2019/Grants/Glassbox - A WordPress plugin for opening the news

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Glassbox - A WordPress plugin for opening the news


José Flores

Wikimedia username:


E-mail address:



Geographical impact:


Type of project:


What is your idea?

In 2017, we developed a NewsDiffs fork (Media Monitor, http://newsdiff.devlabmexico.org/browse/) for monitoring three of the largest online newspapers in Mexico (El Sol de Mexico, El Universal, Excelsior). We have been looking for stealth editions since January 2018 and we detected different practices that affect reliability in contents (adding/editing/removing text, adding/editing sources). Since audiences go unnoticed about these changes, we believe that this tool could improve accountability if implemented in a larger scale.

Our idea is to develop Glassbox, a Wordpress protocol that could be installed in any digital media. Glassbox will create a XML file from the Wordpress log file (WP saves every change, but is only visible for the admin) that can be visualized in different forms, such as a View History function in the website. With this protocol, people would be able to see how content has been modified, even subscribing (via RSS) to a specific note or section. Ideally, this tool would be integrated in a larger toolbox for WordPress editors.

For Wikipedia, a bot will search for that XML file in the sources linked in an article. If the XML file has recent changes, the bot will notify in the Discussion page of the article that the cited content may have changed, so the community can revise if there's any significant change and update the article.

Why is it important?

Misinformation is a very complex phenomenon. Media’s credibility has lessened because of questionable practices like stealth editions. This plug-in would help media outlets to be accountable to their audiences. We believe that using the Glassbox protocol could be seen as a commitment to open the newsrooms to public scrutiny, by using something that could be easily installed by everyone.

Besides, misinformation is an alarming situation in Latin America, where media companies are not used to follow nor enforce rigorous editorial policies. By using technology to open the process of news publishing, we can also improve it. Newsmaking should be a public discussion, in order to strengthen reliability and credibility.

Is your project already in progress?

How is it relevant to credibility and Wikipedia? (max 500 words)

For Wikimedians, a Glassbox bot may help detect changes in the sources that otherwise could pass unnoticed, helping editors to evaluate if the source is credible.

Since we’re thinking of Glassbox as a protocol, it can impact in other open platforms by developing tailored-made notifications. About diversity, Glassbox is a proactive alternative that may help media outlets and websites around the world to fight misinformation through transparency, improving media literacy in both audiences and content creators

The application of this tool is inspired by Wikipedia's View History functionality. In Latin America, editorial guidelines are lax, even in large, well-established media. Newsrooms edit content without notifying their audiences about the changes, and some of these editions severely modify the framing of the news. While some editions may be easily discarded as corrections, others should be disclosed to the public. Allowing the people to oversee these changes may also help to crowdsource the fight against misinformation, as Wikipedia’s collective intelligence have shown.

One of the biggest lessons from Wikipedia is that knowledge is a social construction. News are susceptible to bias, manipulation, and private interests. There’s nothing inherently wrong with editing – as a matter of fact, is one of the advantages of digital journalism. But it is different to update a text than changing a source, or adding multimedia content to offer context than removing information. Credibility and openness are intimately related, and newsrooms can learn from Wikipedia’s best practices.

What is the ultimate impact of this project?

Could it scale?

Yes. Since the goal is to create a Wordpress protocol, the tool would be available for practically 20% of all self-hosted websites in the world. The plug-in could also be integrated with other tools and potentially be used with other CMS platforms.

Why are you the people to do it?

Three main reasons: 1) I have the support of the organization where I work: R3D, a Mexican NGO focused on digital rights; that means I could spend some of my time at work in this project; 2) I have a deep understanding about media practices, since I worked for 5-6 years in native digital media, have a master's degree in Digital Media and also worked on the qualitative analysis of the previous results of the monitoring; 3) my colleague Noe Dominguez, who made the code for our NewsDiffs fork, is an amazing developer; he has an MSc in Computer Science, experience with civic tech and crowdsourcing. We are the team to make this possible.

Pepe Flores is a digital rights activist. He works in R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (r3d.mx) as Chief Communications Officer. R3D is one of the most prolific digital rights organizations in Latin America. From my position, I have worked in projects related to net neutrality, open culture, digital divide, privacy, surveillance, open data, among others. My job is to coordinate communication campaigns such as Salvemos Internet (www.salvemosinternet.mx) – a multi-stakeholders running campaign to fight for net neutrality in Mexico. Besides, I have been part of the board of Wikimedia Mexico since 2013, so I have close experience with Wikipedia as a grassroots movement. I also hold a master’s degree in Communications and Digital Media, and I’m currently enrolled in a Digital Humanities master’s program in UNED (uned.es).

Noe Dominguez has a M.Sc in Computer Science from the Korea Advance Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). He’s the CTO of Development Labs Mexico, and worked as senior developer in Codeando Mexico, a Mexican NGO focused in Open Data solutions. Among his projects, Noe develop Datamx.io, the first open data platform in Latina America, and Monitor de medios (Media monitor), funded by Internews in collaboration with R3D. Noe also created #RevisaMiGrieta (#CheckMyCrack), a crowdsourcing solution for structural damage revision after the earthquake of September 2017 in Mexico City

What is the impact of your idea on diversity and inclusiveness of the Wikimedia movement?

What are the challenges associated with this project and how you will overcome them?

How much money are you requesting?

12,500 USD

Hosting: 0.5k
Research: 3k
Data Analysis, reports and data visualizations: 2k
Development: 7k
3k Wordpress plug-in
3k Wikimedia integration
1k complimentary development
Gantt Diagram of our project


How will you spend the money?

Request For Comments (rfc): using newsdiffs for information accountability. Technical community: discuss the technical issues with the Wordpress community for the development of the tool. Newsrooms coalition: Discuss with selected newsrooms about the creation of the tool and get meaningful feedback. Development of the Wordpress plugin to be included in Newspack. Data analysis and processing of newsdiffs. Digital Journalism publication writing.

How long will your project take?

10-12 months

Have you worked on projects for previous grants before?