Wikimedia Foundation statement on volunteer processes on reliable sources

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26 June 2024 —In the last week, there has been media coverage regarding a decision by Wikipedia’s volunteer community on the reliability of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as an encyclopedic source in specific subject areas. In an effort to correct inaccuracies in some of this coverage and promote better understanding of how Wikipedia works, the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that hosts Wikipedia, has issued the following statement. 

Several media reports have incorrectly implied that the ADL is no longer considered a reliable source on Wikipedia. The ADL remains a generally reliable source on Wikipedia, outside of the topic of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Wikipedia’s volunteer-led processes seek to ensure that neutral, reliable information is available for all. The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports Wikipedia’s global communities: it does not write, edit, or determine what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained. As such, the Foundation was not involved in the volunteer-community decision about the ADL. This independent relationship is crucial to ensuring Wikipedia remains neutral and free from institutional bias. The Foundation has not, and does not, intervene in decisions made by the community about the classification of a source. 

On 6 April 2024, Wikipedia volunteers began open discussions about the Anti-Defamation League as a source for information on Wikipedia. Over a two month period, more than 120 Wikipedia volunteers participated across three separate discussions. Such discussions are a routine process conducted by Wikipedia’s volunteers to determine if a source is reliable under the encyclopedia’s guidelines for use generally or in a given topic area. Volunteer discussions are grounded in the wider media and research ecosystem to assess a particular source; that means fact-based reporting from secondary sources is used to evaluate reliability, rather than opinion-based debates. 

Volunteers have closed the current discussions that started in April. They have thoughtfully laid out the reason for the three decisions, and have indicated, as always, that consensus can change with new facts and information. 

As stated above, the result of these community processes was that the ADL remains a reliable source on Wikipedia, outside of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Volunteers arrived at a consensus that the ADL can generally be cited on the topic of antisemitism, with some exceptions. As of this writing, for example, the Wikipedia article on Antisemitism includes citations to the ADL. It was also decided that the ADL’s hate symbols database can be cited, with some considerations.

Consistent with their principles of transparency, Wikipedia volunteers’ thousands of words and range of perspectives are visible for anyone interested to view, and their decision clearly summarizes the considerations that went into the process. This review was conducted through Wikipedia’s ‘Requests for comment‘ process, one of several processes through which content policy decisions are made through public community discussions to reach consensus. ‘Requests for comment’ are fully transparent and open to the public to view.  They are based on the quality and logical soundness of the participants’ comments, regardless of their background or identity.

Volunteers also follow well-established guidelines that ensure sources, and their coverage of specific topic areas, are regularly evaluated and continue to meet the site’s requirements to be considered a reliable source on Wikipedia. Reliable sources are those publications that have a reputation for fact checking and accuracy, among other criteria. Hundreds of sources are listed on the list of perennial sources, and thousands more have been discussed on the reliable sources noticeboard without being listed. If consensus changes in the future, the decisions are updated to reflect those changes.

This entire process of content moderation by Wikipedia volunteers is open, transparent, and publicly available on an article’s history and talk pages. Anyone can join Wikipedia as a volunteer. 

For more information on how Wikipedia works, you can watch the following videos:

See this FAQ to learn more about volunteer processes on reliable sources:

Wikipedia volunteers are constantly evaluating the sources they use to write articles. While most discussions about sources are case-by-case on individual articles’ talk pages, volunteers frequently meet to discuss the reliability of a source more broadly.

Any volunteer can open a discussion on the Reliable Sources Noticeboard to ask questions about and develop guidance on how a given source should be used in writing Wikipedia articles.

A Request for Comment (RfC) is a public process where volunteers discuss a question and work towards a consensus. RfCs can be about anything, from technical changes to styling to content questions: it is the primary way that community members meet to solve problems collectively.

Volunteers assess a variety of external publications’ coverage and commentary about the source in question, evaluating the source’s reliability based on how other sources view it and its biases. The most impactful comments in reliability discussions draw on these other publications, grounding their understanding of the sources’ reliability in the wider media ecosystem rather than opinion.

The ADL discussion was closed by a panel of three volunteer contributors who had not participated in the discussion beforehand. The role of an RfC closer is to weigh the arguments presented based on their quality and logical soundness, regardless of who presented them, and determine whether a consensus was reached; they do not directly decide the issue, only judge the outcome of the discussion.

Yes. Community consensus changes over time, developing in response to changes in sources’ reliability.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports Wikipedia’s global communities: it does not write, edit, or determine what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained. These decisions are undertaken by the volunteer community, who iterates a robust set of policies and guidelines that determine how Wikipedia operates and changes.

Yes. Hundreds of sources are listed on the list of perennial sources, and thousands more have been discussed on the reliable sources noticeboard without being listed.

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