The issue of the Daily Mail’s dubious reliability isn’t a new topic here (we’ve covered it at least once and I’ve done my bit to steer folks away from it in other settings as well), but while I knew we absolutely weren’t the only ones to feel this way, the news that Wikipedia is mostly banning its use as a reference shows just how alone we aren’t.
Yes, Wikipedia, which is a seriously amazing thing but one that some would argue has a reputation for poor fact checking in its own right, has decided to stop using the Mail as a source in all but exceptional circumstances because of its general unreliability.
I’m mostly in favour of this, I think. When your bread and butter is clickbate headlines, stretching facts to their breaking points or even outright making things up and it’s hard to distinguish any of it from your real journalism, you deserve to be treated this way and don’t have a whole lot of room to argue about it. But the Mail is hardly the only outlet around that does these kinds of things and if you look hard enough even organizations that do their best get hoaxed more than you’d probably think, so I hope Wikipedia’s processes are strong enough to tell the difference without becoming susceptible to the agendas of folks who may have an axe to grind with this or that place.
Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable”.
The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organisation Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors.
The editors described the arguments for a ban as “centred on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication”.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia but does not control its editing processes, said in a statement that volunteer editors on English Wikipedia had discussed the reliability of the Mail since at least early 2015.
It said: “Based on the requests for comments section [on the reliable sources noticeboard], volunteer editors on English Wikipedia have come to a consensus that the Daily Mail is ‘generally unreliable and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist’.
“This means that the Daily Mail will generally not be referenced as a ‘reliable source’ on English Wikipedia, and volunteer editors are encouraged to change existing citations to the Daily Mail to another source deemed reliable by the community. This is consistent with how Wikipedia editors evaluate and use media outlets in general – with common sense and caution.”