Truths and Lies of WikiWorld
The free online
encyclopaedia Wikipedia is a democratically decided database that
has been open to abuse, but the advent of WikiScanner has uncovered
a web of deceit and disinformation.
Since its creation
in 2001, Wikipedia has grown as the online phenomenon that apparently
allows the truth to be managed democratically; but over the past
year it has also been exposed as a real-life "Ministry of
Truth". Worse: people have been arrested and terrorised due
to incorrect information being posted on this free Internet encyclopaedia.
On 15 December 2005, various
media sources reported that the open-access encyclopaedia Wikipedia
was about as accurate as the online Encyclopaedia Britannica,
at least for science-based articles. This was the result of a
study by the journal Nature, which chose scientific articles from
both encyclopaedias across a wide range of topics and sent them
for peer review. The reviewers found just eight serious errors.
Of those, four came from each site. They also found a series of
factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told,
there were 123 such problems with Britannica and 162 with Wikipedia.
That in itself is a staggering conclusion, which translates as
averaging out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and
3.86 for Wikipedia, or three versus four mistakes. That, of course,
is not "as accurate" as the newspapers reported –
thus showing misleading statements in the newspapers' headlines.
Still, is Wikipedia's score proof positive that the Internet is
indeed more than just a bundle of conspiracy theory and pornography
sites, and that the combined efforts of Internet users actually
work to create a knowledge base? Perhaps. Wikipedia allows anyone
– anyone – to go in and add, change or delete anything
in the encyclopaedia. Wikipedia is therefore an exercise in trust:
it hopes that its users come there with the best of intentions.
The site is funded through the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation
and in 2006 had an estimated budget of "about a million dollars".
It was founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, the latter who
left his co-creation behind in 2002 and stated in October 2006
that he was going to start a competitor that would allow for more
Trust cannot be guaranteed and hence, at best, Wikipedia comes
with a few blemishes. George W. Bush's biography was so frequently
changed – often to include name calling and "personalised
opinions" on his policies – that his and a small number
of other entries had to be locked and thus only authorised users
were allowed to edit them. Innocent enough; perhaps even funny.
But a more suspicious case occurred in late 2005 when, for four
months, Wikipedia included an anonymously written article linking
former journalist John Seigenthaler to the assassinations of John
F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. His Wikipedia entry stated:
"For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved
in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother Bobby.
Nothing was ever proven." And: "John Seigenthaler moved
to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States
in 1984. He started one of the country's largest public relations
firms shortly thereafter." None of this was true, or even
alleged, outside of WikiWorld. Seigenthaler thought that at the
age of 78 he was beyond surprise or hurt, but he had obviously
not counted on Wikipedia.
Worse, his case exposed a further flaw, as Wikipedia's information
feeds automatically into Reference.com and Answers.com, whose
computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia
without any checks, thus spreading the lies further onto other
sites. In this instance, "trust" failed and perhaps
we should not blame Wikipedia directly.
But the ominous sign here was that Wikipedia was slow to react.
Seigenthaler noticed that his "biography" was altered
on 26 May 2005. On 29 May, one of the site's moderators edited
it only by correcting the misspelling of the word "early"
but did not check the other, much more serious, alterations. For
four months, Wikipedia depicted him as a suspected assassin before
this mention was erased from the website's history on 5 October
– but it remained on Answers.com and Reference.com for three
Daniel Brandt, a San Antonio-based activist who started the anti-Wikipedia
site Wikipedia Watch
in response to problems he had with his eponymous article, looked
up the IP address in Seigenthaler's article and found that it
related to Rush Delivery, a company in Nashville. On 9 December
2005, its employee Brian Chase admitted that he had placed the
false information in Seigenthaler's Wikipedia biography.
End of story, it seemed, with the lesson learned that Wikipedia
could be an excellent tool to spread disinformation – a
lesson few people realised at the time. And though Wikipedia should
have reacted, it didn't.
Though Seigenthaler's case received much notoriety, his was definitely
not the only case. By December 2006, Brandt had listed several
instances of erroneous entries as well as massive amounts of entries
literally copied from copyright-protected material.
was in early 2007 that the WikiWorld was rocked when one of its
most prolific contributors and editors, "believed" by
the site to be a professor of religion with advanced degrees in
theology and canon law, was exposed as being nothing more than
a community college drop-out.
