Revenge Edits and the wild west of Wikipedia.
In recent years, many courts have stated that they consider Wikipedia to be inherently unreliable as a credible source of information. In fact, this view is upheld by Circuit and Federal courts which have not only been troubled by this trend but have “expressed concerns about its [Wikipedia] reliability” and have “(warned) against any reliance on it” further stating that Wikipedia is not an authority at this level of discourse”. In fact, Wikipedia’s own disclaimer states, “information on Wikipedia is contributed by anyone who wants to post material, and the expertise of the posters is not taken into consideration.”
Consequently, in an open source, self-regulating community, balancing the need for crowd-sourced content against obsessive edits by anonymous authors may be one of the reasons that organizations and courts across the spectrum have informally and formally adopted polices of not relying on Wikipedia as a reliable source of credible information.
Sadly, News Editors and publishers, who have traditionally taken a more vigilant approach to covering political news, have recently decided to skip the harder work of verifying claims in a rush to publish. Sadly, we see a continuation of this trend as evidenced by a recent CBS local article which claimed that “Wikipedia” Added Mayor James Fouts to a Description Of ‘Shaggy Defense’ Page. Clearly, the editors at CBS drew multiple erroneous concussions, not the least of which is the inaccurate portrayal of Wikipedia as a credible source for a well-respected publication such as CBS Detroit.
The fact is, that skillful Wiki editors can take control of a Wiki page and use it as a tool of Internet abuse, slander, stalking, and flat out harassment. What’s worse, is that the only way for the uninformed reader to understand that a Wikipedia Article has been hijacked for the purposes of so called “revenge edits”, is to go through the ropes of having to understand the murky world of Wikipedia which often recycles the same libelous and slanderous mis-information.
During the late-night hours, an anonymous Wikipedia editor made a series of separate edits to the Wikipedia page for the Mayor of the City of Warren, James R. Fouts, a well-regarded Michigan elected official and the Mayor of the third largest city in Michigan. The anonymous author, with a taste for the libelous and the absurd, quickly inserted links to fake news sites, and fake blogs on multiple pages that discuss Mayor Fouts.
The last onslaught of these “revenge edits” to Wikipedia pages associated with Mayor Fouts had made a big splash in Metro Detroit, particularly, with the most recent edit of the Shaggy Defense Page on Wikipedia. This attempt to rehash the fake recording issues and again distract the residents of Metro Detroit and Warren from the real issues was an obvious act of retaliation. The disturbing outbursts made in various Wikipedia pages cry of rage that relveal a level of high emotion one does not normally associate with civil public discourse, something we sadly see less and less of these days.
The real tragedy here, is that a reputable news source, in this case, CBS Detroit, in a rush to publish another sensational story to maximize its advertising revenues, had done a massive disservice to the community it serves by deciding to forego the standard measure of good reporting, fact finding and source verification.
Those of us who depend on Wikipedia as a source of neutral, accurate information might find some cause for alarm as sadly, anyone can edit Wikipedia, just create an account and start editing!