‘Fan-Trusted’ Fandom Briefly Bans Term ‘SJW’ from Its Wiki Sites

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Fandom, which hosts fan-run wiki sites on the Wikia domain, briefly banned the term “SJW,” an abbreviation of “Social Justice Warrior,” across its sites. Contributors to any Fandom-hosted wikis who used the term or any term containing the letters together, such as in a quotation, were unable to complete their edits. The ban was in place for several days before it was apparently lifted.

Edits affected included those mentioning an administrator at a Wiki for the Grand Theft Auto video game series due to him using an abbreviated version of his real name. Fandom had already faced controversy last year when it introduced staff-created video content to fan wikis, including content targeting President Donald Trump.

Fandom was originally established as Wikicities by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley in 2004, the company was later renamed Wikia, which remains the official corporate name. Rebranded as Fandom in 2016, the site now also publishes original articles and commentary by staff on entertainment news, particularly pieces advancing social justice narratives. Similar to Wikipedia, Fandom sites are created and edited by unpaid contributors who run them independently. Unlike Wikipedia, Fandom is also a for-profit venture with an advertising-based revenue model.

Complaints about Fandom blacklisting the term “SJW”, short for Social Justice Warrior, were first prominently raised at the GamerGate Reddit community KotakuInAction. Any contributor attempting to edit a page containing the term “SJW” would receive an error message stating “The page you wanted to save was blocked by the spam filter. This is probably caused by a blacklisted link or pagename. The following link, text or pagename is what triggered our spam filter: SJW (Block #341316)” followed by a link to a page for reporting concerns about the blacklisting.

The blacklisting of the term affected all contributions containing the term “SJW” regardless of whether it was already on the page being edited or not, including instances when the term was part of a direct quotation.

The filter did not discriminate based on the content or ideology of the sites being edited. On the Geek Feminism wiki, the same message would be received when attempting to edit an article that already included the term “SJW” despite it having been placed in scare quotes.

One reported problem with the spam filter involved mentioning the username of an administrator at the wiki for the Grand Theft Auto franchise of video games. The administrator stated his username was an abbreviated version of his real name. Mentioning his username was blocked even when leaving a comment on the admin’s own contact page.

After a few days passed edits containing or using the term “SJW” appeared to be getting through once more, suggesting it was no longer included on the spam filters.

This was not the first time Fandom faced controversy over its staff pushing political agendas. Last year, the company began introducing video content to some of the most prominent fan wikis in the Fandom network. As reported in Kotaku, one of these wikis was the one dedicated to the Fallout video game series, also called Nukapedia. Fandom staff created videos to accompany various articles on the wiki. In the case of an article on a fictional journalist in Fallout 4, the video made a mocking reference to Trump’s criticism of the media.

Political pandering was not the chief criticism, however, as contributors to the Fallout wiki collected a series of complaints regarding the factual accuracy and tone of the videos. Although Fandom staff eventually removed the videos in response to criticism, other sites incorporating video had similar issues such as the Harry Potter wiki and the Stephen King wiki, which mixed images of a turtle deity character from his novels with those of a similar entity from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Some wikis, such as the one dedicated to Rooster Teeth Animation’s RWBY, responded to problems with the videos by adding disclaimers below them.

Issues at Fandom mirror those of Wikipedia, the flagship wiki project from Wales, which has also been plagued by political bias and repeated falsehoods. These very same problems have also arisen at his latest for-profit venture WikiTribune, which he has tried to sell to the public as a Wikipedia-style solution to the failings of modern journalism. Despite each project differing in focus and structure, the one constant is Wales on the top at times using these projects to advance his personal political agenda to the detriment of their ostensible purpose, which has an inevitable downstream effect on the sites themselves.

T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.

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