By William Kinter
(KTRN Exclusive) I have a friend who is a bit of a trickster. He’s the kind of person who will roll down his window while in a car to ask the driver next to him for some Grey Poupon. I’ve seen him do this … multiple times. I have also seen him go up to police officers to tell them their badge is upside down – when in fact, it’s perfectly normal. He has never been arrest once for this, but I won’t tell you about the time he broke into a Jimmy Stewart impression while in court. That little trick sent him to the slammer. True story.
The other day, while doing some research on Noah’s Ark using Wikipedia, my friend decided to try something sneaky. He edited the Wikipedia page with bogus information. Click here to see the page. Under the Mandaeism Literature section, he made one slight change, adding that Noah’s wife, Nuraita, is the daughter of Levit. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it’s wrong. Levit happens to be a character he plays in an on-line video game. Let’s imagine for a moment a student who is doing research on Noah and comes across this little bit of information. How is she to know it’s bogus? It sounds legit, right? While this example is pretty harmless, think of the false information on Wikipedia that isn’t so innocent.
Who writes the original articles on Wikipedia? Why aren’t they credited? And just because they decided to write a page on a specific topic, what gives them the right to be that page’s editor? Do they have a news background? Are they an expert on the topic?
Any way you look at it, Wikipedia is untrustworthy. First, we don’t know who writes and edits the pages. Second, anyone can edit a page like my friend did. Granted, most of the time, it will be caught, but only if you make an obvious change on a popular article. For instance, if we tried to chance something on the Kevin Trudeau Wiki page – adding that he has helped thousands of people get healthy – that addition would be immediately taken down. They would not allow that. I understand that someone needs to edit these pages or it would be a mad house, but what if you try to post information that is legitimate and it’s still taken down? Who is the God of Wikipedia to make these judgment calls? Is there a man behind a curtain pulling the strings?
Imagine if you will, a futuristic world, where all information is now stored on a computer. Books have vanished (along with most of the people due to the radiation poisoning in sector 7). Information is now only digital – books, music, movies, articles, etc. are only available in digital form. Who is the person in charge of making sure the information is accurate and true? Who controls this information? Who profits from it? While this may sound farfetched, it’s pretty close to reality already. Many people now get their books in digital form on the Kindle – meaning the information can be edited at any time. I can see a time when the user, if trying to read that book, is asked to download the “latest version” before he can proceed. Less and less people are using books these days. And more and more people are at risk of being mislead or lied to on a regular basis. This hypothetical futuristic world is already here. Will books vanish? Probably not any time soon. But if it’s up to Wikipedia, libraries will be a thing of the past.
*My friend made his little change on Wikipedia January 10, 2012. Let’s see how long it takes before anyone notices. Shhh, don’t spoil the fun.