Wikipedia\’s policies force mass exodus of new editors



The self-proclaimed \”free encyclopedia that anyone can edit\” could be in violation of the deceptive statements provision set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, according to a recent study published by the journal \”American Behavioral Scientist\”. Three PhD students, led by Aaron Halfaker of the University of Minnesota, released their findings after conducting a four-year study. The study observed the editing activities of 100 random, new Wikipedia editors from 2006 to 2010. The study found that 25 percent of new editors\’ changes to articles were reverted back to their original text in 2010. By comparison, only six percent of new editor updates were reverted in 2006.

Tenure Policy?

Halfaker told tech blog Mashable in December that Wikipedia uses algorithms to systematically revert changes made by newer users. Wikipedia grew exponentially last decade, from a few hundred active editors in 2001 to over 56,000 by 2007. The decline in editors started in 2008, as did the questions asking \”why?\”

A study by S.K. Lam, published in the March 2011 issue of Computer magazine, found that most ethnic groups are underrepresented and have difficulty becoming Wikipedia editors. Only nine percent of all edits are made by female authors, and female-interest articles are typically shorter than male-interest articles, according to Lam. Halfaker said new policies, including automated quality control mechanisms which \”rudely [greet]\” newcomers, were also implemented in 2008. Though the study does not indicate the exact number of editors in Wikipedia\’s \”inner circle,\” these individuals police virtually every article for compliance with set standards deemed \”normal\” and \”socially acceptable.\” For instance, the Wikipedia talk page for American Express contains an anecdotal statement by an editor challenging the date the Black card came into existence. Though the statement remains in the discussion section, no NPOV (neutral point of view) warning exists on the entry\’s main page.

Hypocritical Fundraising Practices

Wikimedia, Wikipedia\’s parent company, set a goal to raise almost $29.5 million in 2012, according to it\’s 2011-12 Annual Plan. The amount doesn\’t raise flags, but the methods in which the company used to reach that number could be deemed hypocritical. Forbes reports that Wikipedia does not accept bitcoin, a commonly-used open-source digital currency, because it deems the money \”artificial\” and not backed by any government entity. But in its own \”internet censorship\” entry, Wikipedia deems 13 countries \”enemies of the internet\” based on a list compiled by the group Reporters Without Borders. Though China, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are on this notorious list, Wikipedia accepts donations in those countries\’ respective currencies.

Bottom Line

Despite all of its new rules and regulations, the Wikipedia article for virtually any subject of significance will pop up within the first five results of a Google search. Harvard University, however, stated unequivocally that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for research because, among other things, misinformation that makes it through the inner circle of editors. The history department at Vermont\’s Middlebury College banned Wikipedia as a source in 2007 after several students used false information retrieved from the site. Wikipedia is more of an oligarchy now when it comes to editors, but remains popular to the casual reader.



Author Bio: Zack Gears