Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary. The online encyclopedia created on January 15, 2001, is one of the most visited sites in the world, with 500 million visitors every day. An anniversary marked by the coronavirus epidemic. Because Wikipedia has indeed become one of the privileged vectors of information for learning about the Covid-19 pandemic. As proof: last April, during confinement, the page dedicated to the health crisis came close to one million consultations. Since then, more than 200,000 consultations have been recorded every month.
There is a strong demand, so it is a huge challenge, analyzes Marie-Noëlle Doutreix, author of the book. Wikipedia and news : “The contributors, in this kind of rather delicate case, try to put a maximum of references to respect the principle of verifiability. So there, we find on this article more than 960 different references, which makes it possible to ensure a certain quality of the information on this page “, she explains.
“The figures that are given in terms of death toll, deaths or cases linked to Covid-19 are linked to the WHO directly, to ensure that we have the most reliable figures possible.”Marie-Noëlle Doutreix, author of the book Wikipedia and the news
The article concerning the pandemic in France is thus monitored by 280 “Wikipedians”. They are contributors, who must also be sentinels of correct information. The articles are backed by digital protection, specifies Rémy Gerbet, operational representative of the Wikimedia France association: “There is what we call long semi-protections, that is, anonymous contributors, who have not created an account, or recent contributors, cannot edit the article. This avoids all the petty vandalism of people who arrive and who want to add information like that on Wikipedia, it is impossible. “
Rémy Gerbet assures that it is very complicated to modify, at the moment, a page concerning the Covid-19 epidemic: “We notice it very quickly. There are patrollers on Wikipedia, people who will regularly monitor the encyclopedia. When there is a debate or a position that is taken by a Wikipedian who wishes to orient the article towards positions political or otherwise, at that point it triggers discussions within this group of Wikipedians. “
“The objective is always to move towards neutrality of point of view. It is each time a very democratic decision.”Rémy Gerbet, operational representative of the Wikimedia France association
To protect articles and ensure updates, the association says there is a small army ready to check everything: “We see that there are several hundred people who follow, almost hour by hour, these pages, these articles, to protect them, emphasizes Rémy Gerbet. When we come out of this pandemic, I think there will be something to be learned from this immense mobilization of volunteers to ensure reliable and quality information.“A page devoted to disinformation on Covid-19 has also been created.