"Wikimedia has shown that the web can continue to be an open space for free knowledge," according to researcher Pablo Aragón

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Pablo Aragón started working as a research scientist for Wikimedia just a month ago. The researcher is focused on one of the areas of the entity, known under the name of Knowledge Integrity, focused on generating strategies to preserve the reliability and integrity of knowledge.

Specifically, his occupation is based on the dynamics of disinformation that may eventually occur in Wikipedia and other projects. According to an interview with Business Insider Spain, this area has focused in recent years on studying how content propagates through the different language editions of Wikipedia, as well as on modeling inconsistencies between Wikimedia projects using natural language processing and the information available in Wikidata.

On the other hand, it has also focused on designing algorithms to identify malicious actors or the existence of multiple fictitious accounts operated by the same person, building artificial intelligence models to detect phrases that require sources to prove their veracity, or using qualitative methods to study the techniques applied by Wikimedia communities to combat disinformation.

The Internet has become an infrastructure dominated by a few platforms.

Aragón explains that in recent decades there has been a profound change in the ways of accessing information, working, and producing goods. At the same time, society has witnessed how the paradigmatic model of a distributed web where knowledge flowed freely has been deteriorating.

The researcher explains that the Internet has become an infrastructure dominated by a few platforms that concentrate activity, limit access to content and commercially exploit citizens’ data, sometimes with terrible consequences.

In this context, Wikipedia, the most visible part of the Foundation’s project, is known worldwide for being the largest free and open knowledge platform on the web. Thus, since its birth 20 years ago, it has demonstrated that another web “has always been possible: a sustainable socio-technological infrastructure, governed by its communities and at the service of the common good,” according to Aragón.

I have tried WT:Social, the social network of the creator of Wikipedia that fights against clickbait, and it is clear to me that it seeks to be a space for knowledge.

“The Wikimedia movement, made up of a multitude of entities that collaborate voluntarily, has shown that the web can continue to be an open space of free knowledge,” he says.

However, this is not the only project the researcher wants to give voice to. As he explains, in recent weeks he has been quite concerned about the uncertain future of Medialab Prado, Madrid’s municipal laboratory for cultural, social, and citizen innovation, after the Madrid City Council declared its intention to move the project to another space with other objectives.

Aragón was collaborating with him during his Ph.D., specifically with the Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Democratic Participation(ParticipaLab). The expert explains that this space is a meeting place for the Wikimedia Spain association and Wikiesfera, an official group of Wikimedia users that meets periodically to identify and correct the gaps that exist in the representation of knowledge in Wikipedia.

Thus, he points out that he is seriously concerned that a “public-common space of incalculable value, with almost two decades of trajectory and local and international reference” is going to be destroyed. Therefore, he asks people to read, sign and share the manifesto #WeTheAreLab.

Hate groups are using disinformation strategies to amplify their visibility

At the social level, one of the researcher’s greatest concerns is related to the attack on democracy by groups with racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic discourses, added to which are the high levels of precariousness and inequality that have been increasing with the pandemic.

“We cannot speak of social justice as long as these problems are not addressed by implementing measures to reverse them,” he says.

Aragón explains that hate groups are using disinformation strategies that amplify their visibility. “This is a challenge to which, as a researcher, I would like to make a contribution,” he says.

Wikipedia reveals the 25 most interesting topics this 2020: COVID-19, US elections…

On the other hand, he points out that the existing environmental crisis scenario should not be forgotten either, since, if it is not addressed urgently, “life on this planet could disappear and the other struggles would cease to make sense”.

In this sense, the researcher believes that new models of life based on sustainability are needed, but that are fair with the different communities that make up society, especially with the most vulnerable.

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