Wikipedia's Circular Logic Pops Up Again

from the where-does-truth-come-from? dept

Germany has a new minister of economic affairs, named Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. That's a mouthful, and apparently a number of German media outlets went to the guy's Wikipedia entry for some help. But some prankster had added a "Wilhelm" in the middle, which got printed in several places. The change on Wikipedia was noticed and corrected, but then reverted to the incorrect Wilhelm version -- with one of the press stories cited as the source. So, somebody inserts an incorrect "fact" into Wikipedia, the "fact" gets reprinted elsewhere based on the Wikipedia entry, gets correctly removed from Wikipedia, then incorrectly reinserted using one of the incorrect articles as "proof" of its veracity. That sounds pretty similar to establishing your newsworthiness for inclusion in Wikipedia by getting a newspaper article written about how you're not in Wikipedia. All's well that ends well, though, since the minister's correct name now appears in his entry. But as Wikipedia continues to be perceived by more and more people as a very authoritative source, this sort of incident is likely to happen again.

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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 12 Feb 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re: Sickipedia: gaming Wikipedia for fun or for profit

    It works fine while we have diligent editors willing to correct and update. What happens when those editors get sick, lost interest or shuffle off this mortal coil? When there is no watchdog, who decides which articles are "locked" and which remain open for free editing?

    what happens when the pranksters are more committed than the "watchdogs"?

    have you ever read the discussions behind an article that is being contested on it's neutrality? it all comes down to who is the most committed to seeing their writing survive.

    the editors of the "authoritative" publications can be biased due to political or financial reasons, and it becomes a contest of wills between the writer and the editor. usually the editor wins, but we almost never see that discussion.

    wikipedia is a great tool, but it's just one tool. you use wikipedia the way you use any other encyclopedia, at the beginning of the process to get a bird's eye view of the subject matter.

    if you only use one tool in your research, you are asking for trouble. it's the same with news outlets, relying on just one paper or show leaves you vulnerable to inaccuracy and propaganda.

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