Feeds

Truth, anonymity and the Wikipedia Way

Why it's broke and how it can be fixed

Security for virtualized datacentres

Is The Register trash?

In his recent piece on Google "Knols," the search giant's answer to Wikipedia, El Reg associate editor Andrew Orlowski points out that Wikipedia articles may be "tightly controlled by a 14-year-old you've never heard of, who has risen to the top of the social backstabbing by seeing off rival 'editors,' by forming cliques and drinking huge amounts of Red Bull."

But that's just one possibility. The point is that if they have enough time and make the right friends, anyone can hijack a Wikipedia article.

Multiple Wikipedia insiders - some who've risen to the very top of the encyclopedia food chain (and we mean the very top) - make it quite clear that rigging the system is terribly easy. Whether you're 14 or 54, you can readily become an administrator or make friends with an administrator. Especially if you have little else to occupy your time.

And once you've done this - once you're in with the in-crowd - you can control an article simply by shouting the loudest.

So, let's say you do it. Let's say you hijack an article simply to push your own agenda. This is potentially a powerful position. After all, Wikipedia is the eighth most visited site on the web. For better or for worse, it's where people get their information.

Then, let's say, someone realizes you're doing this. Let's say they approach the Wikipedia elite with word that you're behind an anonymous account trying to tell the world how to think. Chances are, this rat will be shot on sight. At Wikipedia, attempting to reveal the identity of an anonymous editor is a no-no.

To be fair, one uber-administrator tells us that if someone plays their cards right, there are ways of outing Wikipedia hoaxers. But again, this all boils down to who's with the in-crowd and who's not. If you have the right friends, you have the power. If you don't, your voice isn't heard.

In the wake of the Wikipedia elite banning edits from Judd Bagley's entire Utah neighborhood, the site's Arbitration Committee also considered banning any mention of certain "BADSITES," including Bagley's AntiSocialMedia.net. In the end, the ArbCom took the high road, refusing to lay down such a ban. But part of the committee's decision alluded to Wikipedia's much larger problem - without choosing to actually address it.

"Allowing anonymous editing and forbidding conflict of interest," the committee said, "is an obvious contradiction which necessarily is imperfectly resolved."

Of course, there's an easy way to eliminate this problem. If Wikipedia would simply require editors to identify themselves, so much of this would go way. Yes, there would still be issues. An IP address still provides a certain pseudonymity. But this is certainly a better situation that the one we have now. You'll notice, dear reader, that Google Knols ask that everyone admit to who they are.

Is any of this true? That's for you to decide. The truth, after all, is relative. If you decide The Register is trash, you can safely ignore everything we've said. ®

Business security measures using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.