The person at the centre of this controversy was "Essjay"
– which begged the question as to why anyone in a position
of authority should want or need to hide behind a pseudonym. In
truth, Essjay was Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old from Kentucky with
no advanced degrees, who used texts such as Catholicism for Dummies
to help him correct articles on the penitential rite and transubstantiation.
Indeed, the problem began at the very beginning of Essjay's career,
when no one vetted his credentials and when his claim to be a
tenured professor of religion at a private university was accepted.
He contributed to an estimated 20,000 Wikipedia entries, making
up one per cent of the 1,675,000 articles that Wikipedia listed
as being online.
Worse, however, was that Wikipedia staff recruited Essjay to work
on the site's Arbitration Committee, which he chaired for two
terms, thus granting him almost divine powers without anyone asking
him any questions. Fortunately Essjay was only a pretender, not
a person intent on spreading disinformation...but he could have
accomplished this easily. He was an important player in WikiWorld.
The New Yorker, in its 31 July 2006 edition, ran an article on
Essjay and his activities, which were then believed to be genuine.
By mid-January 2007, Essjay had posted his real name and employment
history on the related Wikia website. However, it was Daniel Brandt
who noticed this and made further enquiries. He eventually contacted
The New Yorker to say that Essjay's original biographical information
On 26 February, The New Yorker made an online correction, stating
that Essjay "holds no advanced degrees" and "has
never taught". But worst of all was probably this comment:
"At the time of publication, neither we nor Wikipedia knew
Essjay's real name."
Following the revelation, Wikipedia's
co-founder Jimmy Wales asked Essjay to resign (in any business
environment he would have been fired), stating that "Wikipedia
is built on (among other things) twin pillars of trust and tolerance".
It was clear that one pillar had now totally collapsed. But bizarrely,
Wales further commented: "It is not good, obviously, but
the interesting thing is that Mr Jordan was an excellent editor,
credentials or not. His work was extremely positive for Wikipedia."
We wonder how...
The Wikipedia entry on the debacle at the time read: "As
a result of the controversy, Wikipedia users began a review of
Essjay's previous edits and discovered evidence he had relied
upon his fictional professorship to influence editorial consideration
of edits he made. 'People have gone through his edits and found
places where he was basically cashing in on his fake credentials
to bolster his arguments,' said Michael Snow, a Wikipedia administrator
and founder of the Wikipedia community newspaper, The Wikipedia
Signpost. 'Those will get looked at again.'"
The site continued: "In reaction to the incident, Wales was
reportedly considering a vetting process for all persons who adjudicate
on factual disputes. Additionally, Wales said the site would soon
develop a way to check credentials of Wikipedia editors who claim
to possess them. 'I don't think this incident exposes any inherent
weakness in Wikipedia, but it does expose a weakness that we will
be working to address,' Wales added."
Wales may of course change his opinion, but originally he said
he was not concerned with Essjay's invented persona: "I regard
it as a pseudonym and I don't really have a problem with it."
After an outcry from Wikipedia users, Wales changed his view.
Larry Sanger, in his Citizendium Blog of 1 March, responded to
Wales's initial statement, stating: "There's something utterly
breathtaking, and ultimately tragic, about Jimmy telling The New
Yorker that he doesn't have a problem with Essjay's lies, and
by essentially honoring Essjay after his lies were exposed...
Doesn't Jimmy know that this has the potential to be even more
damaging to Wikipedia than the Seigenthaler situation, since it
reflects directly on the judgment and values of the management
Wales meanwhile maintained that the service and its community
are built around a self-policing and "self-cleaning"
nature that is supposed to ensure its articles are accurate: the
"Wikipedia Police". But are they the "Thought Police"
or people who verify facts? Seigenthaler's entry suggests they
are definitely not the latter.
Jack Sarfatti (right) with Uri Geller
people at odds with Wikipedia are numerous. The "pseudophysicist"
(to quote Wikipedia) Jack Sarfatti considers himself to be a victim
of the service and even considered litigation at one point. He
found that certain libellous information had been posted about
him. Of course, he, like anyone else, can go in and alter that
information, which is what he tried to do. He tried posting at
various times of the day, but each time, within minutes, the changes
were undone – suggesting that the Wikipedia moderators were
constantly monitoring certain pages. When he dug further, he came
to the conclusion that Wikipedia seemed to be in the hands of
a group of sceptical minds, intent on making sure there were no
mysteries and no conspiracies.
Indeed, when you consult a variety of subjects on Wikipedia, you
will notice a certain "mindset" that excludes certain
opinions. Just two examples...
