Saturday, February 04, 2006


Apparently Wikipedia faces more acts of vandalism originating from Capitol Hill IP addresses than from anywhere else... Below a bit of the USA representatives' whitewashing (taken over from the Washington Post- you need to sign up first to read it there; you can read the full text also on MSN ):

Last week, Wikipedia temporarily blocked certain Capitol Hill Web addresses from altering any entries in the otherwise wide-open forum. Wikipedia is a vast, growing information database written and maintained solely by volunteers. In December, the database received 4.7 million edits from viewers, of which a relatively small number -- "a couple of thousand," according to founder Jimmy Wales -- constituted vandalism.

As the site becomes one of the most heavily visited spots on the Internet, it's testing the limits of collective smarts and integrity. But when it comes to Washington, where intrigue and passions run high, keeping such a public record is a particular challenge. Not only is there the obvious temptation to tinker with an opponent's bio, there's the whole subjective nature of political truth itself.

When the Wikipedia entry for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) noted that he had criticized the president, for example, someone modified it to say that Reid had "rightfully" criticized the president. Someone also recast the state legislative record of Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), changing a passage reading, "one of her final, failed bills would have made it much more difficult for same-sex parents to see their children in the hospital during an emergency" to the less inflammatory, "Musgrave spent much of her time on social issues, particularly authoring bills to protect children and the traditional definition of marriage, as well as gun owner's rights."

A popular change in recent weeks has been deleting mentions of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) from politicians' profiles. Politically motivated edits aren't just coming from Capitol Hill; some comments are being traced back to other parts of political Washington, including the Justice Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Navy and Marines.

It seems like the kind of thing that must happen all the time on a site where absolutely anybody can weigh in on any topic. But such online behavior is actually the exception at Wikipedia, Wales said.

Wales started the project five years ago and, on the whole, said the experience has strengthened his faith in humanity. With some notable exceptions. "When somebody writes that Senator so-and-so is a [bad word], we figure that's not a legitimate edit," he said.
"The goal is to give people a free encyclopedia to every person in the world, in their own language," Wales said. "Not just in a 'free beer' kind of way, but also in the free speech kind of way."

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