The War on Wikipedia Over the AR-15 Page

The gun grabbers have been attempting to pollute Wikipedia’s page on the AR-15 with anti-gun propaganda, but a group of pro-gun Wikipedia editors have been fighting back.

From The Verge

How gun buffs took over Wikipedia’s AR-15 page

When users searched for “AR-15” — the style of gun used during the shooting — they were directed to the page for the “Colt AR-15.” The page was viewed more than 200,000 times on the day after Parkland, a hundred times its usual traffic. But those users didn’t find much information about mass shootings or political efforts. In fact, the Colt AR-15 page made no mention of gun control at all, instead spending over a thousand words describing the technical details of the gun’s various parts.

That focus on hardware was by design. For months, the “Colt AR-15” page has been largely edited by a group of gun enthusiast editors. They joined together under the name “Wikipedia Project: Firearms,” or “WP:Firearms” for short. Expertise groups are common on Wikipedia, and in some ways, WP:Firearms fits the mold perfectly: a collection of users with detailed knowledge of a specific topic, keeping a close eye on all the pages where that knowledge might be relevant. But on Wikipedia, as in the real world, the users with the deepest technical knowledge of firearms are also the most fervent gun owners and the most hostile to gun control. For critics, that’s led to a persistent pro-gun bias on the web’s leading source of neutral information at a time when the gun control debate is more heated than ever.

Much of the alleged bias comes from how the articles are structured. For months before Parkland, information on generic AR-15 models was relegated to the Modern Sporting Rifles entry, which detailed various models and after-market additions, but made no mention of mass shootings or other gun control efforts. When some editors tried to include those topics, the backlash from WP:Firearms was immediate.

“Mass-shootings already have their own articles, all relevant info is, or should be, in that page and not needlessly duplicated on other articles,” one editor wrote. “If we start adding info about just one shooting incident to one tenuously-connected article, we’ll be opening a literal Pandora’s box (figuratively speaking).

…..When users tried to detail the gun control concerns in the Colt AR-15 page, where most “AR-15” searches were still being directed, they ran into another technicality. “Sorry, this is an article about Colt’s AR-15 ™ rifle,” one WP:Firearms editor responded. “This is not the correct article for information that is about AR-15’s in general. That section of the article should be edited to remove the references to crimes that were not committed with Colt AR-15 rifles.”

The fight over gun nomenclature goes far beyond Wikipedia. Gun enthusiasts see terms like “assault weapon” as imprecise, while concrete terms like “semi-automatic” are overly broad. Even the term “AR-15” is difficult to pin down: what was a once-specific trademark has metastasized into a trans-corporate branding tool. “Modern sporting rifle,” the term preferred by WP:Firearms, is seen by many as a public relations gambit by the gun industry to downplay how deadly the weapons really are. There’s no perfect term, but as long as the two sides are fighting over nomenclature, any proposed measures will get lost in a maze of conflicting terms. And on crowdsourced and managed Wikipedia, that means heated, arcane, and tautological debates, often driven by political and cultural biases.

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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at pg@istate.tv