Paul Smith is an ardent sceptic of the Rennes-le-Chateau and Priory
of Sion mysteries (which are at the core of Dan Brown's The Da
Vinci Code) and is responsible for most of the Wikipedia entries
on the subject. Some of these entries are blatantly biased and
others contain serious factual errors. In both instances, I adjusted
the wording and removed the errors. At no point did this mean
that the Priory was depicted as genuine – far from it. In
fact, I felt that an error-free posting would actually bring enhanced
value to the entry. In this case, the entries remained up for
a number of months, but then were returned to their negative,
erroneous entries. The "Wikipedia Police" should have
seen that the new entry was less neutral and more biased than
what was on there, but they did not revert to the previous version.
The question is: why prefer erroneous information over more neutral
wordings? No wonder that experts find numerous errors in every
article on Wikipedia...when Wikipedia seems to prefer to promote
errors over factual statements.
I also tried to add further information about dissenting theories
on the Corpus Hermeticum, specifically the work of Leiden University
professor Bruno Stricker, giving due reference to his name and
publications (including his PhD thesis). In this instance, Wikipedia
moderators removed the section themselves, stating that I needed
to give "more sources" – though I had actually
given more sources than most of the other statements that maintain
the status quo in this entry, namely that the Corpus is a second-
or third-century AD creation rather than a third-century BC codification,
as Stricker (and others) argue.
Examples of such unprofessional editing, with a bias towards maintaining
the status quo and specifically downplaying if not removing controversial
information, run into the hundreds if not thousands. Paul Joseph
Watson of Prison Planet
has noted there is a concerted campaign to erase the 9/11 Truth
Movement. Furthermore, pages which they and like-minded individuals
created, such as "List of Republican sex scandals",
"People questioning the 9/11 Commission Report" and
"Movement to impeach George W. Bush" were all deleted.
The first-mentioned page might indeed not be seen as important
in an encyclopaedic environment, but the "wiki" (a page
in the encyclopaedia) for Dylan Avery, the producer of the most-watched
documentary film in Internet history, clearly merits a biographical
page on an online encyclopaedia. Wikipedia, however, thought otherwise.
These are just some of the examples that people have experienced
with the "service". At best, it is clear that the moderators
have never been trained or validated for their credentials. But
Sarfatti has also drawn attention to the so-called "Wikipedia
arbitration", which Wales has seen as the "self-cleaning"
and the deus ex machina designed to re-establish Wikipedia's credibility
– even though he elected a college drop – out to preside
Upset about his own case and unable to rectify the situation,
Sarfatti commented on a private email list: "They have set
up a Virtual Shadow Government in which they now have their own
courts to adjudicate 'litigation'." He made the point that
the theory is that whoever controls the Web controls the Earth
– and there is indeed that potential. Perform a Google websearch
and if Wikipedia has a result on what you search for, the Wikipedia
entry will come up on top. So whatever you want to know, you will
probably Google it and find it in Wikipedia. "Googlepedia"
thus has a virtual monopoly on information and does indeed, as
Sarfatti said, control the Web – and knowledge.
Googlepedia offers a one-stop shop for teachers and anyone else
who wants to find information. Teachers have stated that this
is exactly the case. What is in Wikipedia – and the opinions
expressed therein – is almost directly passed on to students.
It begs the question as to why there is still a need for teachers,
as students are equally able to do a websearch...
And students are more likely to check other hits, perhaps being
more realistic about the expectations of Wikipedia – which
for many teachers seems to have become gospel.
When lies cause detention
far, only a few egos seem to have been bruised. But Robert Fisk,
in the British newspaper The Independent, reported on 21 April
2007 on the experience of Taner Akçam, a Turkish historian
and writer. Akçam faces prosecution in Turkey for writing
about the Armenian genocide. However, due to the vandalising of
Akçam's Wikipedia entry, which accused him of being a member
of a terrorist group, he was detained by Canadian border police
on 17 February 2007. This is acknowledged in the Wikipedia entry,
which can now only be edited by registered users – though
anyone can still register for free, and registration only leaves
some trace of who made the entry, nothing more.
Taner Akçam wrote to Fisk, stating: "Additional to
the criminal investigation (law 301) in Turkey, there is a hate
campaign going on here in the USA, as a result of which I cannot
travel internationally any more... My recent detention at the
Montreal airport – apparently on the basis of anonymous
insertions in my Wikipedia biography – signals a disturbing
new phase in a Turkish campaign of intimidation that has intensified
since the November 2006 publication of my book."
