In the information war, Wikipedia is a nuclear bomb.
I am from a generation where our teachers used to tell us, “don’t take your information from Wikipedia!” Things have changed in ten years, and nowadays, the collaborative encyclopedia has become an indispensable reference.
Is it out of intellectual laziness that people flock to a source of information that can be edited by anyone with an internet connection?
In 21 years, the encyclopedia has had its share of scandals. We have to take what we find there with a pinch of salt.
Arab Nationalism Online
We were recently touched by the unity of the Algerian and Moroccan people during the incident surrounding little Rayan. Unfortunately, the unity was not long lasting.
An organized band of Algerian internet users have waged a war of disinformation against Morocco to seize its historical and cultural heritage. By editing the Wikipedia pages related to Morocco, they indicated that the Tanjia, the Argan oil, and Almohad dynasty were Algerian and not Moroccan.
The Moroccan organization, Wikimedia Morocco, took part in the struggle and tried to fight against the Algerian team, causing an outcry between the two countries.
For several weeks, the Wikipedia pages related to Morocco have been literally stormed by Algerian hackers who modify the content. Sabotage aims to change the national narrative and cultural heritage of the Kingdom.
This hacking also consists of sullying Morocco’s image by introducing erroneous data in articles about prostitution or pedophilia in Morocco, for example. Conversely, the same sections devoted to Algeria are “cleaned” to give the country a clean and respectable image.
These debates led by a minority of Algerians and Moroccans are meaningless. Historically, there is no clear distinction between the Algerian and Moroccan people, who have been part of a single empire for most of their history. The current borders were drawn with a pen by colonizers fond of discord and conflict between the “natives.” Maghreb nationalism only gives comfort to the islamophobes who are waiting for fratricidal war between Muslims.
Rather than an object of discord, the proximity of the Moroccan and Algerian heritage shows that they are similar countries that have only recently been divided by political quarrels.
Is couscous Moroccan or Algerian? No matter, it was invented before these two nations existed. The same goes for msemen or mlawi, for rfissa or chakhchoukha, for the atay, and all the Maghreb culinary heritage at large.
On the one hand, this event shows us how it is possible to create conflicts on the fly, and on the other hand, the danger of a tool such as Wikipedia, which is capable of dangerously influencing public opinion and people’s attitude towards knowledge.
This danger even affects spheres much more important than politics. For example, the French-speaking pages related to Islam are infested with far-fetched orientalist theses seeking to discredit Islam. On the French page of the Quran, one can read that the Quran was written over 300 years by several authors, that the Quranic text was not originally Arabic but Syrian, and so on.
Thanks to courageous volunteers, some progress has been made in recent years by purging these pages of the reformist heresies inscribed there. But the battle is endless on Wikipedia. At any moment, an islamophobe is likely to add his touch and mislead thousands of innocent.
It is time to denounce Wikipedia for what it is. A nuclear bomb in a war of information.