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. identicon
    Roger, 12 Feb 2009 @ 4:32am

    Sickipedia: gaming Wikipedia for fun or for profit

    Your article highlights Wikipedia's greatest and insuperable flaw. By having a free-for-all editing system, the online encyclopedia is open to being gamed by anyone who sees a need to manipulate the information.

    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?

    Wikipedia as it is today is not a sustainable model for a repository of human knowledge into the indefinite future IMHO.

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