Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wikipedia censured?

This morning there was a lot of fuzz on the news because it is assumed that Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau and/or her husband Prince Friso of Orange Nassau have made changes to a page on Wikipedia. But isn't that the basic idea behind a Wiki? Wikipedia itself provides the following definition: "A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it". The philosophy is that because so many people can edit these pages. there will be a sort of self-correction mechanism which eventually will lead to high quality pages. Research has shown that Wikipedia is able to compete with the quality level of a formally published encyclopedia like Encyclopedia Brittanica. Well back to Mabel again, the fuzz is caused because she has changed a page about herself. From a legal point of view there is no hard evidence that she did it herself. The only identification comes from an IP number that relates to the palace she lives in. But is she the only one accessing the internet from there, or are there others too? And what if she did edit the page? If her change is incorrect others will probably re-correct it again (and so it already happened). The thing that worries me in this specific example is that the Dutch royal information service (RVD) wants to make specific pages read-only. What is this?? It's fundamentally against the open source philosophy behind Wikipedia. Who decides what's the truth and what I may read or may not read? The truth according to the RVD or prime minister Balkenende? Or is it because Mabel is controversial, because of her past relationships? Large organisations such as the CIA, the Vatican and the Australian government are also known for making self-serving changes to pages on Wikipedia. Are we at the threshold of a new type of censureship here? What if I would make the change back to Mabels' version? Will I be in the news headlines tomorrow? If you don't want to have pages changed: print a book, put it in 5 layers of plastic wrap, store it in a safe deposit which is guarded next to the royal jewelry in the Tower of London.

1 comment:

Marcel de Leeuwe said...

Hi Stanley,

Thank for sharing your view on this issue. You are so right! Where will this censorship ends? And who defines what is reasonable or not? What is fair or not? Who is right? Although it is hard to have an objective view on your own Wiki lemma (I don't have that kind of luxerious problem) who says she, her friends or anybody else cannot change the information.At least it raise some discussion. About the information, about the method of wikis and more.

So GO Mabel, GO! Liberate the wiki community! Wake them up.