Wikipedia Used To Track Down Criminal Behavior

from the good-and-bad-uses dept

A while back, you may recall, I had a “discussion” with a tech columnist who freaked out about how dangerous and repugnant Wikipedia was, because it wasn’t at all trustworthy. Perhaps he just meant the danger to journalists like himself. Apparently, a long time entertainment journalist found the writing on the site useful enough to plagiarize from it repeatedly. Sticking to the topic of the usefulness of Wikipedia in journalism, Jeremy Wagstaff has another story, which is actually an update to a story we had last week about a convicted sex offender caught by student journalists at the high school he was trying to attend. Our original story mentioned the fake MySpace profile he put up — but what the original article left out was that it was the fake Wikipedia page that really took him down. The students either noticed that the page had been edited by the guy’s real name — or (there’s some dispute here) that someone had repeatedly added the guy’s real name to the page. In other words, the very editability that reporters love to trash is what helped these student reporters. One of these days, maybe people will figure out that Wikipedia is what it is — and isn’t “dangerous” unless you don’t actually understand what it is.

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