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Inspired also by the series on algorithm regulation on this blog, I am currently working together with Claudia Müller-Birn on the issue of algorithmic governance in the case of Wikipedia. In the course of this research project, I stumbled upon the case of flagged revisions/sighted versions, which very nicely illustrates the concept of algorithmic governance.

With Wikipedia Germany taking the lead in 2006, some Wikipedia language versions introduced sighted versions of articles as a measure to secure against vandalism and improve article credibility. The concept is described in the English language Wikipedia as

a system whereby users who are not logged in may be presented with a different version of an article than users who are. Articles are validated that they are presentable and free from vandalism. The approved versions are known as Sighted versions. All logged-in users will continue to see and edit the most recent version of a page. Users who are not logged in will initially see the most recent sighted version, if there is one. If no version is sighted, they see the most recent one, as happens now. Users looking at a sighted version can still choose to view the most recent version and edit it.

Since its introduction in the German Wikipedia, the concept has evolved in a complex set of rules determining how Wikipedia edits are sighted. The core idea is that registered Wikipedia editors automatically receive the status as a passive or active “reviewer” depending on their respective editing history. Edits of a user with the status of a passive reviewer are automatically considered to be sighted; active reviewers have additional rights such as actively marking versions as sighted or removing the respective status.

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
June 2023

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