A Wikipedia hoax page survived five years, earned prestigious quality award

“Wikipedia has been a massive success but has always had immense flaws, the greatest one being that nothing it publishes can be trusted. This, you might think, is a pretty big flaw….”

Another embarrassment for Wikipedia was the recent revelation that a hoax page had survived for five years and had won several awards. The ‘Bicholim conflict’ entry was a detailed but fictitious account of a war in Indian Goa that never took place. It was rated as one of Wikipedia’s top pages and received a quality award that only one per cent of all Wikipedia articles achieve.

Also, the page for the Amanda Knox trial has been taken over by a group convinced of her guilt; they edit out references to information critical of her trial, or cast those references in disparaging light.

One major problem is that journalists often go to Wikipedia as their first research stop. Thus Wikipedia shapes the official record.

The author of this article argues Wikipedia must be destroyed. I agree Wikipedia has troubling flaws. But it’s also a great source of free information. And what’s the alternative? Professionally edited journals are also subject to bias and groupthink; just look at the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002 and the way the national news media accepted the Bush Administration’s story uncritically.

I like to think I use Wikipedia intelligently. It’s often my first stop for research. It’s often my last stop too, if I’m just looking up something for casual knowledge. If I’m doing research for professional or other important reasons, I follow the footnotes on Wikipedia to the original sources.

Wikipedia: where truth dies online

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