Wikipedia has recently announced that they will be using expert editors on entries for living people. The general public will no longer be able to change an entry and see it posted immediately. From now on, an expert editor will have to approve the changes before they go live.
This is designed to avoid some of the problems Wikipedia entries have had due to “vandalism,” where false information is placed in an entry. Living people, who face personal repercussions from this type of vandalism, are the first to have their entries monitored this way.
While this change affects only Wikipedia, it does highlight some important questions about the internet and collaborative media:
- Who is the author? Do they have to identify themselves?
- Does the author face any repercussions if they post something that is false, misleading, stolen, etc.?
- Who gains if there is false information provided? Or if the appropriate context is missing?
In many ways the internet is the “wild west” of the information age. There are very few gatekeepers to make sure that you are getting what you think you are. Wikipedia, which started as a free-for-all, is now putting gatekeepers in place.
But much of the internet is still strictly caveat lector: reader beware!