The Gamergate controversy came to attention in August 2014, and focused on the sexism and discrimination against women in the online gaming and development committee. Wikipedia’s article on the controversy has turned into a battleground over the past few weeks, with views and counterviews being added to the article, and volunteer editors engaging in an aggressive “war of edits.” Wikipedia is a publicly-editable encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and thus has several policies in place to ensure civility and constructive article creation.
However, with increasingly acrimonious debates raging around the article, Wikipedia’s arbitration committee, a group of volunteers who decide on restricting user permissions or passing bans on users, has handed out warnings and sanctions to around 150 people. Media coverage over the warnings centered on what the Guardian calls, the ban of “a number of editors from making corrections to articles about feminism, in an attempt to stop a long-running edit war over the entry on the ‘Gamergate controversy’.”
The Guardian reports that volunteer editors who were working to make the “article […] fairer to Gamergate have also been sanctioned by the committee.” Mark Bernstein, writer and former Wikipedia editor, said, “This takes care of social justice warriors with a vengeance — not only do the Gamergaters get to rewrite their own page (and Zoe Quinn’s, Brianna Wu’s, Anita Sarkeesian’s, etc); feminists are to be purged en bloc from the encyclopedia.”
However, Wikipedia countered the reports on its blog, by clarifying that no such discriminatory bans had been put in place. “Several press stories have mistakenly claimed that Wikipedia has targeted and banned feminist or female editors. This is inaccurate. Although the Arbitration Committee may recommend that some editors be prevented from further contribution to this particular topic, they have not banned anyone from Wikipedia. The sanctions they are considering are broad, and affect many people. As of now, the Arbitration Committee is considering issuing some type of warning or sanction to around 150 people, from a range of perspectives, based on their participation and conduct. This is not about a small group of people being targeted unfairly. It is about a very large group of people using Wikipedia as a battleground,” they mention in an article titled,”Civility, Wikipedia, and the conversation on Gamergate” on the Wikimedia blog.
The Verge reports that Bernstein calls this decision “majestic indifference.” “There is no thought for volunteers who have been mercilessly harassed and hounded by braying, taunting gangs,” he said. “And not a single word of care for victims against whom Wikipedia has been and is being weaponized.”
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia has taken to Twitter to voice his support of the decision. “It’s one thing to fight to keep articles clean,” he tweeted. “It’s another to violate policies in the process.” And as for the larger debate? “Not everything has to be a battle.”