Wikipedia Seeks Historic Truth in Falkland Islands Controversy

"The subject of this article is controversial and may be in dispute. When updating the article, be bold, but not reckless." -Wikipedia guideline for battle

This year the controversy escalated when Prince William was sent to the Falkland Islands for military training two months prior to the 30th anniversary of the conflict that took place between Great Britain and Argentina in 1982. The dispute over the islands has been revived by the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kichner who claims the British have illegally occupied the islands since 1833. The issue has been widely debated by the respective media of both nations, and demands and accusations have been brought to international organisms such as the United Nations. The Falkland war is well buried in the past and the aggressive rhetoric will not materialize into a new military conflict. Nevertheless, the heated debate that incites both the passions of Argentinians and Brits alike has reached the online free encyclopedia: Wikipedia. The Falkland Islands entry is a battle to maintain neutrality and at the same time impose national and subjective historical views. This is a war for information, where contributors seek the power and the administration's approval to write history.

The subject of much heated debate in the "Falkland Islands" page on Wikipedia is the entry: "Britain re-established its rule in 1833, yet the islands continue to be claimed by Argentina. In 1982, following Argentina's invasion of the islands, the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between both countries resulted in the surrender of all Argentine forces." Grupo7-ARI2012 sparks the online war of language and rhetoric advocating for neutrality, "try to be careful with the words you use," he suggests. For this user, to write that Britain reestablished its rule and that Argentina invaded the islands expresses the view that Argentinians where "bad invaders" and the Brits "good real owners." The user supports his argument by switching the positions and determining it would also be unfair to say "Britain invaded the islands in 1833, yet the islands belonged to Argentina." Instantly a thread is created were other users support or attack Grupo7-ARI2012's original complaint.

The controversy centers on the words "invasion" and "occupation." According to Wikipedia, an "invasion" is a "military offensive" with armed forced of "one geopolitical entity aggressively entering territory controlled by another such entity." While "occupation" lies under "military occupation" which is an "effective provisional control of a certain power over a territory which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity." The question here is who invaded whom? And are the islands being occupied? User Kahastok attempts to be a mediator claiming that even though the facts are "awkward" to one side or the other that does not give contributors "the excuse to rewrite history." When building their arguments users cite other Wikipedia pages as sources. Users also take on the administration for leaving the post intact. MarshalN20 says, "IP editors are incorrect in thinking that occupation is a neutral term that can replace invasion." However, he goes on further and cites The Hague Convention -which according to the user stipulates that Argentina invaded and occupied the islands and that these were "liberated" by Britain. Then the discussion turns on the word "liberation" and users even cite the WWII "invasion of Normandy" to make a point: were the U.S. forces a "liberating" army?

Wikipedia propels the scrutinizing and often the redefinition of language. However, content is not the only thing being surveilled. User Grupo7-ARI2012 is suspected of "sockpuppetry" meaning another user has accused Grupo7-ARI2012 of "using multiple Wikipedia accounts for prohibited purposes." The community has an investigation page were the defendant must respond to the evidence. This is an online community that polices and that has come up with a justice system of its own. To present a case a user must write an evidence statement, identify a name for the case, create a report page, keep the case updated and notify the users being accused. Information and its providers are constantly judged and inspected on Wikipedia.

Neutrality takes the form of justice on Wikipedia. This is the premise of the site and what drives the Falkland Islands online debate. The second of five Wikipedia pillars states entries are written from a neutral point of view that stresses a "balanced and impartial manner" that offers "multiple points of view." The mission to achieve true neutrality is what drives most of the site's discussion and debate. Wikipedia does not want neutral users, but demands contributors to provide both sides of the coin and strive for a piece of information that lays all facts, opinions, an opposing views on the table in an equal fashion. Brits and Argentinians could learn from the bipartisan solutions sprouting on Wikipedia.

Argentina and Britain will not take the Falkland Island debate on Wikipedia seriously; in fact, most institutions choose to disregard this stigmatized site. Most High schools and colleges fail to understand that Wikipedia is the champion of skepticism. Through the goal of neutrality Wikipedia ignites an online debate that challenges the very institution of history, promoting skepticism on traditional and subjective views of historic events. This is the type of debate we encounter in the Falkland Islands Wikipedia entry. One can easily access the "talk" section on each Wikipedia page and view what entries have been and are currently being disputed as opposed to history textbooks where the author's bias is imposed and traditional views of history are recurrent. With Wikipedia the notion of the winner writing history is challenged, as winners, losers and third parties are obliged to debate the "facts." Perhaps, the reason institutions are fearful of Wikipedia is that it democratizes knowledge. The site embodies participatory culture and challenges our established "truths." Moreover, Wikipedia can be seen as an icon of democracy for its ability to encourage participation. According to the online community Quora, Wikipedia has approximately 100,000 contributors that participate in 12 million edits on a monthly basis.

Wikipedia will not resolve an international dispute. Nevertheless, the site is increasingly becoming a forum that challenges subjective, traditional, and institutionalized information -- in the case of the Falklands Islands, history. The entry remains intact and the notion that Britain "reestablished" its rule and that Argentina "invaded" prevails. However, looking at how information wars are conducted on Wikipedia can help us better understand the benefits of consensus. Argentina and Great Britain are two democracies that will continue to have a respective take on what took place in 1982 on the Falkland Islands. Nevertheless, the real threat for Argentina's historic memory is not Britain's and vice versa. Wikipedia poses as a third power that will scrutinize, challenge and maybe in a near future even disprove what each of these nations holds to be a historic truth. Institutions, governments and international organisms may disregard these new conclusions. However, Wikipedia does not serve these powers, it serves the people and their knowledge.