Filipino Gov't Loses Court Case Because It Relied On Wikipedia

from the but-was-the-info-accurate? dept

A few years back, we discussed whether or not it was appropriate for judges to cite Wikipedia, noting that some were against the idea. Now, Slashdot points us to a case over in the Philippines, where the Filipino government has lost a recent lawsuit, in large part due to relying on Wikipedia to counter claims, rather than bringing in an expert witness.

However, what's odd, is that the judge in the case seems upset about the use of Wikipedia itself, with no specific attempt to determine if the citation was accurate or credible. It appears that the government was really using Wikipedia to call up the infamous psychologists' bible DSM-IV, in order to explore whether or not one of the participants in the case had a real personality disorder. While citing Wikipedia might not be the wisest of decisions, it still seems a bit harsh to dismiss it entirely because of the source, without any effort to determine if the content itself was legitimate.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Ryder, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:24am

    Wikipedia

    It's on the Internet...It Must Be True!

    lol

     

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  2.  
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    New Mexico Mark, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:33am

    Would a medical manual excerpt have been treated differently?

    I'm not a legal expert, but it seems that presenting evidence which normally requires expert interpretation (like medical conclusions) would require an expert witness. This also allows for cross examination of the expert witness to see why they reached their conclusions.

    The judge seems more upset by the laziness of the OSG in failing to produce a real expert witness than by the particular source cited. If the OSG had done another whole 30 seconds of "research" online and had quoted a more authoritative source, I'm not sure the results would have been much better.

     

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  3.  
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    Wikilover, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:37am

    You are all wrong. Wikipedia is always right and is a valid source for anything. I want to marry wikipedia, but I have not found anything on wikipedia that says it is ok. I think I will just enter something myself.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:45am

    Just looks like the misuse of a tool. I use Wikipedia at my job a lot. But much like getting advice or information from a friend I check their sources if I'm going to use the information in anything more than drunken conversation. Seriously Wikipedia has links to the sources. Cite them at least if you are going to cite anything!

     

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  5.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:54am

    As mark pointed out, court seemed more annoyed about the laziness of the Gov. than the source of the information.

    As for dismissing because of the source, the source was discredited in big bold letters by their own disclaimer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:General_disclaimer

    Because of this, anything on Wikipedia is and should be basically on the same level of "hearsay" as far as courts are concerned and dismissed out of hand.

    It’s not the courts job to investigate if the content is legitimate, it’s the prosecuting/defending parties job to prove to the judge that it is and that disclaimer (even without knowledge of how Wikipedia works) makes that impossible.

    Wikipedia can be a starting point for research/investigation but if you are going to use the information, dig deeper and go direct to the sources

     

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  6.  
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    MAtt, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:59am

    Wikipedia is not a source

    Wikipedia is (supposed to be) an aggregate of information from verifiable sources. At best that makes it a way to find original sources; at worst it is a good place to spread rumors. Either way it should never be cited as a source.

     

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  7.  
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    Freak, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 7:03am

    . . .for mental health issues, I agree entirely with the judge.

    In psychology, a lot of things are a matter of scale; Anyone remember the slashdot incident where every poster thought they had asperger's from the symptoms list?

    In this case, i would think you would certainly need an expert witness to recognize which symptoms the patient actually displays to the extent intended by the DSM-IV

     

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  8.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:03am

    "seeking to impeach the testimony of a defendant's expert"

    Mike: You find it odd that a Wikipedia citation isn't enough to overcome in-person expert testimony?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Without knowing the particulars, it is generally the job of the attorney to perform tasks like authentication. The attorney for the moving party generally bears the burden for that, so if they were unable to provide what the court needed, the court was probably right in its action. It probably isnt the judge's job to establish anything here, or further explore anything.

     

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  10.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:22am

    Next...

    Next stop factchecking sites lol.

     

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  11.  
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    Andrew (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    I've been a Wikipedia administrator for five years and I'll always say that it's stupid and lazy to cite Wikipedia directly in any formal venue. Cite what Wikipedia cites.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 1:10pm

    Mike Masnick said:

    "While citing Wikipedia might not be the wisest of decisions, it still seems a bit harsh to dismiss it entirely because of the source, without any effort to determine if the content itself was legitimate."

    That's what expert witnesses are for, Mike. Without an expert witness all you have here is the Filipino government citing a website (which anyone can edit) which is in turn citing the DSM which is aimed at experts in psychology who interpret the text and apply it to specific cases as they see fit. Wikipedia is no substitute for an expert witness, and it's not even a primary source. The use of Wikipedia in a court of law is therefore entirely inappropriate.

     

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  13.  
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    Jakon, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 9:07am

    I see it as fallacious, in the manner of "Appeal to Anti-Authority"

    It doesn't matter who makes the claims, it's their evidence that matters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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