News Flash: Folks Have Bias When Editing Wikipedia Entries


OK, I'll admit it, before I get busted.


I once edited the Wikipedia entry for my college newspaper to include a couple of editors-in-chief before my own tenure, lo these decades ago. And I actually got along quite well with these folks.


So clearly, I have violated Wikipedia's conflict-of-interest policy that I -- and everybody else on the planet -- was unaware of. But now it's the online encyclopedia's defense against the buzz of dicey edits being uncovered by a neat IP-sniffing applet.


This outraged column at The Independent runs through some of the "censorship" being committed by companies, politicians and dog breeders on Wikipedia entries unflattering to their cause.


Some of the changes -- such as a church secretary deleting information about a scandal involving child abuse -- clearly are cause for concern for Wikipedia and those who trust it. Other acts of "censorship" include factual edits, such as someone inside the CIA IP range noting the reality that death estimates from the Iraqi conflict vary broadly and that it cannot credibly determine exactly who is actually doing the killing.


Another "censor," according to The Independent:

A computer linked to the Israeli government twice tried to delete an entire article critical of policy about the West Bank wall.

The Independent also notes that an Wikipedia contributor scolded an edit on Diebold voting machines (and to be fair, this one sounds dicey to me, too), with this rebuke:

Please stop removing content from Wikipedia. It is considered vandalism.

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.


Don't get me wrong: A lot of the edits listed by The Independent sound dubious to me, too. I'll add that the edit checker that's causing all this flak easily could have been implemented by Wikipedia itself. And that companies and public agencies are a lot easier to spot via IP than individuals, who in the world of Wikipedia are equally powerful when it comes to altering the perception of what's fact, what's opinion, and what's out-and-out BS.


By the way, my college paper's entry has since been edited to delete the whole table of previous editors. Vandals!

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