Wikipedia bans unknown creators

A claim by a journalist that Wikipedia, the online dynamic encyclopedia, displays “false and malicious” information has forced the website to change how it operates.

No longer can unknown users create new pages or generate new information, in a move that reverses the site’s unofficial premise; more minds are better than just a few.

Instead, new users must register to create, or have Wikipedia's army of volunteer editors oversee their entries in a bid to reduce the circulation of false or malicious information, according to disclosures obtained by The Guardian.

“Just recently we've instituted changes," said Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder. "The idea is basically to slow down the pace of new page creation."

His comments spring from the protest of US journalist, John Seigenthaler, who last week penned a stinging editorial in USA Today rejecting claims on Wikipedia that he had been involved in political killings.

Mr Seigenthaler, a former assistant to the former US attorney general Robert Kennedy, protested to Mr Wales about his site’s anonymous entry, which seems to have prompted the about-turn in Wikipedia’s function.

"For a brief time, he [Seigenthaler] was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother, Bobby," said the unedited biography. "Nothing was ever proven."

According to Mr Seigenthaler’s own comments, the 78-year-old thought he was beyond surprise at what could be written about him, until he was depicted as a suspected assassin for four months.

Further concern was reportedly voiced over Wikipedia’s use by the former MTV presenter Adam Curry, now a dotcom entrepreneur, who was accused of “vanity editing” an entry.

Since the furore, Mr Wales conceded problems existed with the system, but stressed readers should be more sceptical when assessing the accuracy of the articles: "You should take Wikipedia with a grain of salt," he said. "It's a work in process."

The site, which offers over 850,000 articles in English, warns users some of its articles “may for a while become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint which can take some time - months perhaps - to extricate themselves and regain a better balanced.

“Whilst the overall trend is generally upward, it is important to use Wikipedia carefully if it is intended as a research source, since individual articles will by their nature vary in standard and maturity. There are guidelines and information pages designed to help users and researchers do this effectively.”


9th December 2005

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