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Feb. 9, 2017, 10:04 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   February 9, 2017

Following about a month of discussion, Wikipedia editors have decided to prohibit the use of the Daily Mail as a source in most situations, writing:

[The] Daily Mail should not be used for determining notability, nor should it be used as a source in articles. An edit filter should be put in place going forward to warn editors attempting to use the Daily Mail as a reference.

The general themes of the support !votes centered on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism, and flat-out fabrication. Examples were provided to back up these claims…There are multiple thousands of existing citations to the Daily Mail. Volunteers are encouraged to review them, and remove/replace them as appropriate.

Wikipedia’s move comes as companies struggle with how to deal with fake, incorrect, misleading, and sensational news. A recent Reddit project asked users to fact-check suspicious news from tabloids (one of which was the Daily Mail). Facebook is taking steps to clamp down on hoaxes (but with the initiative centered on the “worst of the worst…clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain,” it likely doesn’t include Daily Mail stories).

Wikipedia editors who supported the ban cited questionable or outright false Daily Mail articles like this one, this one, this one, and this one (or check out this fuller Wikipedia list here); the discussion over whether the Daily Mail should be banned as a source dates back to 2015.

Among the thoughts from Wikipedia editors who weighed in on the request for comment:

“The Mail should be on the citation blacklist. There’s no area of news where it is actually reliable. It can be relied on to accurately report celebrity gossip, but in that case the gossip itself is frequently false and the Mail doesn’t check it. Their coverage of medical, science and political topics is a byword for deliberate inaccuracy. It is pretty close to a fake news source in some areas.”

I’ve defended the use of the Mail in the past for uncontroversial stuff like sport news, but actually the paper has got much worse and I can’t think of many circumstances when it would be the best source or even acceptable. Definitely never for international news or science.

For those who wish to stop short of blacklisting, maybe we could flash up a warning message that the source is widely considered to be unreliable and the saving editor should reconsider its inclusion and use other sources instead.

It should never ever be used for any support for factual content, but there are cases where the DM itself is part of the story, so referencing relevant articles by the DM that are a part of that story is reasonable. And there may be appropriate editorial content where we would attribute those opinions to the author that can be included. Outright blacklisting is probably not appropriate but its use absolutely must be kept away from any type of factual claims.

The concept of “ban” on Wikipedia is a strange one since anybody can edit an article. This is more like an agreement among Wikipedia’s most active editors to try to address the problem by not linking to Daily Mail articles and by editing sources that do link to them. “An edit filter should be put in place going forward to warn editors attempting to use the Daily Mail as a reference,” notes the conclusion of the request for comment. Wikipedia has a spam blacklist but doesn’t have a list of blacklisted publications.

The decision “will affect some 12,000 links, but obviously they won’t be changed overnight,” Lucy Crompton-Reid, the CEO of Wikimedia UK, told Huffington Post UK.

The Daily Mail is one of the world’s most popular websites, with 69.5 million unique monthly visitors in November, according to comScore.

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