Is Anonymity Good Or Bad For Wikipedia?
from the depends-on-who-you-ask dept
Last year plenty of attention was paid to the release of Wikiscanner, a tool from Virgil Griffith that connected the IP addresses of Wikipedia edits with the companies from which they came. This resulted in a few PR flare ups as people noticed some questionable editing by biased parties. Griffith has now upgraded Wikiscanner to do even more (and renamed it to Wikiwatcher). While the revelations probably won’t be as surprising, it will allow some way of connecting those who may have edited at home to their employers.
However, perhaps an even more interesting discussion is somewhat buried at the end of the Forbes article linked above: the question over whether or not anonymity is a good or bad thing for Wikipedia. The article quotes Marc Rotenberg, the director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, complaining that Wikipedia needs to do a better job protecting individuals’ privacy. Griffith responds that removing anonymity should improve the quality of Wikipedia:
“I would say that if people are anonymous, the quality of their contribution is probably much lower. Wouldn’t you want Wikipedia users to be held accountable for what they change?”
This brings up a few interesting questions. Rotenberg’s complaint seems misplaced. The fact that your IP address is revealed with each edit is a known fact. Anyone editing Wikipedia should take that into account. That’s hardly Wikipedia’s problem. But anonymity can also be an important factor in getting content out. And so far, it appears that all of the “scandals” associated with Wikiscanner were related to biased parties changing info in their favor — which certainly suggests Giffith has a point: catching those who are changing Wikipedia with ulterior motives does seem to improve the reliability of the site.