Friday, March 16, 2007

Wikipedia: Kills then resurrects Sinbad the comedian

Wikipedia: Kills then resurrects Sinbad the comedian
By Alex Zaharov-Reutt
Friday, 16 March 2007

In yet another case of Wikipedia vandalism, a user changed the page on Sinbad the comedian who has appeared on several US TV shows to say he’d died of a heart attack - but it wasn’t true!

Wikipedia have had to ‘protect’ the page on Sinbad the comedian after a prankster changed the entry on his page to say that the 50-year old had died of a heart attack on Wednesday, March 14.

An online user and fan of Sinbad had discovered the vandalized entry, and before he or she knew that it was false, had sent an email to friends which was then forwarded around the world, prompting an outpouring of mistaken grief for the popular comedian.

Sinbad, whose real name is David Adkins, has appeared in a range of US TV shows and films, including ‘HouseGuest’ and ‘Jingle all the Way’, and given that he is actually alive and well, will likely appear in many more.

Wikipedia had changed the page back to normal, but users around the world kept changing it back, thinking the information was out of date due to the information they had received in their email.

In the end, Wikipedia had to protect the page to stop the changes from happening, showing both the popularity and power of Wikipedia, both in its ability to inform and, in this case, misinform the world.

It’s yet another sign that just because it’s printed on the Internet, or in Wikipedia, that doesn’t automatically mean that it is true, especially when you are dealing with an encyclopedia that ‘anyone can edit’.

Rigorous fact checking, in the age of Wikipedia, is a requirement and skill that is more important than ever. Despite Wikipedia’s undeniable popularity with Internet users worldwide, these kinds of problems will likely continue to plague Wikipedia for some time to come.

So, believe Wikipedia if you want to, but be aware that despite a great deal of very accurate information on Wikipedia, sometimes the truth can’t be found on Wikipedia. Sometimes, the truth is still out there, somewhere – you just need to know how to find it!

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