Criticism of Wikipedia

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See Wikipedia:Criticisms, Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is not so great, and Wikipedia:Replies to common objections.

Criticism of Wikipedia has increased along with its size. Notable criticisms include that Wikipedia's open nature makes it unauthoritative and unreliable, that it exhibits systemic bias, and that its group dynamics hinder its goals.


[edit] Criticism of the concept

[edit] Usefulness as a reference

Wikipedia should not be used as a primary source for serious research, as discussed in Wikipedia itself.<ref name=wpresearch>Template:Cite web.</ref> The lack of authority, accountability, and peer review have all been sources of criticism. For example, librarian Philip Bradley acknowledged in an October 2004 interview with The Guardian that the concept behind the site was in theory a "lovely idea," but that he would not use it in practice, and that he is "not aware of a single librarian who would. The main problem is the lack of authority. With printed publications, the publishers have to ensure that their data is reliable, as their livelihood depends on it. But with something like this, all that goes out the window."<ref name = "Whoknows?"> Waldman, Simon. "Who knows?", The Guardian, 2004-10-26. Retrieved on 2005-12-30.</ref>

Likewise, Robert McHenry, former editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica said in November 2004: "The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him."<ref> McHenry, Robert. "The Faith-Based Encyclopedia", Tech Central Station, 2004-11-15. Retrieved on 2005-12-30.</ref>

Discover magazine noted in its March 2006 issue that "science entries in Wikipedia, the open-source online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, are nearly as error-free as those in Encyclopædia Britannica, according to a team of expert reviewers." This figure comes from the comparative study performed by science journal Nature a few months prior. The study performed in Nature has not been without criticism. For example, Andrew Orlowski wrote an editorial for The Register which claims "…Nature sent only misleading fragments of some Britannica articles to the reviewers, sent extracts of the children's version and Britannica's 'book of the year' to others, and in one case, simply stitched together bits from different articles and inserted its own material, passing it off as a single Britannica entry."<ref> Orlowski, Andrew. "Nature mag cooked Wikipedia study", The Guardian, 2006-03-26. Retrieved on 2006-07-14.</ref> Nature disputes these claims.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

[edit] Suitability as an encyclopedia

Critics such as McHenry have said that Wikipedia errs in billing itself as an encyclopedia, because that word implies a level of authority and accountability that an openly editable reference work allegedly cannot possess. McHenry argues that "to the ordinary user, the turmoil and uncertainty that may lurk beneath the surface of a Wikipedia article are invisible. He or she arrives at a Wikipedia article via Google, perhaps, and sees that it is part of what claims to be an "encyclopedia". This is a word that carries a powerful connotation of reliability. The typical user doesn't know how conventional encyclopedias achieve reliability, only that they do."<ref> McHenry, Robert. "The Faith-Based Encyclopedia Blinks", TCS Daily, 2005-12-14. Retrieved on 2005-12-30.</ref>

Frequent Wikipedia critic Andrew Orlowski writes:

If what we today know as 'Wikipedia' had started life as something called, let's say — 'Jimbo's Big Bag O'Trivia' — we doubt if it would be the problem it has become. Wikipedia is indeed, as its supporters claim, a phenomenal source of pop culture trivia. Maybe a 'Big Bag O'Trivia' is all Jimbo ever wanted. Maybe not.
For sure a libel is a libel, but the outrage would have been far more muted if the Wikipedia project didn't make such grand claims for itself. The problem with this vanity exercise is one that it's largely created for itself. The public has a firm idea of what an 'encyclopedia' is, and it's a place where information can generally be trusted, or at least slightly more trusted than what a labyrinthine, mysterious bureaucracy can agree upon, and surely more trustworthy than a piece of spontaneous graffiti — and Wikipedia is a king-sized cocktail of the two.

Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade noted in an essay accompanying an online webcomic that a "response [to criticisms of Wikipedia] is: the collaborative nature of the apparatus means that the right data tends to emerge, ultimately, even if there is turmoil temporarily as dichotomous viewpoints violently intersect." However, Holkins is merely restating others' defenses here; in fact, Holkins derides this view as "propos[ing] a kind of quantum encyclopedia, where genuine data both exists and doesn't exist depending on the precise moment I rely upon your discordant fucking mob for my information."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

A number of academics have criticized Wikipedia for its perceived failure as a reliable source. Many Wikipedia editors do not have degrees or other credentials generally recognized in academia. The use of Wikipedia is not accepted in many schools and universities in writing a formal paper. Some educational institutions have blocked Wikipedia in the past while others have limited its use to only a pointer to external sources.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Academic circles have not been entirely dismissive of Wikipedia as a source of information. Wikipedia articles have been referenced in "enhanced perspectives" provided on-line in the journal Science. The first of these perspectives to provide a hyperlink to Wikipedia was "A White Collar Protein Senses Blue Light",<ref>Template:Cite web (subscription access only)</ref> and dozens of enhanced perspectives have provided such links since then. However, these links are offered as background sources for the reader, not as sources used by the writer, and the "enhanced perspectives" are not intended to serve as reference material themselves.

[edit] Anti-elitism as a weakness

Former editor-in-chief of Nupedia, Larry Sanger, stated in an opinion piece in Kuro5hin that "anti-elitism" — active contempt for expertise — was rampant among Wikipedia editors and supporters. He further stated that "[f]ar too much credence and respect [is] accorded to people who in other Internet contexts would be labeled 'trolls'."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

A common Wikipedia maxim is "Out of mediocrity, excellence." Jimmy Wales, the site's founder, admits that wide variations in quality between different articles and topics is not insignificant, but that he considers the average quality to be "pretty good," getting better by the day.

Staff at the Encyclopædia Britannica say it does not feel threatened by Wikipedia. "The premise of Wikipedia is that continuous improvement will lead to perfection; that premise is completely unproven," the reference work's executive editor, Ted Pappas, told The Guardian.<ref>Naughton, John. "Why encyclopaedic row speaks volumes about the old guard", The Guardian, 2005-01-09. Retrieved on 2006-07-15.</ref>

[edit] Systemic bias in coverage

Wikipedia has been accused of systemic bias, a tendency to cover topics in a detail disproportionate to their importance. Even the site's proponents admit to this flaw. In an interview with The Guardian, Dale Hoiberg, the editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica, noted that "people write of things they're interested in, and so many subjects don't get covered; and news events get covered in great detail. In the past, the entry on Hurricane Frances was more than five times the length of that on Chinese art, and the entry on Coronation Street was twice as long as the article on Tony Blair."<ref name = "Whoknows?" /> These specific examples are no longer valid, however, but it is probable that other examples still exist.

[edit] Systemic bias in perspective

A more difficult problem to address is that, even when topics are covered, they are covered from what seems to be a neutral point of view to the current participants only, which may not meet the neutrality standards of the current readership as a whole, or of the potential readership.

There have been numerous efforts to address the difference between neutral point of view and the perspective of new contributors with views typical of some large group of people, but not typical of the average Wikipedia contributor. In response to this issue, a group of Wikipedia contributors on the English Wikipedia have established a WikiProject, WikiProject Countering systemic bias. They have a list of open tasks which detail various areas they have determined need to be resolved.

