthusiastic book on Wikipedia. It is also no accident that (1) I was fired from the University (2) Wikipedia page was created to control my narrative. After WWII, my parents were in Communist concentration camps, where they were sent by the likes of Bauman.

And let me emphasize once again that I strongly oppose having a Wikipedia page with my name on it.

@LechSBorkowski

PhD, shop assistant at a west London greengrocer’s

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