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Wikipedia’s ‘Supreme Court’ tackles alleged conspiracy to distort articles on Holocaust

(JTA) — When a pair of professors earlier this month published a paper accusing a group of Wikipedia editors from Poland of revising articles to distort the history of the Holocaust, their research went viral.

Most academic articles are seen by dozens or hundreds of people at best. This one, published in The Journal of Holocaust Research, hit more than 27,000 pageviews within weeks.

The paper’s reach was fueled by its analysis, unprecedented in the academic literature on Wikipedia, and its finding that a dedicated group has for some 15 years manipulated a source of information used by millions in ways that lay blame for the Holocaust on Jews and absolve Poland of almost any responsibility for its record of antisemitism.

The paper caught the eye of not just scholars and journalists but of the people in charge of resolving disputes over editing on crowd-sourced Wikipedia, the seventh-most popular website on the internet and one that is seen as the last bastion of shared truth in an ever-fracturing online environment.

Typically, disputes among Wikipedia editors are resolved through community consensus mechanisms, but occasionally those mechanisms fail and allegations are brought to Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, a panel of elected editors known as Wikipedia’s Supreme Court

“Wikipedia is not exactly democratic but anarchistic in a way that actively discourages any sort of an authority coming to solve a dispute,” said Joe Roe, a veteran Wikipedia editor who served on the committee in 2019 and 2020. “The Arbitration Committee is a very limited exception.”

In this case, something especially unusual happened. The Arbitration Committee, or ArbCom, decided to look into the allegations without receiving a formal request to do so. No one could recall the committee taking such a step in its nearly two decades of existence. 

“A myopic decision here could result in untold numbers of people being fed a distorted view of Jewish/WWII history, which could have very real consequences given the recent amplification of violently antisemitic rhetoric by mainstream public figures,” wrote a user named SamX in a public post about the case. “ArbCom needs to get this right.”

The article that triggered the opening of the case was published under the title, “Wikipedia’s Intentional Distortion of the History of the Holocaust.” It accused 11 current and former editors of intentional distortions to numerous articles relating to the Holocaust in Poland. The paper referred to the editors by their usernames but also provided their real names if they had publicly identified themselves on Wikipedia message boards. 

“Due to this group’s zealous handiwork, Wikipedia’s articles on the Holocaust in Poland minimize Polish antisemitism, exaggerate the Poles’ role in saving Jews, insinuate that most Jews supported Communism and conspired with Communists to betray Poles, blame Jews for their own persecution, and inflate Jewish collaboration with the Nazis,” wrote co-authors Jan Grabowski, a historian at the University of Ottawa, and Shira Klein of the history department at Chapman University in Orange, California. 

Normally, mistakes on Wikipedia, whether intentional or not, can be quickly fixed by experienced editors who deploy a set of rules regarding sourcing and style. But in this case, the alleged distortionists know Wikipedia’s mechanisms well enough to at least appear to follow the rules and are willing to spend time arguing with other editors who step in to intervene. It becomes harder to get to the truth because they work to discredit established historians and prop up fringe voices to create the semblance of a real-world debate over historical events, according to the article. 

In one of the dozens of examples documented in the study, the alleged distortionists have tried to pass the self-published work of an antisemitic Polish writer named Ewa Kurek as a reliable source. Kurek has said that COVID-19 is a cover for an attempt by Jews to take over Europe and that Jews enjoyed life in Nazi ghettos. An editor named Volunteer Marek argued in a backstage conversation among editors that Kurek should be cited as any “mainstream scholar” would be. And another editor, working on an article about a 1941 massacre of Jews in Poland, added Kurek’s claim that minimized the number of Jewish victims and exonerated Polish perpetrators. 

Jewish school children pose for a portrait in the 1930s in Wizna, near Jedwabne, Poland. New research revealed that members of the Polish community killed their Jewish neighbors on July 10, 1941 during World War ll despite previous claims that Nazi Germans were entirely responsible. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski apologized for the massacre of hundreds of Jews by their neighbors during ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the murders. (Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)

One thing the research didn’t discuss is what motivates these editors to invest so much time and effort into distorting Wikipedia. Klein said the omission was deliberate. 

“We’ve been very careful not to make any assumptions on what drives them or what their politics are,” Klein said. “Instead, we’ve tried to focus just on what they’ve done, which is in the written record. And as we say in the article, we don’t see any evidence of them being tied to a government or being in the service of anyone else.”

