July 08, 2009

My _Guardian_ column on David Rohde kidnapping, and Wikipedia suppression

"The moral quandary of involving Wikipedia in online 'censorship'"

"The suppression of news about a reporter's disappearance saw the New York Times and Wikipedia work together – but raises issues about control of information"

Note this title was written by an editor. I didn't suggest a title of my own. It's not really wrong, but as a title, I'd say it doesn't quite sum up what I was trying to examine in that column. I was attempting to consider a broad moral question, and then use Wikipedia as a worked example because the issues are so visible there (due to all the public arguing which goes on it, and how much internal deliberations tend to get leaked). Not that Wikipedia has any special status - in fact, I was writing against any idea of Wikipedia exceptionalism.

As I think of it, the column is trying to look at two topics:

1) Why did this hiding of information succeed overall, and what are the implications? (remember, we're constantly told it can't happen - but obviously, gatekeepers remain)

2) Who gets to keep out information, and why?

Of course, there's only so much of this that can be covered in the space available. But that was my attempt at saying something which would be worth reading, amidst all the other punditry on this topic.

[For all columns, see the page Seth Finkelstein | guardian.co.uk.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in press , wikipedia | on July 08, 2009 03:02 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Touch out of date I'm afraid. The NYT has changed it's story:

"The kidnappers had demanded silence. “Possibly by defying them, we would be signing David’s death warrant,” said Bill Keller, the paper’s executive editor."


So far nothing suggests that wikipedia was told anything other than the original version of the story.

Posted by: gallium at July 8, 2009 06:21 PM

Yes, the story has definitely been evolving over the past few days. However, I've tried to go lighly on the specific reasons, and focus on the relative success of the media blackout and the processes involved. That's of more general applicability, I hope, even if specific facts change about this particular case.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at July 8, 2009 06:31 PM