It goes without saying that the optimal utilization of available resources and benefiting from their features and advantages, is an important factor for the success of any business, project, or cause.
Let us be more specific, and reflect that on the struggle for human rights, which focuses on monitoring, documenting, and exposing violations, and exerting maximum pressure on human rights violators by various means in order to stop them, or at least get them to realize the fact that their atrocities are being documented, which will, hopefully, be used as a reference to hold them accountable for their crimes, which they thought would be time-barred.
To this end, human rights defenders actively use many platforms across the cyberspace to review the latest violations and shed the light on their efforts to expose and combat them. However, what is really striking is that the largest information encyclopedia on the Internet, Wikipedia, has almost not focused and organized human rights efforts to make use of it in defense of human rights.
Wikipedia has the largest information reserve written by humans on the Internet with more than 54,600,000 articles, written in 310 languages, 61% of which contain more than 100,000 articles. As for daily visits, Wikipedia ranks fifth in the world in the number of visits, as about 15% of Internet users browse it on a daily basis. These figures should encourage human rights organizations and human rights defenders to seize the opportunity to deliver their research products and positions to a wide spectrum of interested audiences.
Being open to everyone to modify or edit its content, Wikipedia is not an approved source in terms of official scientific research, as the information may not be accurate all the time. However, it is considered a main reference and an essential source for researchers and academics who seek enlightenment in their research for several reasons, mainly because it is free and easy to use. Researchers can extract or add information to millions of articles within a few seconds.
The encyclopedia also provides an opportunity for obtaining a grasp of the topic of interest from a variety of sources, which increases reliability and familiarize a wide range of different sources that address the topic.
In order to control the editing process in the encyclopedia, it conditions having reliable sources to support the information in the article, to enable readers to return to the sources to make sure they are accurate. In addition, editors assigned to review articles have the powers to delete or edit any article based on its reliability and accuracy of sources.
One of the most important factors that encourage documentation of violations on Wikipedia is that it is open to modification, which means that it is immune to the one-party narration monopoly, and keeps the field open for other different narratives supported by proven facts, which allows victims themselves to document violations they have been subjected to.
How to enrich Wikipedia in terms of human rights content?
Wikipedia is a comprehensive encyclopedia, addressing almost everything. Consequently, its articles document the past or current incidents that include violations of human rights, such as the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen; the Israeli violations in the Palestinian Territories; the refugee crisis; the sunken boats of asylum seekers; and many other causes. As human rights defenders, we have to take advantage of the tremendous number of daily visits of the encyclopedia and document violations of human rights as part of its articles.
For instance, let us assume that the International Military Intervention Against ISIL launched a raid on an Iraqi city, killing a number of civilians. How can we document such event on Wikipedia and how to document it in a way to serve the victims?
After making sure that the source of the news is valid, we rephrase the news, adding the fundamental elements such as time, place, personal information of causalities, and information about the perpetrators. After that, we add the information, with the sources cited to the Wikipedia’s article about the International Coalition in Iraq under a subtitle that reads: “The Coalition’s Violations against Civilians”. As simple as it looks, it is vital, simply because Wikipedia articles get a vast number of visits, often the most searched on Google. Therefore, such documentations secure a significant number of visits.
A Promising Initiative
In 2017, the Regional Office of Euro-Med Monitor in the Palestinian Territories launched “WikiRights”. The project mainly aims at involving the victims in defending their own rights through training them on how to use Wikipedia, edit its articles, and enrich it with the documentation of violations of human rights. The project has successfully trained a significant number of university graduates who are interested in defending human rights, gaining the experience to deal with the encyclopedia and contributing to supporting the human rights of victims.
This project was followed by several initiatives, but none was able to form a group initiative that aims at supporting human rights and documenting victims’ stories, especially in the Arab countries that witness repeated violations.
It should be noted that what is meant by a group effort initiative is an initiative that aims at enriching the content with reliable and valid sources to protect such incidents from being forgotten, and not to steer the content of Wikipedia’s articles in favor of a certain party. In this regard, Wikipedia’s banns collective edits that turns over the direction of the article and considers it an act of sabotage.
With that said, we can feel the profound importance of shifting to Wikipedia to document the violations of human rights as a buried treasure that we have to dig up and make the best use of. This need becomes more important in light of the alarming increasing rate of violations that we ought to document in addition to exposing their perpetrators so that a significant number of readers, regardless of their interest, could access it. Further, this enforces and spreads the culture of human rights in societies.
This is a standing invitation to launch a human rights initiative on Wikipedia. Its purpose is to document the narratives of victims and to make their voices heard by thousands of Wikipedia’s visitors, in addition to protecting the incidents from being forgotten.