Should Judges Cite Wikipedia?
from the seems-a-bit-problematic dept
With Wikipedia becoming more popular every day, apparently it was only a matter of time before various judges started citing the ever-changeable online encyclopedia in their decisions. In fact, the article notes that one case was later overturned when a higher court had problems with the lower court’s use of Wikipedia — though, ironically, to make their point, they too cited Wikipedia (though, they focused on the site’s disclaimers, which are just as editable as any other page so present the same problem the lower court supposedly had in citing them). It appears that most judges that cite Wikipedia do so on mostly unimportant matters, to fill in details or explanations on issues that are not central to the decision-making. This makes sense. As useful a tool as Wikipedia is, it does seem a little problematic to use it directly as a citation, since one purpose of the citation is to allow others to go back and check it. With Wikipedia, you can’t guarantee that the same content will be there. If judges made sure to cite a specific instance of a Wikipedia page and make sure that it was easy to get to, that makes more sense (though, that would then raise questions if a later revision to the page corrected an error that the judge relied on). It seems like as with just about anything having to do with Wikipedia, it is quite useful as one source among many to get information, but it shouldn’t be trusted as the only source on which to make major decisions.