Wales quashes kidnapping on Wikipedia

June 29, 2009

Wales quashes kidnapping on Wikipedia In a bizarre, self-inflicted assault on Wikipedia’s credibility, Founder Jimmy Wales has actively prevented information about an American journalist kidnapped by the Taliban from appearing on the site. Now Wikipedia is not only behind traditional media in terms of authority, but also timeliness.

The journalist is David Rohdes of the New York Times, who was kidnapped on Nov. 10 of last year. The Times managed to keep this fact under wraps for seven months leading up to his escape.

Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists, says, “Traditionally, if you could convince people that were somewhat unsavory that you were there to listen to their concerns and convey them to the world, that could go a long way.” Simon also contends that this tactic isn’t always successful, especially when dealing with terrorists.

Still, the Rohdes story stirred up debate among journalists over ethics. Not only did the news organizations and Wales not publish the information, they also made an agreement that spanned a number of news organization.

One professor at the Poynter Institute who teaches ethics to journalists was “really astounded” by the blackout. “I find it a little disturbing, because it makes me wonder what else 40 international news organizations have agreed not to tell the public,” says Kelly McBride.

This isn’t Wales first involvement in questionable ethical behavior since founding Wikipedia. Last March “Jimbo” Wales was lambasted by the Wikipedia community for his involvement in editing the bio of his then-girlfriend Rachel Marsden.

This action by Wales violates the core values of Wikipedia as laid out on the Wikimedia Foundation site. These values are: freedom; accessibility and quality; independence, commitment to openness and diversity, transparency; and community is our biggest asset.

The move by Wales violates at least five out of the six values that the foundation claims to uphold. While it may have felt good for Wales to flex his editorial muscles, hell hath no fury like a community scorned.

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3 Responses to “Wales quashes kidnapping on Wikipedia”

  1. Gregory Kohs:

    Jimmy Wales is not “Founder” of Wikipedia.

    Also, you misspelled “Rohde” in your first mention of his name.

    So long as there is a dual role of enforcement of ethics on Wikipedia (namely, both the “community consensus” and WMF staff acting “officially”), there will be these seeming conundrums on either side.

    When will people start arguing the main point — that Wikipedia is not a responsible enough entity to be showcasing the biographies of living people?

  2. David Gerard:

    The Wikipedia Review message board exploded in outrage at the revelations. “And they called us conspiracy theorists!” said ardent Wikipedia critic, businessman and banned editor Gregory Kohs. “It’s not clear yet how this will make money for Wales’ private company Wikia, but I know that’s why he did it.” The message board was further outraged at being scooped on the news. “The only way to remedy Wikipedia’s revelations of not revealing someone’s personal details in this particular case will be for me to put up David Rohde’s home address, names of his entire family and his bank account details on my website,” said public interest stalker Daniel Brandt. “I bet Google’s in on it too. They put a radio in my head, you know.”

  3. Velda Colyott:

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the site is also really good.|

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