Draft blog post on federal and congressional editing
Workspace: Public policy
There's been recent news of inappropriate, anonymous edits to Wikipedia from Capitol Hill, presumably from Congressional staff. It's not worrisome--more on that in a minute-- but please know that Wiki DC intends to be part of the solution.
Wiki DC is trying to help shape guidelines for the ethics of editing from Capitol Hill, from government agencies, and from quasi-governmental nonprofits. Wiki DC is tracking the guidelines we can find, to learn from and compare.
Our Cultural Partnerships Coordinator, Dominic McDevitt-Parks, is a leader in this area.
- Generally we think NIH, EPA, and NARA have good sets of rules. (with perhaps tweaks)
- A good principle is that a user should offer a conflict-of-interest (COI) statement if they are editing agency-related content on work time. I think that's not a hard rule and they are not all "paid editors." (this may take discussion)
- And this applies to the congressional branch and congressional staffers.
Michelle Newby of Cato Institute had already suggested that at our next Legislative edit-a-thon we offer a draft COI statement for congressional staffers. we have several models to work from. We can't require it but we can recommend it and learn from variations.
I also endorse Dominic's point of playing judo when these stories come up; vandalism is commonplace and yet still considered newsworthy, which presents an opportunity to say "hey, that's true, are you aware there's a movement underway to fix this?".
may have a staff editathon next week. suggested using a congressional user page template based on NARA
suggested a congressional sign-on similar to Donovan House PR statement. look forward to WMDC blog on COI issues.
We can quote Dominic as a NARA expert.
a blog from WMDC would help inform the discourse we can show more thoughtfulness than most of the media reports, and the press seems to be actively seeking the Wikipedia perspective. we should proactively communicate it to the press.
there is a risk of the anti-Congress backlash causing more harm than good. There have been bad edits coming from Congressional IPs, but they are mostly the kind of juvenile or disruptive edits that Wikipedia deals with every minute of every day without incident, only notable because of the source.
Cato and WMDC representatives have been taking the position that Congress does have a part to play in Wikipedia—not political advocacy, but transparently improving the quality of information about legislation and other Congressional activity and that includes not just direct editing, but making data about government more open and machine-readable for reuse in highly visible third-party platforms like Wikipedia). That is what I think we should continue to be emphasizing, and not the sensational aspects of the story.
I have been doing some communications work on this front, though trying just to just talk about agencies and not Congress. Representing NARA, I spoke to another reporter, who is pitching a story to PCWorld, on Wednesday. Mostly, I am trying to point out that there are agencies whose missions (whether it's about government records, public health information, cultural heritage, government scientific research, etc.) align with Wikipedia's work, and who need to get savvier about ethical Wikipedia contribution. And then to give simple tips about Wikipedia editing for agencies, like creating individual accounts, making disclosures of affiliation on your user page, and avoid directly editing articles where you have a conflict of interest, like your agency or director (but learn to use talk pages, etc.).
For background, I also published a blog post for GSA's DigitalGov blog in July, early on in the @congressedits saga. This grew out of a similar post I sent to the government-wide social media managers listserv. https://www.digitalgov.gov/2014/07/30/why-congressedits-matters-for-your-agency/ I also spoke to NextGov and FedScoop in the wake of that post: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2014/07/anyone-your-agency-editing-wikipedia/90173/ http://fedscoop.com/twitter-bots-like-congressedits-target-agencies-wikipedia-behavior/ At NARA, we are walking a thin line. We don't necessarily want to seek out any press attention around things like ethical editing and COI (rather than our actual Wikipedia programmatic work) because every instance carries a bit of risk of negative attention, but we do believe we are leaders in within the federal government, and don't mind any positive press. In terms of NARA modeling ethical behavior on Wikipedia for other agencies and institutions, I produced the following timeline for internal use which might be useful background information for anyone representing WMDC as well:
As early as July 2011, NARA’s Social Media Team developed internal guidelines for staff editing Wikipedia. In September 2012, NARA posted these guidelines publicly on Wikipedia, after they were reviewed by general counsel, in order to promote transparency. In conjunction with the guidelines, NARA also published a blog post explicitly addressing conflict of interest on Wikipedia and detailing our approach. In October 2013, after his full-time hiring, Dominic McDevitt-Parks posted his job description and a FAQ (general counsel-vetted) about his work to his Wikipedia user page, going far beyond standard disclosure practices on Wikipedia. In May 2014, NARA created a Wikipedia template for staff user pages (general counsel-vetted) which standardizes and enforces conflict-of-interest disclosure statements by verified NARA staff Wikipedia editors and allows tracking of the accounts via a Wikipedia category.
Also of note is that HHS also has guidelines on Wikipedia that go back to 2012, but I don't know the background here about how they came to be or how they are used (it seems likely they came from NIH's Wikipedia work).
NARA has a Wikipedian-in-residence, starting summer 2011 -- Dominic McDevitt-Parks.
NARA has an officially collaborative project with Wikipedia's project GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) -- posting photos, videos, etc. It is described including citations to press coverage at Wikipedia's project pages for GLAM/NARA. At events at NARA, Wikipedia volunteers sometimes scan photos or documents for uploading to Wikipedia Commons, or transcribe some holdings through the Wikisource project and technology.
From Dominic McDevitt-Parks:
- Circa July 2011, NARA’s Social Media Team developed internal guidelines for staff editing Wikipedia. In September 2012, NARA posted these guidelines publicly on Wikipedia, after they were reviewed by general counsel, in order to promote transparency: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:GLAM/National_Archives_and_Records_Administration/Guidelines
- NARA published a blog post addressing conflict of interest on Wikipedia: http://blogs.archives.gov/online-public-access/?p=8502
- In October 2013, after being hired at NARA as Wikipedian-in-residence, Dominic McDevitt-Parks posted his job description and a FAQ (general counsel-vetted) about his work to his Wikipedia user page for disclosure purposes. the FAQ: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Dominic/FAQ
- In May 2014, NARA created a Wikipedia template for staff user pages (general counsel-vetted) which standardizes and enforces conflict-of-interest disclosure statements by verified NARA staff who are Wikipedia editors and allows tracking of the accounts via this Wikipedia category.
Relevant publications by or about NARA:
- GLAM/NARA project pages at Wikipedia. Press coverage is listed and hyperlinked.
- Partnership for Public Service; Booz Allen Hamilton. Jan 2013. #ConnectedGov: Engaging Stakeholders in the Digital Age page 16-17.