CAMERA Letter About Wikipedia in International Herald Tribune

The following letter was published in the May 11, 2008 International Herald Tribune:

The failure of Wikipedia

It’s perhaps inevitable that those seeking to improve Wikipedia’s often-unreliable articles on the Middle East would be targeted for criticism by partisans who might prefer the status quo.

So allegations against the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or Camera, a group that monitors Middle East coverage for factual accuracy, by the pro-Palestinian group Electronic Intifada – and by David Duke, who approvingly published Electronic Intifada’s article on his own Web site – are not surprising.

Nor are they the key issue. What is most important is that the millions of people who visit Wikipedia understand the serious shortcomings of this Web 2.0 phenomenon.

According to Citizendium, a competing online encyclopedia created by the Wikipedia co-founder, Larry Sanger, who was unhappy with the direction that project was heading, Wikipedia is “part anarchy, part mob rule. The people with the most influence in the community are the ones who have the most time on their hands – not necessarily the most knowledgeable – and who manipulate Wikipedia’s eminently gameable system.”

Robert McHenry, a former editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Britannica, described Wikipedia as more of a “game” than an encyclopedia, and the source of “some very, very bad stuff.”

We agree. Wikipedia’s leadership will have to figure out how the experiment can be fixed. Until then, the only hope for improvement is to have more fair-minded people find the time to edit Wikipedia for accuracy and objectivity.

Gilead Ini, Boston Senior research analyst Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

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