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Polanski Wiki Page in Edit War September 29, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media.

Roman Polanski is in the news these days more for his sex crime than for his artistic accomplishments. The Web is so abuzz with The Affaire Polanski that a Wikipedia page devoted to the filmmaker has been locked due to a tug-of-war between editors convinced it should stress his film career and those who think his sex crime should define his life.

Let me weigh in on the ruckus here first. I say, give the old man all the accolades he deserves for his art, but make him serve time for his crime. No artist however big-time, should be able to use his cash and connections to live a charmed life and enjoy immunity from transgressions for which the less accomplished (and the rest of us) would be condemned.

The 76-year-old Polish-French film maker was arrested on decades-old charges of having sex with an underaged girl after he flew in to Zurich to collect a lifetime achievement award. He left the US in 1978 before he could be sentenced and has not returned to the country since.

Wikipedia administrators blocked the filmmaker’s Wikipedia page from being changed after an ‘edit war’ broke out following the news of the arrest.

Polanski’s Wikipedia page
has a note at the top alerting users, “This page is currently protected from editing until September 28, 2009 or until disputes have been resolved.” Increasing the protection level of an entry means that only Wikipedia administrators can make edits to the page.


Discussion on the free encyclopedia’s forum indicates that there was disagreement about whether Polanski’s sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl should be given more prominence than his professional achievements.


A Wikipedia editor wrote in a forum that the fact Polanski is a rapist ought to be the first thing the reader sees in the article. Another argued Polanski is notable for his films and without those accomplishments he would not make news.

One contributor said Wikipedia breached its commitment to neutrality by describing Polanski only as a “Polish-French film director, producer, writer and actor” in the entry, because “he’s just as well known as a child molester as he’s known as a writer.”

After one contributor deleted a reference to the initial charges, another tried to get them reinstated, writing: “I’m very concerned by the attempt to remove this information from the article. After all, this is what the whole case is about.”

In the past, WIkipedia has locked other controversial entries from being edited because of the disputes over their content. In May this year, members of the Church of Scientology were banned from editing articles about their church. Wikipedia has also been used by Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups to push their attempts to correct historical “errors.”

Wikipedia has acted to improve the accuracy of its articles in recent years, after criticism that its commitment to collaborative editing can produce unreliable and biased entries. It frequently increases the “protection” level of controversial entries of people involved in running news stories.



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