Equality loses on Wikipedia

Wikipedia is planning to add a feature called “flagged revisions” which will fundamentally alter the basic philosophy of WIkipedia. The plan will effect the articles of now living people and will require trusted voluntary Wikipedia editors to accept changes made to any article. Prior to acceptance the changes will not be visible. The New York Times writes:

The change is part of a growing realization on the part of Wikipedia’s leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.

The original free for all attitude where anyone can change articles – which is still the main boast of Wikipedia – has not been true since the Seigenthaler “scandal” in 2005. After John Seigenthaler was accused in a Wikipedia article of being directly involved in both the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy Wikipedia removed anonymous edits.

But the basic change occurring now is that the simple user cannot change articles (of now living people) which means that the balance of power in the creation of online information on Wikipedia shifts and gives the voluntary editor more power – even in relation to the knowledgeable writer.

Considering the past problems and the ways in which Wikipedia articles are often used for marketing and boastfulness these changes are probably necessary. But at the same time it is sad to see that the power over the online knowledge infrastructure is fundamentally shifting from the users into the hands of the gatekeepers.

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