Submissions:2024/What happens when Wikipedia meets Student Protests on University Campuses?

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This submission has been noted and is pending review for WikiConference North America 2024.


What happens when Wikipedia meets Student Protests on University Campuses?

Type of session:

Lecture (15-30 min)

Session theme(s):

Diversity & Inclusion, Education


How might Wikipedia’s editorial guidelines about neutrality, verifiable and reliable sources, no original research, image use policy, and more, be expanded to address the challenges that student activists in the United States and around the world are facing on university campuses as they protest the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza?

The rise of cybersurveillance, white supremacy, and the fascist police state over the last decade have prompted student activists to craft unique protest methods which allow them to articulate their dissent while minimizing the possibility of state capture, especially as a portion of the protestors are students of color, immigrants, undocumented, or international students. Some strategies include wearing masks, issuing statements through unverified social media accounts (since verification often requires submitting a national identification card), and adopting anarchist approaches that refuse to appoint leaders and, instead, operate in a decentralized, fugitive, and anonymized manner.

In the process, these students have raised some urgent questions about Wikipedia’s editorial guidelines—questions that are not only relevant to the current protests about the genocide in Gaza, but also to future activist initiatives and campaigns. What happens when the structures of verification and reliability that Wikipedia depends on are themselves implicated in oppressive regimes? What kind of information must a Wikipedia entry redact, or verify in other ways, in order to protect those who are avoiding capture? How should the encyclopedia negotiate its broader commitments to diversity and the democratization of knowledge on the one hand, and the image-management interests of various educational, political, and governmental institutions on the other? The world’s most widely-read encyclopedia cannot afford to sidestep these questions, especially when it is one of the few viable methods for archiving student protests against other institutions, groups, and platforms who are minimizing, erasing, or spreading misinformation about student activists and their demands for disclosure and divestment from the on-going genocide.

This lecture will explore these questions based on a case study of the student protestors at UVA in Spring 2023 and some early peer-reviewed work that I published on running Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons about university histories and student protests more broadly in 2020( This lecture ultimately hopes to provoke discussion and propose some starting points for changing or expanding Wikipedia’s editorial policies as the encyclopedia navigates a major turning point in world history.

Author name(s):

Cherrie Kwok

Wikimedia username(s):


E-mail address:

Affiliated organization(s):

Lane Rasberry

Able to attend without scholarship?


Estimated length of session

15-20 minutes

Will you be presenting remotely?

Okay to livestream?

Do not livestream

Previously presented?


Special requests:

I will be submitting a scholarship application.