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Wikipedia: battleground of the new millennium

US forces, lefties, wiki timewasters in unholy scuffle

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Wikipedia, the famed hive mind reference database written by anyone who feels like having a go, has suffered a few military-related hiccups in recent days.

Firstly, the page on the US Army went through an editing conflict. It normally starts off conventionally enough, with something along the lines of "the United States Army is one of the armed forces of the United States and has primary responsibility for land-based military operations".

But this came to the attention of one of Wikipedia's community researchers, who altered it. It seems fairly likely that the Wikipedian in question was a serving or former US Marine, possibly one who had only recently grasped the use of a keyboard (perhaps untypical in this respect: jarheads have exhibited substantial technical sophistication in the past.)

A mere 13 minutes later, someone added a citation request (screenshot here). Other wikipedians over the next few minutes disagreed over where the citation request should go, but evinced no doubt that some compelling evidence would be found supporting the thesis that the US Army has primary responsibility for sucking butt (El Reg's informant was among this group). Then another seeker after pure web knowledge, possibly also a jarhead, corrected the first researcher's spelling somewhat.

Finally, after nearly an hour, a spoilsport stepped in among the squabbling graffiti artists and changed the page back to something more conventional.

Wikipedia may be a real encyclopaedia, albeit one often covered in schoolboy scribbles, but its instant edit feature seems bound to bring it down in chaos eventually. There is evidently a large online community of people willing to spend immense amounts of time as self-appointed guardians of wiki rectitude, but they could soon be overwhelmed by the those willing to spend even more immense amounts of time using the project as a scatological bulletin board. Whoever wins, it doesn't seem like the most time-efficient way of having an encyclopaedia.

El Reg has recently received another military-related complaint regarding the hive mind database. In this case the beef comes from George Kenney, a self-described "anti war" podcaster, who says he's had all links to his site from Wikipedia deleted as spam by this admin – apparently a USAF master sergeant, though of course one must be wary about Wikipedians' claimed qualifications.

George feels that the Wikipedian sarge has "a right-wing zealot's political axe to grind", largely on the basis of him being in the US military. That seems a little sweeping (at least one radical-leftist ex US special forces master-sergeant springs to mind, and indeed Mr Kenney links to a site where he writes). Nonetheless, it could be George is right and he's the victim of right wing zealotry within Wikipedia.

Or it could be that George Kenney is just another wild-eyed internet zealot himself. His site, otherwise a fairly ordinary green/left-leaning politics one, links directly to 9/11 conspiracy theorists. George describes his links column as "groups, services, and products I like".

El Reg's considered, impartial advice is not to trust anything you read on the internet. ®

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