The concept of a neutral point of view itself has itself been criticized as being misleading, impossible, and sometimes even offensive in its results. Some critics and even some contributors say that a NPOV is an unattainable ideal, although this does not rule out the possibility of a close approximation being reached. Other critics allege that NPOV is arguably in practice "mainstream point of view," with the effect that mainstream points of view are privileged and radical points of view disadvantaged.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Difficulty of fact-checking

Wikipedia contains no formal peer review process for fact-checking, and due to the lack of requiring qualifications to edit any article, the contributors themselves may not be well-versed in the topics they write about. As the cultural commenator Paul Vallely put in, writing in The Independent on the subject of Wikipedia: "Using it is like asking questions of a bloke you met in the pub. He might be a nuclear physicist. Or he might be a fruitcake."<ref>Vallely, Paul. "The Big Question: Do we need a more reliable online encyclopedia than Wikipedia?", The Independent, 2006-10-18. Retrieved on 2006-10-18.</ref>

Since the bulk of Wikipedia's fact-checking involves an internet search (which may find mirrors of Wikipedia, including some which do not clearly acknowledge their nature as such), self-perpetuating errors occur. The amount of fact-checking on any given page is directly related to the number of frequent contributors to the page, with the result that errors on obscure topics may remain for some time. Even in pages with dozens of contributors, a fact erroneously inserted along with dozens of other changes may "slip" into a page and stay. Although such erroneous information may eventually be caught and changed, until that time, the page is displaying misinformation which may well be propagated to many web sites outside of Wikipedia.

This particular criticism is one of Wikipedia's most frequently encountered weaknesses. Sometimes, the subject of a biographical article must fix blatant lies about his own life.<ref>John Siegenthaler. "A false Wikipedia "biography"", USA Today, 2005-11-29.</ref> Stephen Colbert lampooned this drawback of Wikipedia, calling it wikiality. In a typical experiment, an editor inserted mistakes into five Wikipedia articles; they remained unnoticed for up to five days by which time the editor reverted the edits himself.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> A hoax article, created on April Fools' Day 2005, was not deleted until January 2006.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Use of dubious sources

Wikipedia requests that contributors verify the accuracy of information by checking the references cited, which generally come from external sources. Many of these articles often do not include references for statements made, nor do the articles differentiate between true, false, and opinion. Some critics contend that the references have come from dubious sources, such as blog entries. For example, a blog entry may contain several inaccuracies and stereotypes, because many bloggers may have their own self-interests. Critics contend that use of such unsound references give legitimacy to articles, which contain many falsehoods.

Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe wrote: "So of course Wikipedia is popular. Maybe too popular. For it lacks one vital feature of the traditional encyclopedia: accountability. Old-school reference books hire expert scholars to write their articles, and employ skilled editors to check and double-check their work. Wikipedia's articles are written by anyone who fancies himself an expert."<ref>Bray, Hiawatha. "One great source — if you can trust it", The Boston Globe, 2004-07-12. Retrieved on 2005-12-30.</ref>

[edit] Exposure to vandals

In 2005, Wikipedia received a great deal of bad publicity as a result of the John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography controversy, in which a then-unknown vandal created a biographical page on Seigenthaler containing numerous false and defamatory statements; this page went unnoticed for several months until discovered by Victor S. Johnson, Jr., a friend of Seigenthaler. Likewise, numerous other pages have been attacked and defaced by vandals; either with axes to grind against a particular subject (then defamed or unfairly and unencyclopedically criticized in a Wikipedia article); or against Wikipedia itself. There have even been instances of Wikipedia critics injecting false information into Wikipedia in order to "test" the system and demonstrate its alleged unreliability.<ref></ref>

Wikipedia itself acknowledges these issues. "Researching with Wikipedia", a "project page" (that is, part of the Wikipedia site, though not part of the encyclopedia as such), states, "Wikipedia's radical openness means that any given article may be, at any given moment, in a bad state: for example it could be in the middle of a large edit or it could have been recently vandalized. While blatant vandalism is usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, Wikipedia is certainly more subject to subtle vandalism than a typical reference work."<ref name=wpresearch />

