The impact and ethics of Twitter Wikiedit bots

Amanda Clarke

19 Mar 2019, 4:30 p.m.
George Marshall Room (Chateau)

A relatively new phenomenon in the broader Civic Tech ecosystem, Twitter Wikiedit bots tweet out when edits have been made to Wikipedia articles by individuals within the IP range of certain institutions: in particular, from within governments.

Journalists reporting on these bots have framed government-initiated Wikipedia edits as frivolous, a waste of taxpayer resources, and, where the edits relate to partisan political matters, a sign of government politicisation. But these conclusions are based on only a cursory scan of government Wikipedia edits, begging the question: what types of edits are government staff making to Wikipedia, and do these edits have public value? And what does the media's harsh response to government contributions to Wikipedia suggest about the impact and ethics of Wikiedit bots as new vehicles of government transparency?

This paper by Amanda Clarke (Carleton University) and Elizabeth Dubois (University of Ottawa) responds to these questions through qualitative content analysis of 800 Government of Canada Wikipedia edits, as reported by the @gccaedits Wikiedit bot; and reflects on the complex on- and off-line information systems that governments, legacy media, citizens, and new political actors such as bot creators must navigate.