Fisk continued: "Akçam was released, but his reflections
on this very disturbing incident are worth recording. 'It was
unlikely, to say the least, that a Canadian immigration officer
found out that I was coming to Montreal, took the sole initiative
to research my identity on the internet, discovered the archived
version of my Wikipedia biography, printed it out on 16 February,
and showed it to me – voila! – as a result.'
"But this was not the end. Prior to his Canadian visit, two
Turkish-American websites had been hinting that Akçam's
'terrorist activities' should be of interest to American immigration
authorities. And sure enough, Akçam was detained yet again
– for another hour – by US Homeland Security officers
at Montreal airport before boarding his flight at Montreal for
Minnesota two days later.
"On this occasion, he says that the American officer –
US Homeland Security operates at the Canadian airport –
gave him a warning: 'Mr Akçam, if you don't retain an attorney
and correct this issue, every entry and exit from the country
is going to be problematic. We recommend that you do not travel
in the meantime and that you try to get this information removed
from your customs dossier.'
"So let's get this clear," Fisk continued. "US
and Canadian officials now appear to be detaining the innocent
on the grounds of hate postings on the internet. And it is the
innocent – guilty until proved otherwise, I suppose –
who must now pay lawyers to protect them from Homeland Security
and the internet. But as Akçam says, there is nothing he
can do," he concluded.
As the platform on which this false propaganda was offered, Wikipedia
should accept part of the blame.
has underlined some serious problems with the second pillar of
WikiWorld: tolerance. But what about Sarfatti's Orwellian claims
that Wikipedia is the Ministry of Truth – i.e., Lies? On
14 August 2007, Wired reported that CalTech computation and neural-systems
graduate student Virgil Griffith had created the "Wikipedia
Scanner", which "offers users a searchable database
that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations
where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing
the edits with data on who owns the associated block of Internet
"I came up with the idea when I heard about Congressmen getting
caught for white-washing their Wikipedia pages," he says
on his website. Griffith
became very intrigued when, on 17 November 2005, an anonymous
Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting
machine vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of
the company's machines. Griffith traced those changes to an IP
address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself.
Wired concluded that when the new data-mining service was launched,
it traced millions of Wikipedia entries to their sources, and
for the first time put "comprehensive data behind longstanding
suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only
piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations". In
short, Griffith proved Sarfatti and others' conspiracy theory.
Griffith has compiled lists of different corporations and government
branches that have abused the "trust" of Wikipedia essentially
to edit the truth out of existence, replacing it with a PR-friendly
facade favourable not to the facts or any sense of neutrality
but only to the interests of the parties concerned. The WikiScanner
page lists a few "favourites" which include the
CIA, the Vatican and the Church of Scientology.
You might expect that the CIA would make the biggest use of this
tool, to spread propaganda, but such thinking would be too primitive:
a multibillion-dollar agency that has existed for 60 years has
better and less traceable methodologies at its disposal. Still,
rather interesting and somewhat humorous is that, on the profile
of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a worker on the CIA
network added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section
on the leader's plans for his presidency. A warning on the profile
of the anonymous editor read: "You have recently vandalised
a Wikipedia article, and you are now being asked to stop this
type of behaviour." It seems that one CIA worker also tweaked
the profile of Oprah Winfrey – an edit which hopefully occurred
during a lunch break.
More interestingly, WikiScanner uncovered that the Vatican edited
entries about Sinn Fin leader Gerry Adams. The edit removed links
to newspaper stories written in 2006 that alleged that Mr Adams's
fingerprints and handprints had been found on a car used in 1971
in connection with a double murder. The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit
father Federico Lombardi, clarified on Vatican Radio on 17 August
2007 that accusations saying that the Holy See manipulated the
encyclopaedia intentionally "...lack all seriousness and
logic. It is absurd even to think that such an initiative could
have even been considered." Forced to explain how it could
have happened, he said that there are many computers in the Vatican
and that anyone could have access to Wikipedia on any one of them.
Equally interesting is that a computer traced to American Airlines
(AA) was used to make a significant change about 9/11. The original
entry read: "Two American Airlines aircraft were hijacked
and crashed during the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack: American
Airlines Flight 77 (a Boeing 757) and American Airlines Flight
11 (a Boeing 767)" – to which an AA employee added
(somewhat ungrammatically): "Although these flights were
daily departures before and a month after September 11, 2001.
Neither flight 11 nor 77 were scheduled on September 11, 2001.
The records kept by the Bureau
of Transportation Statistics do not list either flight that
day." (See here.)