Wikipedia has numerous tools available to contributors (and several more available only to administrators) in order to combat vandalism; proponents of the encyclopedia argue that the vast majority of attacks on Wikipedia are detected and reverted within a short time frame (one study by IBM found that most vandalism on Wikipedia is reverted in about 5 minutes<ref>Template:Cite paper</ref>). This is not necessarily the case, though. Vandalism such as page-blanking and the addition of offensive pictures are easily reverted within a couple of minutes. However, more prolific vandalism may be able to stay for longer. For example, a user recently made several extremely racist edits to Martin Luther King Day and the edits were not reverted for nearly 4 hours.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Notwithstanding such assurances, there have been several incidents where defamatory, unsubstantiated, or manifestly untrue claims have persisted in current versions of Wikipedia articles for significant amounts of time, the Seigenthaler incident being the most prominent such incident to date. Supporters of Wikipedia also frequently claim that undetected vandalism mainly is an issue with low-profile articles. Most undetected vandalizing edits are done by registered users, which are often reviewed less often than those by anonymous users.

Scholarly-sounding vandalism isn't easily detected because it is well written and fits the style of the article. If someone added a line saying that a famous person "farts all the time," it might be quickly erased. A scholarly-sounding paragraph about flatulence existed for over a month in a Wikipedia biography:

Never the one to be embarrassed by life's peculiarities, Larry King has often been said to have a bit of a flatulence habit while on air at CNN, which isn't curbed by having guests in the studio. A favorite moment of his, and an often repeated story, involved an interview conducted with former President Jimmy Carter who, after some length of time in studio, chided Larry & asked him to please stop, or he'd have to end the interview. Larry ever present in the moment adeptly steered the conversation to global warming and the effects of bovine emissions on the ozone.

Such edits violate numerous Wikipedia policies, most importantly the policy on verifiability.

Additionally, the issue of vandalism detection is an important one. Most vandalism is detected via "Recent changes", a listing of all recent edits. As such, even obvious vandalism that slips by those who watch for vandalism may remain undetected for several weeks, or even months.

[edit] Exposure to political operatives and advocates

While Wikipedia has a policy requiring articles to have a neutral point of view, it is not immune from attempts by outsiders (or insiders) with an agenda to place a spin on articles. In January 2006 it was revealed that several staffers of members of the U.S. House of Representatives had embarked on a campaign to cleanse their respective bosses' biographies on Wikipedia, as well as inserting negative remarks on political opponents. References to a campaign promise by Martin Meehan to surrender his seat in 2000 were deleted by Meehan's staffers, and a congressional staffer inserted a comment in the article on Bill Frist claiming he is "ineffective". Some of the remarks were well outside the usual bounds of fair comment, such as a claim that Eric Cantor, a congressman from Virginia, "smells of cow dung".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> In an interview, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales remarked that the changes were "not cool".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Numerous other changes were made from an IP address which is assigned to the House of Representatives.

Various individuals and groups that hold different political opinions may also start edit wars aimed at spinning the content of an article. For instance, soon after disgraced former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay died due to a heart attack, several editors to the encyclopedia added content to Lay's Wikipedia biography surmising that the death was in fact a suicide, well in advance of any official determination of cause of death. Such edits were reverted and re-inserted several times; eventually the article reported the cause of death as a heart attack. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that Lay's death was by other than natural causes. The edit history of the article was investigated by the press, and the Washington Post published a column by Frank Ahrens on the subject.<ref>Frank Ahrens. "Death by Wikipedia: The Kenneth Lay Chronicles", 2006-07-09.</ref>

[edit] Privacy concerns

Most privacy concerns refer to cases of government or employer data gathering; or to computer or electronic monitoring; or to trading data between organizations (see the article "Legal Issues in Employee Privacy" by Thamer E. "Chip" Temple III for further discussion). The concern in the case of Wikipedia is the right of a private citizen to remain private; to not move from being a "private citizen" to being a "public figure" in the eyes of the law (see the article "Libel" by David McHam for the legal distinction). It is somewhat of a battle between the right to be anonymous in cyberspace and the right be anonymous in real life (meatspace).

