Submissions:2019/Wikimedia coverage of Sharpiegate

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Donald Trump's tweet from September 1 that started the controversy around potential impact on Alabama
A map with storm path forecasts for Hurricane Dorian is presented to President Trump on August 29, 2019. This map was modified several days later in support of the President's tweet.

This submission has been designated as a lightning talk at WikiConference North America 2019.


Wikimedia coverage of Sharpiegate


Reliability of Information

Type of session:

Lightning Talk


This lightning talk will look into how the Alabama controversy on the heels of Hurricane Dorian — also known as Sharpiegate — was covered on Wikimedia platforms.

Background: As Hurricane Dorian made its way through the Atlantic Ocean in late August and early September 2019, a steady stream of diverse sets of data about the storm and related matters was fed into models to forecast likely paths and impacts. These path forecasts were then used to inform disaster preparedness measures like evacuations. The US President received regular briefings on the situation around the hurricane, in which these forecasts featured prominently. One of them in particular was featured twice — once in its original version on the date for which it was intended and then several days later in a version that seemed to have been modified by a sharpie to illustrate potential effects of the hurricane on the state of Alabama as had been alleged in a tweet by the President. The circumstances of this modification and of the communication of the potential impact on Alabama have since given rise to a number of formal investigations, including by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

In this contribution, we will look at how the controversy was handled on Wikimedia platforms, with particular emphasis on the reliability of external sources and how it relates to Wikimedia workflows.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Daniel Mietchen

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:

Daniel Mietchen

Affiliated organization(s):

WikiCite; University of Virginia

Estimated time:

10 min

Preferred room size:


Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)