Wikipedia Changes Editing Rules

Following two fairly high profile incidents regarding the anonymous editing of articles on the popular open-source online reference tool Wikipedia, the site said that it would make changes to how it operates to prevent future problems.

On November 29, an op-ed piece appeared in USA Today penned by John Seigenthaler, a former aide to Robert Kennedy. Seigenthaler said that for 132 days, the Wikipedia entry under his name falsely accused him of being a suspect in Kennedy's assassination.

Two days later, former MTV VJ and podcasting pioneer Adam Curry was caught anonymously editing people out of an article on the history of podcasting while hyping his own role in the effort.

So far, Curry has publicly refuted such claims, saying he was only trying to ensure the article correctly portrayed the history of podcasting.

The capability of anonymous editing has people like Seigenthaler upset, and he says that it opens the door for malicious or blatantly incorrect information being posted to the service without accountability.

"Wales, in a recent C-SPAN interview with Brian Lamb, insisted that his website is accountable and that his community of thousands of volunteer editors corrects mistakes within minutes," he chided in the op-ed piece. "My experience refutes that."

Furthermore, Wikipedia articles like Seigenthaler's can go unnoticed for long periods of time as they may be less frequently linked to, and thus not often checked for errors by editors like popular articles.

In reponse to such complaints, anonymous authors will no longer be permitted to create new articles on Wikipedia. Instead, users will be required to create accounts in order to do so.

However, the process of changing articles will still be open to anonymous editing, which may disappoint some. While Curry's editing of the podcasting article was eventually traced back, in most cases edits may be practically impossible to trace without some form of registration.

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