Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bias and sabotage: Wikipedia's middle name

Bias and sabotage: Wikipedia's middle name

According to a report in the Boston Globe, "teachers and college professors are wondering whether they should allow students to cite Wikipedia as a source in term papers, which they are increasingly doing. Given its inherent nature as a work in progress, some wonder whether Wikipedia can ever be a reliable source of information."

The site is commonly known for its prejudicial misinformation, biased article entries by uneducated individuals, "basic juvenile toilet talk", and for its use as a resource for liberal educational institutes and American high schools, including Camden Central High in Benton County, Tennessee. Interviews with four teachers at Central High (who requested anonymity) revealed that they permit their students to quote freely from the inaccurate materials provided by Wikipedia and that some of their lesson plans are based on the site on a regular basis.

The Boston Globe says that questions have been raised about "an Internet phenomenon that some are acclaiming as the future of information. And the issues plaguing the site run deeper than political spin. Wikipedia touts itself as 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,' and it is exactly that quality that is causing problems."

The Boston Globe says:
"Two months after a highly publicized attack on the Wikipedia profile of a Tennessee newspaper editor -- in which a prankster falsely implicated him in the murders of President John F. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy -- the new disclosures sharpen a nagging question about Wikipedia: Can it stop sabotage and distortion without losing the freedom and openness that made the reference possible?"
"Wikipedia users don't have to give real names or addresses. Anyone with access to a computer can log in and do mischief. Wikipedia's articles are becoming battlegrounds, pitting writers with biased viewpoints and vandals trying to sabotage entries against a volunteer band of 'Wikipedians' who constantly seek to set the record straight. Aside from sabotage, for many people the big question about Wikipedia is accuracy."

"It's absolutely not trusted, from a faculty point of view," said Gregory Fried, chairman of the philosophy department of Suffolk University. "I don't doubt that it has good articles, but I don't know which are good and which are not."

No comments: