Wikipedia Cracks Down on People Edits

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In what seems like it might be a bit of an odd move, Wikipedia has decided that it will be a little more heavy-handed when it comes to regulating edits to its articles on people who happen to be alive.

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The decision stems from the furore that Wikipedia manages to cause every time someone edits an article related to a living celebrity to reflect their death, whether or not they’re actually dead. As a result, Wikipedia will be instituting “Flagged Revisions” which will require another, perhaps more experienced, editor to permit before it’s added to the main page. In the interim, those edits won’t be displayed to the average user, avoiding most of the issues caused by premature pronouncements of death.

The New York Times has an excellent piece on the topic, quoting a statement from Michael Snow, chairman of Wikimedia, who said, “There was a time probably when the community was more forgiving of things that were inaccurate or fudged in some fashion – whether simply misunderstood or an author had some axe to grind. There is less tolerance for that sort of problem now.”

The results we’re likely to see from this for now are anyone’s guess, but we’d imagine that it won’t necessarily be the case that Wikipedia immediately becomes a safer place to look up information on famous living people. Indeed, it seems more likely that adding an extra layer of editorial constraints into Wikipedia might well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There’s a veracity to Wikipedia that might well be lost in the transition.

Moreover, we recently learned that “experienced” editors of Wikipedia are often those with a viewpoint to promote and tend to have very few of their own edits changed. With that in mind, it seems decidedly out of place to privilege them as a source of information on what is very often (as in the case of furious edits to the Michael Jackson page) breaking news.

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