Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Wikipedia and politics

I saw an article about Wikipedia the other day, and I thought I'd find out more about what has been going on.

Just a little background for anyone who hasn't read about it...Wikipedia is set up so anyone can change the entries. It is supposed to help the encyclopedia be more accurate because all readers can be editors and mistakes can be easily changed.

Politicians are starting to use this as a tool to smear their opponants. People helping out with campaigns are editing their candidate's biographies to make them look better than they are, and are changing the opponants bios to make them look worse.

Wikipedia has organized a group of volunteers to make sure these bios stay unbiased, but is this really possible when it's so easy to change the information. These volunteers are going to have to check informaiton about each candidate on a regular basis to make sure everything is true.

This also shows that no matter how accurate information is, it's still important to check facts. When compared with Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia was found to be almost as accurate as the well-known encyclopedia. Even though most of what is in these encyclopedias is considered to be true, with people changing information in Wikipedia, it's important to make sure we're getting the correct information.


jenopus said...

To be honest, it sounds like a bunch of bull. Like a conspiracy. Have you heard that Wal-Mart is only lowering the prices so that when the competition goes out of business, they can do major price-raising? I've heard that. It sounds along the same lines. Thanks for the background information on Wikipedia. I didn't know you could change entries. Very interesting, but I still don't know if I believe something like that is actually happening. I guess the only way to find out would be for me to get on there and try to change an entry myself. Then I would know how easy or difficult it is. I believe it's unethical for politicians to change the entries for their competition, in fact, I believe it's illegal. But who's doing it? How do we know they're doing it? How do we know it's not a big hoax?

bekah said...

As far as I know, it's true that anyone can change an entry on Wikipedia, supposidly to make it more accurate. When I've been to some pages, there has only been a little information, and the page has said that if I have more information, I could add it to make the page better. That's crazy that people are using this ability to make their competition suffer, yet with the negative impression of politicians, it doesn't really surprise me. I'm very interested in knowing which politicians' information has been compromised.

A solution I thought of was to only let the actual politician onto the page about him, but right after I had that idea, I realized how it could be a bad idea. Just like oppenents can write negative things, the politician could just use puffery to make him/herself look better.

I'd say that the politicians whose pages are getting messed with could sue for libel if false information was entered on their page. But how would they know who did it? And besides that, it's almost impossible for political figures to sue for libel because of their status. However, if information not regarding their ability to perform whatever position they were running for was entered onto the page and hurt their reputation in a significant way, I think charges could be made.

Whether it's lawful or not though, I think deceiving others, especially through a medium that is supposed to be accurate, is extremely unethical. Politicians are fine by me if they bash their opponents in situations where opinion is expected. But truth is an expectation on Wikipedia.