Skip to comments.Wikipedia Meets Its Own Climategate
Posted on 12/30/2009 6:31:55 AM PST by Titus-Maximus
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal drawing attention to the rise of "online hostility" and the "degeneration of online civility." He (and coauthor Andrea Weckerle) suggested ways in which we can "prevent the worst among us from silencing the best among us."
I agree with just about everything that they say. But there is one problem that Mr. Wales does not go near. That is the use of Wikipedia itself to inflame the political debate by permitting activists to rewrite the contributions of others. All by itself, that surely is a contributor to online incivility.
The issue that I am particularly thinking about is "climate change" -- or global warming as it was once called (until the globe stopped warming, about a decade ago). Recently the Financial Post in Canada published an article by Lawrence Solomon, with this remarkable headline:
How Wikipedia's green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles.
Solomon draws attention to the online labors of one William M. Connolley, a Green Party activist and software engineer in Britain. Starting in February 2003, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. I continue with a two-paragraph direct quote from Mr. Solomon's article:
[Connolley] rewrote Wikipedia's articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug. 11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band [of climatologist activists]. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world's most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets,
(Excerpt) Read more at spectator.org ...
Wikipedia is a frightening tsunami of false information and every teacher in the country should forbid their students from using it until further discipline is employed.
I saw some of this re-write and the notation that all references to global warming had been changed to “the mainstream accepted scientific view of global warming” and that articles about skepticism were being considered for deletion because of objectional content
wiki could have been a good site- now it is so tainted as to be nonauthoritative
Yes. Whenever I try to argue that Wikipedia pointed out Obama’s Communist upbringing before the election, I am told that anyone can say anything they want on Wiki. Of course, all references to Obama’s Communism have disappeared from Wiki now. Yes. The Left has taken over Wiki. Too bad.
It was theirs from the beginning.....................
“It is an outright propaganda machine of the liberal-left”
Wikipedia is nothing more than biased opinion, some opinions being outright lies. Why use it?
This is a Newsmax article about how left-wing activists are editing Wikipedia articles to smear Free Republic and several Republican politicians.
Wikipedia is a wildly popular online encyclopedia that anyone can edit and in some cases, sabotage with misinformation and libelous or politically slanted content.
Its co-founder, Jimmy Wales, has explicitly stated that he doesn’t make any distinction between the contributions of an Ivy League professor and a bright 16-year-old, as long as the 16-year-old is doing good work.
Whenever a student in the English-speaking world hears the name of an American politician for the first time, he or she is likely to run a Google search on the name. The first, second or third Internet page produced by such a search is often the Wikipedia biography about the public figure.
Wikipedia is one of the most visited sites on the Internet, with over 2 million page views per day. Because Wikipedia articles are mirrored on other sites such as Answer.com, the number of daily hits on articles written by Wikipedia editors is about 2.6 million per day.
Editing decisions are made not by a team of experts in a given subject, but by a consensus of whoever shows up to edit the article. Many have written about the failures inherent in this system.
Knowledge vs. Agenda
Some of the most pithy critiques are from Ikkyu2, a board-certified neurologist and clinical epilepsy specialist whose peer-reviewable work on Wikipedia’s “Epilepsy” article kept getting messed up by others who, to put it kindly, did not share his level of expertise.
There have also been several publicized examples of staff members for Democrats in Congress, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Tom Harkin, Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Marty Meehan, “airbrushing” or spiffing up their bosses’ Wikipedia articles.
Wikipedia traced Capitol Hill IP addresses contributing to their site and found the source of the airbrushing, as well as vandalism of articles about Republicans including Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. Staff members of a few Republicans, including Sen. Norm Coleman, have also done some airbrushing.
Accusations of libel have also peppered Wikipedia’s recent history. A former staffer for Robert F. Kennedy, John Siegenthaler Sr., attacked Wikipedia in print for “false and malicious” content when he learned that for 132 days in 2005, his biography said “he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother Bobby.”
Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller sued a Miami firm, alleging that libelous statements about him that appeared in his Wikipedia biography were posted from a computer at that firm. The statements claimed that he had abused drugs and alcohol, and committed domestic battery.
“Courts have clearly said you have to go after the source of the information,” said Zoeller’s attorney, Scott Sheftall. “The Zoeller family wants to take a stand to put a stop to this. Otherwise, we’re all just victims of the Internet vandals out there. They ought not to be able to act with impunity.”
Who’s Minding the Store?
Wikipedia’s Site management simply doesn’t have the manpower to supervise 1 million editors. But perhaps the worst failings of Wikipedia arise not from its Capitol Hill visitors, its libel-mongering vandals or its editorial policies, but from the people who have risen to positions that grant the power to interpret and enforce those policies.
A scandal involving academic fraud recently brought unwanted notoriety. A 24-year-old community college dropout from Kentucky passed himself off for years as “Essjay,” a lecturing professor with a doctorate in divinity, supporting his claims with quotations from “Catholicism for Dummies.”
