Ethics and Information Technology 17 (3):175-188 (2015)

Paul B. De Laat
University of Groningen
English - language Wikipedia is constantly being plagued by vandalistic contributions on a massive scale. In order to fight them its volunteer contributors deploy an array of software tools and autonomous bots. After an analysis of their functioning and the ‘ coactivity ’ in use between humans and bots, this research ‘ discloses ’ the moral issues that emerge from the combined patrolling by humans and bots. Administrators provide the stronger tools only to trusted users, thereby creating a new hierarchical layer. Further, surveillance exhibits several troubling features : questionable profiling practices, the use of the controversial measure of reputation, ‘ oversurveillance ’ where quantity trumps quality, and a prospective loss of the required moral skills whenever bots take over from humans. The most troubling aspect, though, is that Wikipedia has become a Janus - faced institution. One face is the basic platform of MediaWiki software, transparent to all. Its other face is the anti - vandalism system, which, in contrast, is opaque to the average user, in particular as a result of the algorithms and neural networks in use. Finally it is argued that this secrecy impedes a much needed discussion to unfold ; a discussion that should focus on a ‘ rebalancing ’ of the anti - vandalism system and the development of more ethical information practices towards contributors.
Keywords bots  disclosive ethics  profiling  surveillance  vandalism  Wikipedia
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10676-015-9366-9
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Disclosive Computer Ethics.Philip Brey - 2000 - Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 30 (4):10-16.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Profiling Vandalism in Wikipedia: A Schauerian Approach to Justification.Paul B. de Laat - 2016 - Ethics and Information Technology 18 (2):131-148.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Toward an Epistemology of Wikipedia.Don Fallis - 2008 - Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59 (10):1662--1674.
Mining Meaning From Wikipedia.David Milne, Catherine Legg, Medelyan Olena & Witten Ian - 2009 - International Journal of Human-Computer Interactions 67 (9):716-754.
Motivations of Contributors to Wikipedia.Stacey Kuznetsov - 2006 - Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 36 (2):1.
Teaching Philosophy by Designing a Wikipedia Page.Graham Hubbs - 2016 - In Julinna Oxley and Ramona Ilea (ed.), Experiential Learning in Philosophy. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. pp. 222-227.


Added to PP index

Total views
401 ( #18,352 of 2,411,665 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
53 ( #14,192 of 2,411,665 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes