• Please be advised there is a potential issue with DD collections, which may result in an excessive amount being taken. Please read the stickied thread in Fortean Times Magazine > General Discussion, Subs etc

Wikipedia Manipulation (Sabotage; Censorship; Editing Battles; Etc.)

A

Anonymous

Guest
Has any body else noticed a growing number of articles on wikipedia are being sabotaged.

There's an article on sky news today.

http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30000-13550524,00.html

About a month ago I was reading up on real crimes and went to the page on Ian Huntley. Somebody had added a section called 'TV Appearances' and said he'd been one of the last people to appear to bbc's 'record breakers' program, after a bit of semi-humourous waffle it claimed he holds the record for the 'least plausible excuse to wantonly murder two children in your house'.

Has anybody else seen this happen?
 

_Lizard23_

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 23, 2001
Messages
1,585
I imagine it happens all the time to be honest.

I had to look something up about Islam the other day and I noticed that wikipedia article is locked due to frequent 'sabotage'.
 

ted_bloody_maul

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
May 23, 2003
Messages
4,595
Chris_H_Baker said:
Has any body else noticed a growing number of articles on wikipedia are being sabotaged.

There's an article on sky news today.

http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30000-13550524,00.html

About a month ago I was reading up on real crimes and went to the page on Ian Huntley. Somebody had added a section called 'TV Appearances' and said he'd been one of the last people to appear to bbc's 'record breakers' program, after a bit of semi-humourous waffle it claimed he holds the record for the 'least plausible excuse to wantonly murder two children in your house'.

Has anybody else seen this happen?

i've definitely noticed that more and more pages contain messages about disputed information on them. it's pretty obvious such a site will be open to abuse since it's the democratic nature of the site that is it's strongest point but also it's achilles heel. with regards to anything contentious i would only use the site as a starting-point rather than a definitive source.
 

ghostdog19

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Jan 5, 2006
Messages
1,670
I use Answers.com which links through to Wiki but also has other places of interest so you can usually verify anything that pops up on Wiki relatively quickly.
 

escargot

Disciple of Marduk
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
39,069
Location
HM The Tower of London
with regards to anything contentious i would only use the site as a starting-point rather than a definitive source.

That applies to most of the 'net too anyway of course. ;)
 

OldTimeRadio

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,521
Just a few months back I read an article reprinted from a high school newspaper, in which the student author reported that she'd purposely added wildly erroneous information to an existing Wikipedia entry. She wanted to see how long the information would remain and what any repercussions to her might be.

The vandalism was quickly discovered and repaired, but all the student received was a mere 48-hour posting suspension.

The thrust of the article was that that's nowhere a sufficient-enough punisment to deter any serious Web-defacer.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
29,623
Location
Out of Bounds
Some of the 'sabotage' occurs at the inception of articles. I've checked Wikipedia on some select topics for which I can (in all honesty) claim authoritative expertise. I've found a disturbing proportion of the material erroneous, deficient, and / or frankly misleading. In the worst cases, it seemed to me the author(s) induced a measure of personal 'spin' on the subject matter that may be appropriate for a commentary or review but certainly not for an 'encyclopedia'.

As a result, I tend to steer people away from Wikipedia on those topics.

The flaw, of course, lies in the operational model. Democratic access to documenting 'knowledge' in no way guarantees validity for the outcomes. If anything, Wikipedia to date illustrates the opposite.

According to some radical advocates, the Wikipedia model frees knowledge from the exclusive franchise of stuffy scholars. I admit that's a laudable goal.

On the other hand - *some* 'knowledge' is subject to that sort of 'exclusive franchise status' because it's not widely available to begin with or requires considerable study or expertise to apprehend, much less explain. IMHO some portions of Wikipedia - even without subsequent 'sabotage' - constitute misinformation or deception ...

As was the case with the older Open Directory project, I applaud the intentions but shake my head at the results ...
 

Leaferne

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Feb 7, 2004
Messages
2,714
I've changed info on Wiki which I knew to be incorrect, only to have it reverted back to the wrong info shortly thereafter and given all sorts of specious reasons why that should be so. The hell with it.
 

OldTimeRadio

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,521
Here's an experiment - let's pick a hundred Wikipedia topics between us, shared by secure private email or even snail-mail, and check them for accuracy.

This should give us a percentage of accurate versus inaccurate articles. The experiment can be repeated and the results averaged.

My guess is that the main articles on Tycho Brahe and the Luddites will be basically error-free and the main articles on Britanny Spears and Paris Hilton outrageously full of errors.

My own experience is that the overwhelming majority of the at least semi-scholarly Wikipedia articles I've consulted (including those on Paranormal subjects) seem accurate to the best of my knowledge and I have found Wikipedia an invaluable research tool, although it cannot safely be the only one..

There are errors even in my trusted old 11th Edition Britannica.
 

jefflovestone

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Sep 2, 2006
Messages
1,134
Leaferne said:
I've changed info on Wiki which I knew to be incorrect, only to have it reverted back to the wrong info shortly thereafter and given all sorts of specious reasons why that should be so. The hell with it.

I think, despite the intentions of the project, that there is a certain amount of misplaced protectiveness over some of the authorship. For some wikipedians, it's the closest they're going to get to having some kind of academic voice or platform. I can imagine, for some, having their work altered or challenged is similar to having a college lecturer mark and question a paper but having the ability to erase red pen comments and corrections, award yourself 100% and then wave the paper about in front of the rest of the class.

Also, despite the 'democracy' of the site, judging by many of the TALK pages, there is definitely a 'big fish in small pond' mentality and a system of cliques in operation.

That said, for all its failings, I love Wiki and the very idea of it. It's what the Internet should be about.
 

crunchy5

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 24, 2005
Messages
1,756
Whenever a poster uses a wiki link to back up their own argument I always think " you could've written that 10 minutes ago", tbh there are so many good sources of info freely available on the net why use wiki for anything more than fun.
 

ramonmercado

CyberPunk
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
55,200
Location
Eblana
American school bans citing of Wikipedia


The History department of an American school has banned students from citing an online encyclopaedia as one of their research sources. The issue was raised after Neil Waters, a professor of Japanese history at Middlebury College, Vermont, received papers from a number of students all containing the same, incorrect facts relating to the 17th century Shimabara Rebellion. The inaccurate information they cited was discovered to have come from Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia compiled from posts submitted by volunteer authors across the world.

Middlebury’s history department this month notified its students that “Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation, even though it may lead one to a citable source.” and that students could not “point to Wikipedia or any similar source that may appear in the future to escape the consequences of errors.” When questioned on the policy change, Waters commented; “I actually like Wikipedia, and think that it is useful as a starting point for general information, but it is so very convenient that pressed-for-time students may be tempted to use Wikipedia as the end point, not just the beginning, of research. It cannot serve that function.”

This strong reaction by Middlebury College’s history department must surely undermine Wikipedia’s role as a serious research tool and question the value of the site when viewed against established encyclopaedias such as Encyclopaedia Britannica? “Not really.” Says Guillaume Paumier from the website’s press department, “our general disclaimer states that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information contained in Wikipedia. Similar disclaimers are found on the websites of britannica.com and bartleby.com as well, which are professionally reviewed.”

In an response exclusive to History Today, Mr. Paumier confirmed that whilst enabling anyone to add and edit content was inherent to the nature of Wikipedia the site was considering new strategies to improve the reliability of its content “including intensive fact checking” with the objective of producing a print or CD-Rom version in the future.

According to Professor Walters, Wikipedia cannot be deemed a reliable source unless it abandons its policy of open-editing. “But” he went on “without open-editing, Wikipedia would not be Wikipedia.” (February 22nd)

Charlie Cottrell

Wiki
 

Rrose_Selavy

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Jan 6, 2003
Messages
1,634
I very much agree with the above. I like browsing it and looking up as a starting point for info and can lead to good sources as links. The discussion pages need to be factored in. But it's a website and like any other should be treated with caution as a single source.

Part of the problem is that other sites end up citing Wiki's entry so it stifles the first page of a Google search and verification of information as many sites often lazily repeat the same information.
How can we verify if they're all using the same possiibly flawed source?
-
 

Jerry_B

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,038
On several occasions I've had to tell the students that I teach to avoid using wikipedia as a reference source.
 

Kondoru

Antediluvian
Joined
Dec 5, 2003
Messages
9,696
its good fun but not to be taken seriously, not even on petty things.

You should see the hash that has been made of some of the Anime pages.
 

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
19,407
ted_bloody_maul said:
i've definitely noticed that more and more pages contain messages about disputed information on them.

This may not arise from actually incorrect information being posted but from general fact checking. One of the core principles is verifiability and claims have to be backed up by information.

ted_bloody_maul said:
it's pretty obvious such a site will be open to abuse since it's the democratic nature of the site that is it's strongest point but also it's achilles heel. with regards to anything contentious i would only use the site as a starting-point rather than a definitive source.

Yes it should never be used as a source but i can be very useful for finding further information on topics through references and links (hence the need for verifiability - worth noting that if you seem somethig that seem spurious you can tag it and ask for a references using {{fact}} and it is bad form if people remove justified ones. If people can't prove it then it'll get removed. It is a handy way of weeding out the BS if you are just surfing through).

I did read that the survey that said it was good as other paper encyclopedias were flawed as the entries compared were ones in geeky/technical subjects that are most likely to have a lot of knowledgable editors.

There have been some studies that suggest Wikipedia actually slowly degrades as solid entries are crafted and then corrupted by meddlers.

Some of the best entries have some knowledgable folks working on them and Mike Dash is on there adding lots of solid references and keeping a number of entries on the straight and narrow.

The real problems come in contentious areas where editting can turn into wars and murky areas like articles on paedophilia-related subjects that different groups with different agends try and put their own spin on things. Nasty business and best avoided.

The odder things are famous folks who get vandalised all the time for no goo reason. Thomas Edison Nikola Tesla, Houdini, etc. are constantly hammered and most of the edits are vandalism and removing it. I think there is a compulsion amongst teenagers to go all Vicky Pollard when faced with something you can edit and they can't help add in "Davie Thomas likes to like whipped cream from his mum's bum crack!!" although this is usually spotted and stopped.

The more pernicuous ones are when people try and sneak plausible sounding false information in and I'm sure there are false documents in there too.

If people are removing your good faith edits (a good term to use) then read Wiki Truth about some of the BS terms that can be used to bamboozle folks. Basically if you have time and the will you can try and impose yourself on some entries using terms like "notability." The important thing is they have usually pissed people off so if it is an issue raise it on the entries talk page and see if other editors agree with you (if there is a relevant Project covering the entry you can also raise it with them). They usually fold quickly if there isn't really a good reason for what they are doing.
 

ted_bloody_maul

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
May 23, 2003
Messages
4,595
The founder of the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia criticised the Education Secretary yesterday for suggesting that the website could be a good educational tool for children.

Mr Johnson described the internet as “an incredible force for good in education” for teachers and pupils, singling out Wikipedia for praise.

“Wikipedia enables anybody to access information which was once the preserve only of those who could afford the subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica and could spend the time necessary to navigate its maze of indexes and content pages,” he told the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) in Belfast.

But Larry Sanger, who helped to found Wikipedia in 2001, said that the site was “broken beyond repair” and no longer reliable.

Wikipedia is among the top ten most visited sites on the internet, containing more than six million articles contributed only by members of the public. But it has been criticised for being riddled with inaccuracies and nonsense.

Last month it was revealed that a prominent and long-standing Wikipedia contributor had lied about his identity, having claimed to be a tenured university professor, when he was in fact a 24-year-old college drop-out.

Concerned about the website’s integrity, Mr Sanger left Wikipedia, and two weeks ago launched an online encyclopaedia called Citizendium.org, which he said would be monitored and edited by academics and experts as well as accepting public contributions.

He told The Times: “I’m afraid that Mr Johnson does not realise the many problems afflicting Wikipedia, from serious management problems, to an often dysfunctional community, to frequently unreliable content, and to a whole series of scandals. While Wikipedia is still quite useful and an amazing phenomenon, I have come to the view that it is also broken beyond repair.”

Nick Gibb, the Tory schools spokesman, said: “A huge amount of the current curriculum, particularly in history, is devoted to teaching children to be discerning when it comes to information on the internet.

“It appears the Secretary of State is not quite as modern as he needs to be in this information age.”

Mr Johnson also used his speech to call on social networking websites to stop pupils posting inappropriate videos of and abusive comments about their teachers on the internet.

In one case a female teacher’s head was superimposed on to a pornographic photograph.

Mr Johnson said that the online harassment of teachers was causing some to consider leaving the profession. He called on the providers of websites to take firmer action to block or remove offensive school material, in the same way that they have cut pornographic content.

However, Chris Keates, the union’s general secretary, told Mr Johnson that his call was likely to have little impact.

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol ... 637535.ece
 

Rrose_Selavy

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Jan 6, 2003
Messages
1,634
Allan Johnson is another chancer - He'll be mentioning the Artic "Monkees" next......

From last october

One of Wikipedia's founders and closest critics is launching an alternative to the free online encyclopedia this week.

Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia and the site's former editor-in-chief, is launching a rival site called Citizendium. It will include user registration and editorial controls to govern user-submitted articles, unlike the free-for-all submission process that reigns on Wikipedia. With "gentle" controls in place, Sanger said Citizendium will naturally weed out so-called trolls from posting obscenities or biased information.

"Wikipedia is amazing. It has grown in breadth and depth, and the articles are remarkably good given the system that is in place. I merely think that we can do better," Sanger said. "There are a number of problems with the system that can be solved, and by solving those we can end up with an even better massive encyclopedia."

Citizendium is not starting from scratch. It will be a "fork" of the open-source code of Wikipedia, meaning that it will replicate the existing database of articles and then evolve, through user participation, into a new compendium of its own.

According to its FAQ, Citizendium does not aim to harm Wikipedia.

"Are you attempting to shut Wikipedia down? No. That makes up no part of our aim. We wish instead to leverage the fantastic resource that is Wikipedia and use it to create something better," the FAQ states. "Aha! So you are trying to outdo Wikipedia, aren't you? Well, of course. Why else would we be proposing a fork?"

Wikipedia representatives did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Sanger said an invitation-only, pilot version of his soon-to-be-nonprofit site will launch this week, but wider release has yet to be determined.

Since early 2001, when Sanger helped get Wikipedia off the ground with co-founder Jimmy Wales, the service has become one of the most popular research tools on the Web and one of its fastest-growing sites, with more than 2 million articles in 229 languages. In September, Wikipedia attracted more than 33 million unique visitors, up 162 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to research firm Nielsen NetRatings.

But Wikipedia has run into some trouble in its precipitous rise to popularity. Last fall, concerns over the veracity of Wikipedia articles came to a head after it was discovered that the entry on former Robert F. Kennedy aide John Seigenthaler suggested he had been involved in the presidential candidate's assassination. And in August, comedian Stephen Colbert was banned from Wikipedia after he encouraged his television viewers to make whimsical edits to the site's articles.

While Wikipedia has moved to address some of the concerns with new technology, other encyclopedia projects have tried to fill demand for academic information. Digital Universe, for example, launched earlier this year as an expert-controlled encyclopedia project, which was also started with Sanger's help. Its first initiative, called the Encyclopedia of Earth, has 400 articles written and reviewed by volunteer environmental experts from around the world.

Sanger took a leave of absence from Digital Universe to start Citizendium--a combination of "citizen" and "compendium"--and take a different approach to the online encyclopedia. Like Wikipedia, he wants the service to evolve with public participation.

But unlike Wikipedia, Citizendium will have established volunteer editors and "constables," or administrators who enforce community rules. In essence, the service will observe a separation of church and state, with a representative republic, Sanger said.


"These so called constables will play a similar role to administrators in Wikipedia, but they will not be able to make decisions on how articles read. The editors will be responsible for making decisions about content but they will not be able to ban people," he said.

Citizendium is soliciting experts in their fields to post and oversee articles on any given subject. Another difference from Wikipedia is that Citizendium will require that members register with their real name to post to the wiki. That, Sanger said, should also discourage shenanigans.

"The idea is we will be inviting people from around the world to work together under the gentle guidance of experts," he said.
http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6126469.html

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page
 

OldTimeRadio

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,521
Wikipedia

It's hard to accept Wikipedia as being "broken beyond repair" before the necessary repairs have even been attempted.

Here are two:

1. Institute a delay of one to seven days before items or edits appear, during which time they will be vetted by established posters in the respective fields. (Exceptions can be made for breaking news items from trusted posters.)

2. Even more importantly, give the posters of blatantly false information a PERMANENT suspension rather than the current two-day one.
 

Graylien

As if!
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,428
Location
Norwich.
I don't believe you can effectively ban troublemakers from Wikipedia. Even if you make it compulsory for users to log in to Wikipedia before editing a page, it's easy enough to create a new online identity by using a freemail address and a proxy server.

I generally find that the more obscure or scientific the subject, the better written the article is. I expect that's because the more specialist articles tend to be written by a single author, then left alone; whereas more general articles are edited by the world and his dog. Even if all the authors are adding relevant and accurate information, the resulting article usually ends up being rambling and virtually unreadable due to the plethora of different writing styles. And unfortunately, too many of the contributors don't have a clue how to write concise, readable prose.
 

WhistlingJack

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Oct 29, 2003
Messages
3,533
Re: Wikipedia

OldTimeRadio said:
It's hard to accept Wikipedia as being "broken beyond repair" before the necessary repairs have even been attempted.

The battle's already lost, OTR - when an 'encyclopedia' ceases to be trustworthy, it becomes worthless.
 

Rrose_Selavy

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Jan 6, 2003
Messages
1,634
Probably my imagination, but have you noticed how often the "featured article" seems to be from "popular culture" ? - yesterday it was "scooby doo" -
 

JamesWhitehead

Piffle Prospector
Joined
Aug 2, 2001
Messages
14,013
A couple of years back, the Wikipedia model was widely admired and regarded as robust. Now a wave of negative publicity surrounds every mention of it.

