Aug 24, 2009

The more things change....

In what seems to be a case of creeping professionalism, Wikipedia plans to impose an editorial review process before information can be published about living people. Michael Snow, chairman of the Wikipedia board, told the New York Times:
“We are no longer at the point that it is acceptable to throw things at the wall and see what sticks ... There was a time probably when the community was more forgiving of things that were inaccurate or fudged in some fashion — whether simply misunderstood or an author had some ax to grind. There is less tolerance for that sort of problem now.”
The decision comes in response to several well publicized hoaxes - but also in recognition of Wikipedia's increasing influence as a primary online source. Again, from the Times:
The new feature, called “flagged revisions,” will require that an experienced volunteer editor for Wikipedia sign off on any change made by the public before it can go live. Until the change is approved — or in Wikispeak, flagged — it will sit invisibly on Wikipedia’s servers, and visitors will be directed to the earlier version.


Under the current system, it is not difficult to insert false information into a Wikipedia entry, at least for a short time. In March, for example, a 22-year-old Irish student planted a false quotation attributed to the French composer Maurice Jarre shortly after Mr. Jarre’s death. It was promptly included in obituaries about Mr. Jarre in several newspapers, including The Guardian and The Independent in Britain. And on Jan. 20, vandals changed the entries for two ailing senators, Edward M. Kennedy and Robert C. Byrd, to report falsely that they had died.

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