Scholars inform voters by improving political topics on Wikipedia

By on October 18, 2018

Scholars inform voters by improving political topics on Wikipedia

By on October 18, 2018

Scholars inform voters by improving political topics on Wikipedia

Interest in politics is extremely high in the United States right now. As more Americans are looking to get politically involved, they’re turning to neutral, fact-based information on Wikipedia to brush up on their knowledge about existing laws and other elections-related topics. Much of the public in general looks to Wikipedia for information they then use to make informed decisions in their lives. Ensuring that that information is accurate and representative is vital to individuals’ daily lives, as well as to a well-functioning democracy.

That’s why we engaged subject matter experts in updating Wikipedia’s coverage of political topics prior to this November’s midterms. These scholars and professionals learned how to edit Wikipedia in our professional development course. Over three months, they gained Wikipedia editing skills and brought their knowledge to a wide range of articles about political topics – from broader, theoretical articles like activism and politics and technology, to adding specific polling information to articles about congressional districts.

Take a look at the range of articles that scholars improved in both our Tuesday and Wednesday courses. Below are a few examples of the new content that Wikipedia’s readers can now access.

The Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, for example, was a sparse article before a course participant improved it. The 2016 legislation, also known as H.B. 1523, was passed in Mississippi as a response to federal rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. It protects people, businesses, and organizations who withhold services from LGBT people based on “deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Organizations are allowed to withhold such services as “issuing marriage licenses, granting adoptions, hiring practices, healthcare coverage, housing agreements, as well as specific medical services.” Many Mississippi cities want to repeal the legislation and there have been a handful of court cases that challenge the law, including one that was appealed to the United States Supreme Court in January 2018. See how much a scholar in our course added to the article by looking at our authorship highlighting tool here.

In a similar vein, another scholar improved Wikipedia’s article about anti-discrimination law, an article that has been viewed more than 13,000 times since they added an additional 2,200 words of content. The article speaks to anti-discrimination laws and historical contexts broadly around the world. It outlines legislation and court cases that have determined definitions of discrimination in different countries, as well as the effects of some of these decisions. To view exactly what this scholar contributed to the article, see authorship highlighting.

If a voter wants to learn about campaign finance in the United States, they can read all about it on Wikipedia. Thanks to another scholar in our course, the article boasts additional details about how campaign financing differs at the federal, state, and local levels. It also sheds light on campaign finance law, which requires candidates campaigning at the federal level to disclose information about donors who give more than $200 in an election cycle. Our course participant specifically improved the section about attempts to regulate campaign financing. This scholar had such a good experience editing Wikipedia themself, that they will also now continue incorporate a Wikipedia assignment into their classroom using our resources and support!


To read personal reflections of participants in our professional development courses, click here. For more information about teaching with Wikipedia, visit teach.wikiedu.org. Reach out to contact@wikiedu.org if you have questions about how you can get involved.

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