What are we to make of this?
But WikiScanner especially revealed that most abuse originates
from corporate clients – and politicians. According to the
UK Independent of 18 August 2007, Wal-Mart cleaned some statements
about its employment procedures, and again, in October 2005, a
person using a Diebold computer removed paragraphs about Walden
O'Dell, chief executive of the company, which revealed that he
had been "a top fund-raiser" for George W. Bush. Such
cleaning should be seen as rewriting history. Even if the edits
are not correct, Wikipedia's policy should be to insert "it
is alleged" or statements to that effect.
The Independent, along with many media sources, mentioned other
abuses. Griffith's tool also discovered that a computer owned
by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site
of right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. The changes brand
Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic", a "racist" and a
"bigot". An entry about his audience read: "Most
of them are legally retarded."
An IP address that belongs to the oil giant ExxonMobil was linked
to sweeping changes to an entry on the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez
oil spill. An allegation that the company "has not yet paid
the US$5 billion in spill damages it owes to the 32,000 Alaskan
fishermen" was replaced with references to the funds that
the company has paid out.
The Republican Party edited Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party entry
so it made it clear that the US-led invasion was not a "US-led
occupation" but a "US-led liberation" – the
clearest example of Ministry of Truth's approved Newspeak if ever
there was one.
Also uncovered by WikiScanner was that a computer registered to
the Dow Chemical Company deleted a section on the 1984 Bhopal
chemical disaster (which ultimately killed up to 22,000 people)
which occurred at a plant operated by Union Carbide, now a wholly
owned subsidiary of Dow.
It was also reported that Barbara Alton, assistant to Episcopal
bishop Charles Bennison, deleted information on a cover-up of
child sexual abuse, allegations that the bishop misappropriated
US$11.6 million in trust funds, and evidence of other scandals.
When challenged, Alton claimed that she had been ordered to delete
the information by Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.
WikiScanner also uncovered that staff in Australia's Department
of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) had edited entries on topics
such as the "children overboard" affair, as reported
in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 August. PM John Howard stated
that he had not asked any of his staff to edit those entries.
WikiScanner revealed, too, that Department of Defence staff had
made more than 5,000 changes to the encyclopaedia, but the Herald
reported that they were now blocked from editing entries (note
that a general IP number can be used by several departments).
Commenting on ABC News, the chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia,
Dale Clapperton, said: "You also have to ask yourself whether
it's a responsible and reasonable use of taxpayer dollars to have
public servants trying to sanitise entries on Wikipedia using
taxpayer-paid resources to make their point of view more acceptable
to the current government." In a follow-up Herald report
of 30 August, the PMC secretary claimed that the IP number did
not belong to the department but instead to Macquarie Telecom
– a claim that experts and the Herald dispute as highly
unlikely, stating they have more evidence than merely an IP address
to identify the government department as the source.
Just before WikiScanner grabbed
the headlines in mid-August 2007, there was one Wikipedia incident
which received far less attention than it deserved: it revealed
that the intelligence agencies had been using Wikipedia for disinformation
purposes, thus proving Sarfatti's Orwellian allegation.
Daniel Brandt posted a summary on The Wikipedia Review website
on 1 August. The incident involved Pierre Salinger. He was a White
House press secretary to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, served
as a US senator from California in 1964 and was campaign manager
for Robert Kennedy. Salinger was also a famous investigative journalist
who broke many important news stories. When he was based in London,
he investigated the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie,
Scotland, which killed 270 people. He and his collaborator, John
K. Cooley, hired Linda Mack, a young graduate, to help in their
research, which resulted in Salinger testifying at the Camp Zeist
trial in November 2000:
"I know that these two Libyans had nothing to do with it.
I know who did it and I know exactly why it was done," he
said. Thinking the judge would allow him to present this evidence,
Salinger queried: "That's all? You're not letting me tell
the truth. Wait a minute; I know exactly who did it. I know how
it was done," Salinger replied to the trial judge, Lord Sutherland,
who simply asked him to leave the witness box. "If you wish
to make a point you may do so elsewhere, but I'm afraid you may
not do so in this court," Lord Sutherland interrupted.
So what does this have to do with Wikipedia? "SlimVirgin"
had been voted the most abusive administrator of Wikipedia. She
had upset so many editors that some of them decided to team up
to research her real-life identity. Attempts to track her through
Internet technology failed. This was suspicious in itself, as
WikiScanner has revealed. According to a team member, SlimVirgin
"knows her way around the Internet and covered her tracks
with care". The question, therefore, was: why?
