December 6, 2005
Wikipedia Vandalism is Debated
Wikipedia is an interesting encyclopedic resource in that it is managed by volunteers who create and edit articles. Anyone can contribute and can do so anonymously. But what happens when anonymous editors get it wrong? Or, more importantly, get it wrong deliberately? That question was raised by journalist John Seigenthaler when contributors posted information claiming he'd been implicated in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Other statements labeled him a Nazi along with other false accusations.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, will now require registration to create articles, but not to edit existing articles. Essentially, this action will likely limit the number of new articles but will not necessarily affect the contribution of false or misleading information getting into the site. With fewer articles, regular volunteers should be better able to police the site for wrong information.
Siegenthaler is the founding editor of USA Today and a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today about the false information which prompted changes to his entry.
There's a lot of discussion on the web about the value of Wikipedia ranging from praising it for pulling together collective wisdom to being horribly inaccurate for even simple things. Episodes such as this have to be a factor in the site's credibility.
December 6, 2005 | Permalink
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