Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Why do many Nigerians fail the Wikipedia notability criteria?

Oftentimes, popular people in Nigeria, including celebrities, have their articles deleted from Wikipedia

• November 20, 2023
Photo used to illustrate this story (Credit: Isaac Olatunde)
Photo used to illustrate this story (Credit: Isaac Olatunde)

Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopedia in human history, with millions of articles written by thousands of volunteers across the globe. While anyone can edit Wikipedia and contribute to the encyclopedia, they are encouraged to follow the accepted standard that all editors should normally follow. These accepted standards are documented as policies and guidelines on Wikipedia.

One of these guidelines is the notability guideline. The notability guideline is one of the core content guidelines on Wikipedia. This guideline requires that the subject of a Wikipedia article be sufficiently notable to merit a Wikipedia article. This is because Wikipedia articles only cover notable topics. That is, those that have gained significant attention over a period of time.

These attentions are often gauged by multiple independentreliable sources that have significantly covered the topic. Reliable sources include, but are not limited to, newspaper articles with editorial oversight, journals, academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are the most reliable sources. These secondary sources are often independent of the subject of the article. While blogs and user-generated social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and related platforms are considered unreliable and cannot be used to gauge global attention,

Oftentimes, popular people in Nigeria, including celebrities, have their articles deleted from Wikipedia. Although, there are several reasons why a biography article may be deleted from Wikipedia, and one of these reasons, and arguably the most common, is that the subject of the article does not meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria.

It is important to recognize that popularity is not the same as notability. One can be popular without being notable or be notable but still not meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria.

Celebrities are individuals who are widely recognised and often well-known in society or public eyes, typically due to their achievements, talent, or public presence in areas such as entertainment, sports, politics, or other fields.

This means that celebrities are popular people, but whether they meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria for an article is often determined by the amount and quality of reliable sources that have covered them extensively over a period of time. By their nature, celebrities are not automatically notable for a Wikipedia article.

Wikipedia has general notability guidelines and subject-specific notability guidelines. A celebrity may not meet the general notability guideline but still meet the subject-specific guidelines and sometimes both could be met.

Anita Natasha Akide, popularly known as Tacha’s biography, was deleted at least two times. Even though she was popular in Nigeria, she failed to meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria. Most of the sources provided to support her notability were published interviews she granted. Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not consider interview publications reliable because they are not entirely independent of the subject by nature.

Officer Woos, a comedian who often dresses in police uniforms, had his biography deleted from Wikipedia for a similar reason. In his case, he was mostly covered by blogs, with only a handful of coverage in newspapers, and those in the newspapers were largely interviews he granted.

There are numerous celebrities whose biography articles have been deleted from Wikipedia because they fail to meet the notability criteria. 

One may wonder how difficult it is for Nigerian celebrities to meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria. The truth is that Nigerian celebrities could easily meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria if they allowed enough time for them to be significantly covered in the media. This way, a Wikipedia editor with no conflict of interest will notice them and write about them on Wikipedia. But if they do not allow enough time to pass and hire a paid editor to write about them, especially when they are yet to gain sufficient media attention that covers them in detail, the article is most likely going to be deleted.

Wikipedia has no firm rules. While Wikipedia has policies and guidelines, they are not rocket science; their content and interpretation can evolve over time. However, there are thousands of volunteers who are working from Nigeria to ensure adequate coverage of Nigeria-related contents on Wikipedia, and when any celebrity becomes notable, they will be noticed by one or more of these volunteers, who will write about them without any inducement or instruction to do so.

These are my views as a long-time editor of Wikipedia from Nigeria. These views do not represent the opinions of the Wikipedia community, its editors, or the Wikimedia Foundation that hosts the Wikipedia server or manages its infrastructure.

Isaac Olatunde is an open knowledge advocate, encyclopedist, Wikipedia editor, and polemicist.

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