Daniel Brandt patiently assembled
tiny clues about SlimVirgin and posted them on his website. Eventually,
two readers identified her as none other than Linda Mack, the
young graduate whom Salinger had hired. To see her name appear
in such a context was of course of great interest. But that was
Cooley, Salinger's collaborator in the Lockerbie investigation,
sent a letter to Brandt which was posted on The Wikipedia Review
on 4 October 2006. He wrote how Mack "...claimed to have
lost a friend/lover on Pan103 and so was anxious to clear up the
mystery. ABC News paid for her travel and expenses as well as
a salary... Once the two Libyan suspects were indicted, she seemed
to try to point the investigation in the direction of [Libyan
President Colonel Muammar al-]Qaddafi, although there was plenty
of evidence, both before and after the trials of Megrahi and Fhimah
in the Netherlands, that others were involved, probably with Iran
the commissioning power... Salinger came to believe that Linda
was working for MI5 and had been from the beginning; assigned
genuinely to investigate the bombing of Pan Am 103, but also to
infiltrate and monitor us..."
Soon after John Cooley contacted Brandt, Linda Mack contacted
Cooley and asked him not to help Brandt in his efforts to expose
her. Though all doubts about SlimVirgin's true identity then vanished,
as for her motives...
So, welcome to WikiWorld, a realm
where inconvenient truths can easily be removed, while erroneous
information – convenient lies and disinformation –
can be entered in the encyclopaedia with emotionally upsetting
and even worse consequences for the people involved.
This is the modern Ministry of Truth which, together with the
liars and no doubt some mentally unstable people, has been put
in charge of rewriting history. It labels itself as the "Free
Encyclopaedia", but perhaps the world should be freed from
this encyclopaedia before the old proverb is converted thus: "There
are lies, damned lies, statistics, and then there's Wikipedia."
The problem with Wikipedia is not that it exists, but that it
has become the cornerstone for researchers scanning the Internet
for information and blindly copying from Wikipedia entries, wrongfully
assuming that they are neutral and correct. It has become the
"Ministry of Information", the "one-stop information
shop" of the Internet, but no one should fall for the "Newspeak"
of a title. Wikipedia has made the task for those seeding disinformation
and removing dissenting views easier, more direct and even more
anonymous. Lies and Wikipedia, indeed...
article appeared in Nexus Magazine, Volume 14, Number 5 (October
- November 2007)
the publication of this article in the October-November 2007 issue
of Nexus Magazine, the world has woken up to some more Wikipedia
When “TV theme king” Ronnie Hazlehurst died, BBC News,
The Guardian, The Times, The Stage and Reuters all wrote in their
respective obituaries that he also wrote pop group S Club 7's
Reach. However, he had not. It was soon learned that all had quoted
– without verification – from Wikipedia, taking its
“information” at face value. Of course, the Wikipedia
entry was totally erroneous.
The BBC was caught in another incident, when the British newspaper
The Independent on Sunday reported that BBC staff had rewritten
Wikipedia pages to water down criticism.
BBC staff rewrote parts of a page entitled “Criticism of
the BBC” to defuse press attacks on “political correctness”.
Also included in more than 7,000 Wikipedia edits by BBC workers
are unflattering references to rival broadcasters – and
even the corporation's biggest names. An entry claiming that a
BBC report found the organisation was “out of touch with
large swathes of the public and is guilty of self-censoring subjects
that the corporation finds unpalatable” was replaced with
a brief paragraph saying the document “explored issues around
In Germany, a left-wing German politician even filed charges against
Wikipedia for promoting the use of banned Nazi symbols in Germany.
On the German Wiki for the Hitler Youth movement, Katina Schubert,
a deputy leader of the Left party, said that "the extent
and frequency of the symbols on it goes beyond what is needed
for documentation and political education.” Public display
of Nazi symbols is illegal in Germany, but they can be used for
educational and artistic purposes.
The reactions were surreal: a Wikipedia representative said she
didn’t understand the problem, whereas party colleagues
seemed to inflate Wikipedia’s ego. "Katina Schubert
fails to grasp the self-regulating mechanisms that work in Wikipedia,"
said Heiko Hilker, a Left party media expert in Saxony's state
is visited by more than 7 percent of internet users every day.
However, since the publication of the article and pointing out
the dangers of “Googlepedia”, Google has announced
it is now working on a rival to Wikipedia. The saga continues.