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Wikipedia Rolls Out Page Controls August 25, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Wikipedia, the site which ostensibly allows anyone to make changes to almost any entry, will launch page controls. In a major revamp to how people contribute to some of its 3m pages, the online encyclopedia will now insist that any changes made to pages about living people and a number of organisations will have to be checked and given the go ahead by an editor.

This marks a major change for the site which is known for allowing anyone to add changes. The changes will be discussed in Buenos Aires this week at the annual Wikimania conference

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The proposal was first outlined by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in January this year and will be rolled out in the coming weeks. It was met by a storm of protests from Wikipedia users who claimed the system had been poorly thought out or would create extra work.

The system has already been in operation on the German version of Wikipedia for more than a year. The two-month trial will be carried out on Wikipedia’s English-language site and means a new user or a user not known to the site will be unable to make any changes to entries without an editor checking the content first.

Whilst the changes are being mulled over, readers will be directed to earlier versions of the article. The system is “essentially a buffer, to reduce the visibility and impact of vandalism on these articles”.

There have been several high-profile edits to Wikipedia pages that have given false or misleading information about a person. In January this year the page of US Senator Robert Byrd falsely reported that he had died.

If a page has a number of controversial edits or is repeatedly vandalised, editors can lock a page, so that it cannot be edited by everyone. For example, following initial reports of the death of Michael Jackson, editors had to lock down two pages to stop speculation about what had caused his death.

The focus is on pages of living people because they have the highest probability of causing harm. The trial may also be extended to organizations.

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