Klein’s disclaimer obliquely points to a larger challenge around the historical record of the Holocaust in Poland. A central tenet of the country’s ruling Law and Justice party is defending the image of ethnic Poles and imposing nationalist narratives on the past, especially the period of World War II. While history shows that many Poles participated in the persecution of Jews, Poland’s nationalist right insists on portraying Poles only as victims or heroes. 

In 2018, the Polish government passed what’s known as the Polish Holocaust Law, which makes it illegal to slander the Polish nation or blame the country for Nazi crimes. In practice, the law has served to censor scholars and chill debate. 

Grabowski, Klein’s co-author on the paper, has for years sparred with the nationalist right over Poland’s historical memory. He sued a Polish group that accused him of publishing lies about Polish history in 2018, and in 2021 was ordered by a Polish court to apologize for his research before an appeals court ultimately overturned the order

Domestically, Poland’s ultranationalists have largely won the war over the public discourse, which has freed them to focus on the global scene, where English-language Wikipedia is regarded as a major battlefront. 

In this atmosphere, even something as basic as the background of Yiddish novelist and Nobel prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer can become fodder for debate. For years, Singer was at the center of a fight between two editors over whether Singer was best described in the first line of his Wikipedia article as a Jewish or Polish author. The eventual compromise — “Polish-born Jewish American” — lasted for almost two years until Feb. 23 when someone again dropped the “Jewish.”

The Wikipedia editors now being accused of distorting articles to further nationalist narratives have rejected the allegations against them. 

“I have not engaged in any ‘Holocaust distortion,’ on Wikipedia or anywhere else. I am not a ‘right-wing Polish nationalist,’” said Volunteer Marek in a public comment on a Wikipedia message board that was endorsed by at least one other alleged distortionist. “I am not part of some nefarious ‘Polish conspiracy’ on Wikipedia which seeks to manipulate content. All of these accusations are ridiculous and absurd. They are particularly disgusting and vile since they go against everything I believe in.”

In the debate about how to handle the case, dozens of arbitrators and ordinary Wikipedia editors — all volunteers — spoke of the situation on a Wikipedia message board as something close to an existential crisis for Wikipedia. Not only was the website accused of being used to spread antisemitic propaganda, but it was also alleged to be vulnerable to large-scale manipulation by a small group of bad-faith actors. 

There is little confidence in the community that a solution is within reach. By its own rules, the committee isn’t supposed to decide on disputed information. It’s more of a disciplinary body that evaluates the behavior of Wikipedia editors and can ultimately decide whether to restrict their editing privileges or ban them outright. 

But figuring out if the accused editors have indeed evaded safeguards and undermined Wikipedia’s integrity would seem to require that the arbitrators become experts on the history of the Holocaust in Poland. 

The decision to take up the case serves to acknowledge that the committee failed to solve the problem when it last considered complaints about editing related to the Holocaust in Poland about two years ago. That was during Roe’s tenure and he says the committee was distracted by another dispute at the time. 

“It can’t be escalated further than it already has in our mechanisms,” Roe said. “The best we can do is what’s currently happening now — just put it through those mechanisms again, and hope that something better will come out on the other side.”

In explaining why the committee must nevertheless take on the case, an arbitrator who goes by Wugapodes commented that the only other choice is to kick the can down the road. 

“This will not be an easy issue to resolve, but the committee was not convened to solve easy issues,” Wugapodes wrote, pointing out that the timing is right given the attention and involvement of outside experts and editors. “We can leverage these resources now or wait for this decade-long problem to get still worse.”

By a vote of nine to one on Feb. 13, the committee decided to open the case. The proceedings, which start with an evidence-gathering phase, are expected to last up to six weeks, after which they can decide to ban and restrict offending editors. 

Beyond that, an unorthodox last resort option is also available. Wikipedia’s so-called Supreme Court could ask for help from an even higher authority: the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit that owns the encyclopedia. The foundation intervened in 2021 in what some see as a similar scenario of a far-right takeover on the Croatian-language Wikipedia, hiring an outside expert to disentangle the web of obfuscation and banning a set of editors. 

Roe said that his tenure on the committee in 2019 and 2020, which featured related complaints about the editing of articles on the Holocaust in Poland, helped lead him to believe that Wikipedia should embrace change, at least when it comes to controversial political topics. 

“I would like to see these difficult and politically charged content problems be referred to a new body made up of external experts, and that we don’t insist on doing everything internally among the community volunteers,” Roe said.

But he acknowledged that such a scenario is unlikely to result from the Poland dispute. 

“It’s not a popular view and it kind of goes against the general idea of Wikipedia,” he said. 


The post Wikipedia’s ‘Supreme Court’ tackles alleged conspiracy to distort articles on Holocaust appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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