Wikipedia Scam

Wikipedia hit by Blackmail Scandal, says the headline.

A money making scam focused on minor celebrities and businesses demands that people pay to have Wikipedia articles about them changed.

Normally, this is process is undertaken on a volunteer basis.
It seems likely that some editors of the giant online encyclopedia have gone rogue and in some cases even become guilty of blackmail. 
Without hard evidence to support this, I dare say a great many of us frequent Wikipedia from time to time, either to research a person, event or company - or to see whether someone has thought us worthy of a Wikipedia page.

(Not that this is necessarily any badge of honour, if you consider some of the obscure and, at times, clearly fanciful or revisionist entries.)

On the whole,  Wikipedia arguably provides a worthwhile service and one which has enriched and enlarged many minds the world over. 
Yet the school is still out on just how accurate Wikipedia is or can hope to be when it is open-source, with pages submitted by whomever chooses to express themselves in this way. 
In response to this, the data megalith will point to its army of mostly volunteer editors worldwide. These are the people charged with keeping Wikipedia contributors as honest as possible in an open source environment.

They ostensibly do this by making sure entries are of sufficient historical or contemporary interest and that they comply with Wikipedia guidelines as to lay out, source attribution and so on. 
Maintaining the highest possible level of accuracy and fairness in terms of content is obviously essential when people's reputations and perhaps even livelihoods are at stake.

So great is our engagement with the digital world that we now tend, by default, to believe what we read in sources like this, even if we have little knowledge of the fact-checking process involved. 
Wikipedia's representation of an individual is therefore important to that individual, for myths so easily morph into facts in the strange but captivating world of bytes and clouds. 

This new scam raises an important question and one which Wikipedia seems at times eager not to address: who judges the judges?

Who keeps editors honest, ensuring that their subjective biases do not affect their judgements on content and, in the end, whether a particular subject or person should be covered at all? 
Clearly, if editors can so ruthlessly abandon Wikipedia's much vaunted voluntary code of ethics in the name of money, who's to say that at least some haven't been doing this all along, for less obvious but no less self-serving reasons? 
Wikipedia needs to let some light shine on its procedure for selecting or recognising and empowering its editors.

If it can't demonstrate that its editors are trustworthy and that they are regularly screened for expressions of bias or self-interest, it will quickly lose the currency that matters most on something as ephemeral as the internet - the trust between user and provider. 

© Copyright with Mal Fletcher

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