VATICAN CITY — When CNS interviewed Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales earlier this week, the online encyclopedia was in the midst of a debate over the title of entries dealing with people and movements that oppose and support legalized abortion.
Wikipedia itself said a “binding solution” would be announced May 1. Two days later the website still says that, but no solution has been posted.
However, the page explains the process Wikipedia uses to resolve complaints and conflicts over terminology — and links to a lot more detailed information on policy, principles and protocol. And, specifically in this case, it documents the debate on proposals for paired article titles: “Support for the legalization of abortion” and “Opposition to the legalization of abortion” or “Pro-choice movement” and “Pro-life movement.”
The administrators appointed to adjudicate the debate are volunteers elected as administrators by other users and volunteer contributors. They are not fulltime Wikipedia staff.
The discussion page shows how they are struggling to find a consensus on the appropriate article titles, keeping in mind the common public and media practice of referring to the sides in the abortion debate and Wikipedia’s stated preference for titles that reflect a “neutral point of view” while also giving weight to a group’s own self-description.
The voters are members of the “Wikipedia community,” members of the public who contribute to, use, edit or comment on the website.
An initial tally of the voters’ preferences among a list of 14 different options was added to the discussion page yesterday. The pairing “pro-life” and “pro-choice” garnered both the strongest support and the strongest opposition; voters’ comments said the terms are frequently used and are often the preferred self-descriptions, but are what Wikipedia describes elsewhere as “examples of terms labeled as political framing: they are terms which purposely try to define their philosophies in the best possible light, while by definition attempting to describe their opposition in the worst possible light.”
Today a table further refining the votes was added to the bottom of the page. Assigning points to the preferences — if a choice was listed first it garnered 14 points, being listed second earned 13, etc. — resulted in giving a slight edge to the pairing “Abortion-rights movement” and “Anti-abortion movement.” But when the point system was adjusted by giving a “strong preference” 15 points and a “strong opposition” minus 15 points, the pairing “Pro-life movment” and “Pro-choice movement” took a significant lead.