Both the initial enthusiasm and subsequent disillusion seem inevitable if the expectations were of a one-stop oracle on everything. Lazy students and lazier journalists treated it that way but for most of us it provided simply a convenient jump-list.

I agree with graylien that the further off the beaten track a topic lies, the more reliable it tends to be. The main areas selected for troll-attack seem to be related to popular culture and politics or biographies of living people.

Those who are now declaring Wikipedia broken beyond repair seem to be rolling out their own logs. In the end, the contributory free-access model of the Web is more self-correcting than the freedom-to-edit model of the Wiki. Though it often seems buried beneath the fat of commercial producer-consumer content, the Web can still be best enjoyed as a dialectical space. Spasms of enthusiam for Web-pages, Wikis, U-tube and Blogs all seem misplaced when it is the diversity of content which matters.

Equal and opposite to that massive expansion of the Available is the numbing effect of that choice on users. Watching youngsters use computers is slightly scary, not because of their mainly mythical skills as hackers and explorers but for precisely the opposite reason. They seldom explore beyond the sponsored links on Google! :(
 

OldTimeRadio

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,521
Re: Wikipedia

WhistlingJack said:
The battle's already lost, OTR - when an 'encyclopedia' ceases to be trustworthy, it becomes worthless.

But that can be said of the entire Internet!

No on-line encyclopaedia is ever going to be either as immutable or as trustworthy as my Eleventh Edition Britannica sitting on the shelf. But they can be made a great deal more dependable than they are now.

I never have used Wikipedia as anything other than a starting point, but I use it as that dozens of times every week.
 

OldTimeRadio

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,521
graylien said:
I don't believe you can effectively ban troublemakers from Wikipedia. Even if you make it compulsory for users to log in to Wikipedia before editing a page, it's easy enough to create a new online identity by using a freemail address and a proxy server.

Forbidding the use of freemail accounts? That's what the FTMBs does and it seems to have done rather well by it.

Plans for a very large Fortean and Paranormal database (with perhaps hundreds of thousands of entries) seem to be in the early discussion/development stages even as we speak, and if we don't solve these imputing problems soon it's going to bother us just as much as it currently does Wikipedia. [We don't want a situation of "I'm a Fortean so I get to mess around with the database."]

Even if all the authors are adding relevant and accurate information, the resulting article usually ends up being rambling and virtually unreadable due to the plethora of different writing styles.

But that's the fault of the editors (or lack thereof), NOT the posters themselves.

And unfortunately, too many of the contributors don't have a clue how to write concise, readable prose.

That's an unavoidable problem, since academic training in Science and Engineering (especially) rarely includes teaching students how to WRITE about what they know.
 

Graylien

As if!
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,428
Location
Norwich.
I don't agree that it's unavoidable. Wikipedia could at least create a style guide for its contributors to encourage them to adopt a simple, concise style of writing. As it is, the guidelines page doesn't even touch on the issue of how to actually write.

Even smaller Wiki's, which are presumably updated far less often, are riddled with bad writing that never seems to be edited. Take this opening paragraph about the Hill abduction from the Red Pill for example:

The Hill incident occurred on the evening of September 19, 1961. While driving home from a vacation in Canada, they claim to have observed a bright point of light in the sky near Groveston, New Hampshire at about 10.15pm. As the object came closer over time, Barney stopped the car to retrieve a revolver from the trunk. Using binoculars, Barney is said to have seen about 10 humanoids peering out of the craft's windows.

It makes sense, but it's clumsy and lacks flow. Why "came closer over time" rather than simply "came closer" or "approached"? Why is Barney "said to have seen" humanoids? Did he not actually claim to have seen them himself? Who is the subject of the second sentence? The article opens talking about "the Hill incident" then suddenly switches to "they claim to have observed". What "they"? And so on, and so on. If you were going to edit the article properly, you'd have to rewrite virtually every sentence. And that isn't even a particularily bad example.

I don't write particularily well myself, but at least I realise that I don't. But the person who wrote the Hill article probably spent ages over it and doesn't even realise that there is anything wrong with it.
 

OldTimeRadio

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
5,521
Graylien, we share a love for the adroit use of the language (and you certainly have nothing to be ashamed of in that regard). But doesn't smoothness of syntax have to play second fiddle to accuracy of information? Articulate word-flow and downright "singing prose" don't count for all that much when that literary skill is used in the conveyence of error.

Though of course we should insist on both art AND accuracy.
 
Top