This case has been presented by most of the mainstream media as if it is somehow unique. It is neither unique nor surprising, given the leadership at Wikipedia.
“Essjay” was serving on the 13-member Arbitration Committee, which serves as a kind of Wikipedian Supreme Court. Its senior member, 60-year-old Fred Bauder, describes himself as a “retired lawyer” living in Colorado, but the truth is that in 1997 he was officially censured for inappropriate activities.
Aside from Bauder, the average age of an Arbitration Committee member is around 22. The committee, and the 1,000 or so administrators who enforce their rulings, appear to include a disproportionate number of high school and college students.
As a result of Wikipedia’s open-door policy, hordes of political partisans have flocked to the site from such liberal Web sites as MoveOn.org and Daily Kos, and made it their “turf.”
The Left Takes Over
Newcomers who try to put Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” into practice on sensitive political subjects are often shouted down, or baited into committing rules infractions that lead to a lifetime ban.
Wikipedia members from Democratic Underground and MoveOn.org have the power, the numbers and the seniority. They can win any argument about content, either through mob tactics or a well-placed block by a friendly administrator. The rules and policies form an online minefield, and they derive immense satisfaction from baiting newbies into that minefield.
Editors are recruited from Democratic Underground. The author of the recruiting drive, Ben Burch, is the Webmaster of a site whose motto is “Fighting the Rise of the New Fascism.”
Articles about politically delicate subjects such as the war in Iraq, the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys, and Republican politicians and conservative organizations have been turned into hatchet jobs.
Take the case of Republican Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico. Several years ago her husband, Jay Hone, was accused of molesting a teenage boy. Until March 5, the accusation was blared loudly in a boldfaced headline in Rep. Wilson’s Wikipedia biography: “Husband Jay Hone’s hidden file on alleged sexual harassment of male minor.”
But the fact that Hone was thoroughly investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing didn’t make it into the article at all. The biography has now been amended to remove any reference to the charge.
Then there’s Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo. Until March 4, his Wikipedia biography strongly hinted that Tancredo’s congressional office falsely reported a bomb threat during a visit to South Florida, which was scheduled to include a gathering at a local restaurant: “While it was first reported by South Florida media that the congressman had received a bomb threat, Miami Police detectives stated they were not treating it as such, and the [restaurant] denied any such report.”
Eventually it was revealed that the bomb threat was actually reported by the restaurant’s manager, and it was removed from the article.
Early in 2006, Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska was another Republican lawmaker whose Wikipedia biography was vandalized. Terry was falsely accused of domestic violence.
The problems at Wikipedia are many-layered, and yet it thrives as the most popular reference source on the Internet.
Most people accept information that is at their fingertips and don’t take the time to check original sources. Thus the information superhighway offers everyone access to the same often inaccurate and biased information.
I teach at the college level. In the first day of class I inform my students that they cannot use Wikipedia as a reference source for term papers or essays that they are assigned.
I have this policy precisely because Wikipedia is so faulty and so full of false information. Sometimes I use this policy, by the way, as a “teachable moment,” to teach what it means to use reliable sources of information.
The article does not mention that Wikipedia also published completely false biographical information about Lord Monckton, Professor Singer and other knowledgeable critics of the global warming scam in a clear attempt to discredit them with false information because of their accurate criticism.
They still haven’t edited my contribution, about how a foreigner fraudulently got a Hawaiian birth certificate...
See the article on Sun Yat-Sen...
In my college classes, it is stressed over and over that Wikipedia is NOT a valid source.
I have, however, found that the article sources listed at the bottom can sometimes be handy.
Wikipedia was never authoritative and I don’t believe it was ever intended to be. It’s a good place to start, but certainly if that’s where you end your investigation you are going to be less smart than you think you are.
I agree that Wikipedia shouldn’t be used as a reference, but it is a very useful starting point, most of the time.
Nonsense. Wikipedia is a goldmine of information. You simply have to use your judgment about which articles contain fact and which contain opinion. In general, the hard science articles are factually correct, as are the articles related to pop culture. Those articles related to history, social issues, and politics each contain a mixture of fact and opinion. It is the user’s responsibility to sift the fact from the opinion.
The same is true of any source of information. All sources are biased to some degree. In any quest for information, the best one can do is to sample as many sources of data as possible and use one’s judgment to synthesize an opinion from them.
People need to accept Wikipedia for what it is - a fascinating and amazing experiment. Too early to tell if the experiment turns out to be a total failure or something beyond anything anyone ever dreamed of.
Wiki is now soliciting contributions from users, ala PBS. ‘Nuff said.
I wonder if Jimmy ever rewrote the Rachel Marsden article?
This Connolley idiot is like libs everywhere. They have an idea how the world should be whether the world is like their dream or not. Then they try to eliminate anything that would shatter their reality-challenged dream world. Like facts.
You should see what early Encyclopedia Britannica said about the Irish. Clear bias.