Friends in high places

jerry.jpgAnyone else think that this article is as incredibly ridiculous as I do? “Vatican ‘edited Adams web page'” focuses on a piece of a story reported yesterday about Wikipedia Scanner tracking the IP addresses of those who edit Wikipedia entries (such as the CIA inserting the word “Waahhh!” into the bio of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). Here’s what the article has to say about the Vatican edits:

A new internet tool shows how a Vatican computer was used to edit a web entry about Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, American researchers have claimed.

Wikipedia Scanner developers said they can trace where changes to the popular online encyclopedia have been made.

They said news reports alleging Mr Adams’s fingerprints and handprints were found on a car used during a double murder in 1971 were edited.

Sinn Fein said it was calling for more stringent regulation of the internet.

The Wikipedia page on Gerry Adams says it is “currently protected from editing until August 17, 2007 or until disputes have been resolved”.

The section, titled “Fresh murder question raised” is no longer available through the online encyclopaedia.

Now, what they mean by “edit” is that the reference to the allegation was removed, and the link to the article was taken off the page. Yesterday’s article also alleged that some American politicians have been editing their own Wikipedia bios.

The most important detail of this story is in the last line of the article: “Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that can be created and edited by anyone.”  Perhaps they should have written the article backwards and started from there.  Entries can be created and edited by ANYONE AND EVERYONE.

Really, wouldn’t you edit your own bio if you had one up there?  It’s the fact that this is even a story that bothers me.  Sure, I use Wikipedia to look things up, and the information on there is usually pretty good from what I can tell (they have fact checkers, and when something hasn’t been verified or sourced there is usually a note of it)–but due to its nature as a tool that ANYONE can edit, you have to keep that in mind when you use it as an information source.  I mean, really, where is the scandal here?

I’m not going to comment on the implication here re: the Vatican and Gerry Adams (save for the title of this post, which is obviously in jest…though if I were better at Photoshop you can bet I’d post a picture of the Pope furiously typing away at a computer) because I don’t want to dignify those who might be getting a kick out of it.  I will say, however, that if Sinn Féin really did respond to this by “calling for more stringent regulation of the internet,” then they either do not understand what Wikipedia is…or they are just plain wrong.  Surely that response wasn’t a call for censorship or information control on an open, participatory site?

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