Friday, 3 February 2006

Wicked doings at Wikipedia

Wikipedia are investigating some edits made to pages about US congressman Marty Meehan as it appears congressional staff have been airbrushing out information which casts Mr Meehan in a less than flattering light.
An aide for Rep. Meehan made two edits to the article on Meehan's biography. The first was on July 18, 2005 and replaced the article with his official biography, which was biased towards Meehan.
The second edit seems to change a statement made by Meehan that congressmen should sit no more than four terms - possibly because although he made this commitment part of the platform on which he was elected he's now been in the congress for seven terms. This story is also being run on the press wires.

Ignoring for a moment the implications this might have for the veracity of some infomation on Wikipedia I wonder what it says about the percieved power of this online commons? It's clearly important enough to some politicians that their staff will edit out the things they see as problems. Oliver Cromwell famously told anyone commissioned to paint him that it should show "warts and everything" (sometimes quoted as "warts and all"). Few of us are perfect (probably just me in fact) and many of us change our minds about things but the idea that we should go back and hide the problems seems to be a particularly 21st century political disease.

2 careful considerations:

Echo Mouse said...

During and soon after Canada's recent election for a new PM, the Wiki entries for both the former PM and the former ruling Liberal party had all kinds of slurs edited into their write ups. I don't know how Wiki controls it but it was enough of a problem that they locked certain pages down for a while.

I too question the validity of Wiki lately. There was also a write up about our healthcare system which had been written by an American. It was completely wrong and uninformed. I couldn't believe how incorrect it was. I deleted half of it and rewrote it, then sent a complaint to Wiki.

I like Wiki. It's a good idea. But there needs to be better control over there.

Nogbad said...

On balance I think that wikipedia is probably accurate on most things but my natural cynicism kicks in whenever I read anything by or about a politician anyway so I'm no more likely to believe wikipedia than any other source.

I do have a terrible admission though. I created an account so that I could write a page about where I live, having done that I went back a little later to add some more info and realised that I'd not only forgotten my password but also my username! I was stone cold sober on both occasions so I can only think that's the problem :-)