Vice‘s Mike Pearl interviews Wikipedia editor Victor Grigas to examine Wikipedia’s strategies for exposing fraud.
VICE: How’d you get into writing about fake news?
Victor Grigas: Chicago stuff is what I write about, and I had all these friends who were like, “This is bullshit, man!” when Trump got elected. And I was like, “Send your [protest] photos in!” I had one friend who did, and I uploaded them. [So] I’m pretty happy with where [Wikipedia’s articles about Trump protests have] gone. But in the process of researching it, if you type in “Trump protests,” you’ll find these fake news articles that say there were people paid, and it’s crazy! If you actually read the fake news articles, they’ll cite this one YouTube video of a dash cam camera driving in Chicago past a bunch of buses. So it’s like, “Oh, because these buses are here, they’ve bused in protesters from everywhere!”
Is that claim backed up by any sources Wikipedia considers reliable?
It’s total nonsense with no basis whatsoever! But they’re writing this to feed whatever beast. I don’t know if they’re writing it just to make money, or if there’s a political incentive. I have no fucking clue, but it’s obviously not reliable. But for some reason it’s coming up near the top of my Google searches, which is really infuriating. So I want to make sure that when people read about these things, they know they’re not there.
Does the existence of this fake news merit its own inclusion in well-sourced articles?
At the bottom of the page about the protests, there’s one or two lines about [fake news]. And I got into a little bit of an editing conflict about that because I tried using the fake news site as a source about the fake news. They deleted what I wrote, and I think the line was “awful reference!” and it got deleted right away, automatically without reading or trying to understand what I was trying to do about it.
So when veteran Wikipedia editors aren’t around, what happens when an article shows up based on fake news?
There’s a lot of policing that happens on Wikipedia, which people see as a real barrier to entry to get started, because there’s a huge learning curve. One of the aspects of that learning curve is what you’re allowed to write, basically. And it takes a little bit of patience to figure out how to make it work. So one of the things that happens is you start editing and stuff gets deleted like that.
What kind of stuff do you mean?
If you start [sourcing] like a blog, or a personal site, or something like that, it’s gonna bite the dust real fast. People are gonna take it out, and they’re gonna point you to the reason why they took it out, usually.