Plan to ban Wikipedia edits sparks bitter row
Controversial plans to ban unknown users from editing certain Wikipedia articles has sparked a row among the site’s editors.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales suggested the site should implement a “flagged revisions” scheme on certain articles, after false entries claimed US Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died last week.
The scheme would see revisions made by new or unknown users sent for approval from the site’s trusted editors, before being published on the online encyclopaedia.
The proposals mark a fundamental shift in the site’s philosophy, which allows anyone to make changes to all but a very small proportion of protected articles.
Wales says the new scheme would have prevented the false reports of the senators’ deaths. “This nonsense would have been 100% prevented by Flagged Revisions,” he writes on his Wikipedia user talk page.
“It could also have been prevented by protection or semi-protection, but this is a prime example of why we don’t want to protect or semi-protect articles – this was a breaking news story and we want people to be able to participate (so protection is out) and even to participate in good faith for the first time ever (so semi-protection is out).”
Wales claims a recent poll of the Wikipedia community generated 60% support for the scheme. The German version of Wikipedia has been trialling flagged revisions on every article, although Wales admits this causes huge bureaucracy. “They have an approval delay of three weeks at times, a figure which I regard as unacceptable,” Wales writes.
“Our version should show very minimal delays (less than one week, hopefully a lot less) because we will only be using it on a subset of articles, the boundaries of which can be adjusted over time to manage the backlog.”
Wales’s proposals have provoked a mixed reaction from the Wikipedia editors. “Are you nuts? Jimbo, splash some water in your eyes and read that article again,” says one disgruntled user. “It took less than five minutes for the vandalism to be removed, and that’s damn impressive. Instead of being proud of your users you instead take it as an opportunity to push for flagged revisions.”
“I already declared Wikipedia dead, so I guess I can’t be upset when people start kicking the corpse,” complains another. “But it’s a damn crying shame that Jimbo’s the one wearing hobnailed boots.”
Others back the flagged revisions idea. “As an admin who is only here for about 4,380 of the 8,760 hours there are in a year, and whose watchlist consists of mostly WP:BLP [biographies of living persons] articles, I welcome this move with open arms. If I were not reverting, warning and blocking vandals, I could be creating new content, and just occasionally I am able to do that.”
“Thank you very much, for stepping up, and asking for this to be installed,” writes another supporter. “Even knowing you would take a lot of flak for it, I appreciate you doing what is clearly in the best interests of the project.”
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