Wikipedia 'Censorship' or 'Clarification': Who Decides?

Ann All

In a recent blog post, I made a number of obvious points about the Wikipedia editing scandal. To summarize, a graduate student created a cool application that revealed a fact that can't have surprised too many folks, despite all of the indignation it has triggered: If given half a chance, most people will tweak the truth to make themselves sound better.


This happens all the time in the real world. In my home state of Kentucky, the Department of Education recently came close to hiring a woman whose resume contained some "irregularities," including an award she hadn't won and a presentation she hadn't made. This type of behavior is even more common in cyberspace, due to the "anonymous" nature of the Internet.


Problem is, the Internet isn't really anonymous, as serial Wikipedia editors are now discovering. Yet many folks who, in theory, understand the power of an IP address can't seem to control themselves.


Our Ken-Hardin makes a point that I think is getting lost in all of hubbub: One person's censorship is another's clarification. An edit made from the CIA's IP address, for example, merely noted that many casualty figures for the Iraq war were estimates. The folks at Wikipedia call this "vandalism." But is it? as Ken writes:

So, apparently, reality as defined by Wikipedia is now based on the dibs system. Get there first, establish your point of view as fact, and then if someone changes it, cry censorship.

The "community" can be a lot of great things -- passionate, smart, funny -- but impartial it ain't, at least not very often. Like censorship, impartiality tends to be in the eye of the beholder.

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