Wikipedia gets a grip on biographies

August 25, 2009

Wikipedia gets a grip on biographies The online encyclopedia is now requiring sign-off from an experienced editor to change articles about people. Will this shift hurt the Wikipedia community and will it even stop fraudulent entries?

The editorial process will only pertain to articles about living people. Volunteers will have to review changes to articles about people before they are published to the Wikipedia site.

These changes are intended to prevent fraudulent misrepresentation on someone’s article. One example would be the profile of reporter John Seigenthaler ,who was incorrectly associated with the JFK assassination on the site for four months.

Often these inaccuracies are corrected in minutes since the original writer is often notified on changes to his or her work. However this shift away from the democratization of Wikipedia may turn off newer members from contributing.

One of the core concepts of Wikipedia was that anyone had the right to contribute to the online resource. However, petty political spats are pushing Wikimedia’s board away from keeping the site completely democratic.

Unfortunately this change might also remove some of the checks and balances innate in Wikipedia’s former structure. Experienced editors are clearly not immune to personal or political squabbles any more than the rest of us as Wikipedia’s Founder, Jimmy Wales has proven.

Wales has been in the press twice in as many years for editing Wikipedia entries for personal or political gain. The first instance was related to his hostile revisions of journalist and ex-girlfriend Rachel Marsden’s profile on the site.

Later Wales suppressed information about the kidnapping of journalist David Rohde. This move was purportedly to protect Rohde’s identity as a journalist, but riled up contributors that were attempting to share the truth.

Either way, Wikipedia’s new rules push the site further away from its open roots. Wikipedia could soon see contributions wane and growth of the site start to suffer as it reins in its contributors.

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