WikiWash shines light on Wikipedia edits in meaningful way

Journalists and citizens now have a new tool to help them expose misinformation on Wikipedia.
 
WikiWash (Beta) is a prototype for a free public tool that helps uncover spin and bias on the popular Internet encyclopedia by tracking page edits. The platform aims to make political and corporate spin on Wikipedia more visible and discoverable, promoting accountability and transparency through crowdsourcing.
 
The idea for WikiWash was born at TechRaking Toronto, a conference about data in the newsroom organized by The Center for Investigative Reporting, Google and The Canadian Press on March 27-28. Journalists attending the event were invited to pitch their ideas on how to combat data challenges facing the newsroom to a panel of expert judges including Aron Pilhofer, formerly of The New York Times, now with The Guardian; Andrew Lundy, The Canadian Press; Jennifer LaFleur, CIR; Glen McGregor, Ottawa Citizen; and Dominic Bortolussi, The Working Group.
 
The winning team, all from Metro News Canada and led by data journalist Luke Simcoe, impressed judges with their plans to create a tool to scrape, compile and present the edit history of Wikipedia pages in a meaningful way. Their prize was the opportunity to collaborate with The Working Group, a design and development company in Toronto, to turn the idea into a working prototype. While still in beta, WikiWash allows data-driven journalists to uncover new story angles by
 
  • Tracking edits to see what’s being removed and added in Wikipedia. 
  • Following breaking stories through the lens of their Wikipedia edits. 
  • Downloading the data so they can dive deeper into it. 
 
Journalists can use this free tool to find clues for future stories on any subject – the edits act as breadcrumbs that can lead to mistakes that were covered up or real data about companies that gets whitewashed.
 
"Journalism has more to gain from technological innovation and deep community engagement than any other sector in the media. WikiWash captures the essence of designing around a need not yet being met, as well as the opportunity to engage the local community in improving journalism,” said Joaquin Alvarado, CIR’s chief executive officer. 

“Events like TechRaking are invaluable because they give journalists the opportunity to learn how to ideate, prototype and create valuable new products. WikiWash is a great example of what can be achieved when journalists think about the potential that software has to help them with their trade,” said Chris Eben, managing partner of The Working Group.  
 
This first iteration of WikiWash exists as a proof-of-concept. Metro News and The Working Group are looking to gather feedback on how to improve the tool and see what kinds of stories could be told using it. 
 
TechRaking is a regular conference series by CIR that focuses on the connections between technology and journalism. In the past, TechRaking has been held at Google’s Mountain View, California, campus, with IGN and SoundCloud. The next event will be co-hosted with the California College of the Arts Center for Art and Public Life and MBA in Design Strategy program in November. Called TechRaking: Designing the News, it will focus on the challenges media face in increasing human interaction, consumption and access to news.
 
ABOUT CIR
The Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation’s first independent, multiplatform investigative reporting organization. Devoted to holding powerful interests accountable to the public trust, CIR creatively employs cutting-edge technology and innovative storytelling to reveal injustice, spark change at all levels of society and influence public dialogue on critical issues. CIR produces high-impact reporting across print, video, TV, radio and online platforms and is the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, winner of a 2013 Emmy Award and a 2014 George Foster Peabody Award, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2012 (for local reporting) and 2013 (for public service).
 
ABOUT THE WORKING GROUP
The Working Group is one of North America’s leading design and development studios. Established in 2002, we work with leading brands and exciting startups to design and build market-defining software products.
 
We love what we do, and our approach is guided by our unwavering drive to solve problems for our clients. Pairing our domain expertise with yours, we collaborate to craft the right solution for your business.