Wikipedia Credibility Under Fire Again

Those looking into the accuracy of Wikipedia following several high-profile cases that showed some may be editing their own entries or intentionally posting false information found even more fodder this week.

An investigation by Rogers Cadenhead of the technology Web log Workbench uncovered that Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, had changed his own biography 18 times. This included edits to remove references to former Wikipedia employee Larry Sanger as a co-founder of the site. He has also made changes to the entry for Bomis, a search engine he helped create.

The search engine had a pornographic past, which included a section called "Bomis' Babes" with links to adult photos. Wales repeatedly attempted to sweep this portion of the sites history under the table, says Cadenhead.

"Though some Wikipedia editors believe that it's always wrong to edit subjects in which you are involved, this idea is clearly not shared by Wales," Cadenhead wrote.

The changes prompted Larry Sanger to post an angry thread to the Wikipedia Talk forum area on Monday.

"I must say I am amused. Having seen edits like this," referring to his name being removed as founder. "It does seem that Jimmy is attempting to rewrite history. But this is a futile process because in our brave new world of transparent activity and maximum communication, the truth will out."

Wales had publicly frowned the practice of editing your own entries, but he apparently had been engaging in the practice himself. In an interview with Wired News, Wales regrets what he did.

"People shouldn't do it, including me," he told the site. "I wish I hadn't done it. It's in poor taste." He did stress that he only made changes to correct factual errors.

In any case, in January, changes are planned that will attempt to keep unscrupulous vandals from improperly editing Wikipedia entries with false information. This will include a watch on articles that could be at a high-risk for vandalism and the barring of edits from newly registered members. Also, edits would be delayed up to ten minutes.

Still, some of Wikipedia's editors are upset that the open source encyclopedia's credibility issues are now not getting any help from the top.

"If the community can't even get the article on Jimbo right, what does that say about other biographies," a Wikipedia user by the name of David Remahl wrote. "This is damaging to [Wikipedia's] credibility as a whole."

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