"The Internet has created conflicts between personal privacy, commercial interests and the interests of society at large" warn James Donnelly and Jenifer Haeckl.<ref name=DH>Template:Cite web</ref> Balancing the rights of all concerned as technology alters the social landscape will not be easy. It "is not yet possible to anticipate the path of the common law or governmental regulation" regarding this problem.<ref name=DH />

Daniel Brandt's Wikipedia Watch<ref></ref> states: "Wikipedia is a potential menace to anyone who values privacy. [...] A greater degree of accountability in the Wikipedia structure, as discussed above, would also be the very first step toward resolving the privacy problem."<ref></ref> A particular problem occurs in the case of an individual who is relatively unimportant and for whom there exists a Wikipedia page against their wishes.

In January 2006, a German court ordered the German-language Wikipedia shut down within Germany due to its publication of the full name of Boris Floricic, aka "Tron", a deceased hacker who was formerly with the Chaos Computer Club. More specifically, the court ordered that the URL within the German .de domain ( may no longer redirect to the encyclopedia's servers in Florida at, though since German readers are still able to use the US-based URL directly, there is not really any loss of access on their part. The court order arose out of a lawsuit filed by Floricic's parents, demanding that their son's surname be removed from Wikipedia.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> On February 9, 2006, the injunction against Wikimedia Deutschland was overturned.<ref>Heise Online: "Court overturns temporary restraining order against Wikimedia Deutschland, by Torsten Kleinz, 9 February 2006.</ref> The plaintiffs appealed to the Berlin state court, but were turned down in May 2006.

Other countries may also have privacy laws which come into conflict with Wikipedia's editorial policies, which are heavily dependent on free speech laws in effect in the U.S., and generally permit publication of anything which is verifiable and does not contain an inappropriate point of view.

[edit] Quality concerns

Many critics of Wikipedia – as well as many Wikipedia editors– have observed that the quality of articles varies widely, even when controversial topics are excluded from the discussion. Some articles are excellent by any reasonable measure – authored and edited by persons knowledgeable in the field, containing numerous useful and relevant references, and written in a proper encyclopedic style. However, there are many articles on Wikipedia which are amateurish, unauthoritative, and even incorrect, making it difficult for a reader unfamiliar with the subject matter to know which articles are correct and which are not. In addition, Wikipedia contains many articles which are stubs – articles which provide a brief definition of a term, and little else.

Others have noted that in some areas, such as science, Wikipedia's quality is often excellent. A report by Nature, a highly-regarded scientific journal, finds that "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries".<ref>Jim Giles. "Internet encyclopedias go head to head", Nature, 2005-12-14.</ref> The article detailed a study wherein 42 articles in both encyclopedias were reviewed by experts on the subject matter. Based on the review, the average Wikipedia article contained 4 errors or omissions; the average Britannica article, 3.

Encyclopædia Britannica's initial concerns led to Nature releasing further documentation of its survey method.<ref>"Supplementary information to accompany Nature news article "Internet encyclopedias go head to head"", Nature, 2005-12-22.</ref> Encyclopædia Britannica, in its formal corporate response "Fatally Flawed"<ref name=FF>Template:Cite web</ref> responded that "[t]hat conclusion was false, however, because Nature’s research was invalid. As we demonstrate below, almost everything about the journal’s investigation, from the criteria for identifying inaccuracies to the discrepancy between the article text and its headline, was wrong and misleading." However, Britannica also spun their mistakes:

Article: Mendeleev, Dmitry ["Mendeleyev, Dmitry Ivanovich"]
Reviewer comment: Declaring him the 17th child is either incorrect or misleading. He is the 13th surviving child of 17 total.
Britannica responds: We disagree with the reviewer's implications that there is full agreement that Mendeleev was the 13th surviving child. Our new article makes it clear that scholars are not uniform in their views on whether Mendeleyev was the 13th or 14th surviving child.<ref name=FF />

According to a BBC report,<ref>"Wikipedia study 'fatally flawed'", BBC News, 2006-03-24.</ref> Nature has since rejected the Britannica response.<ref>"Encyclopædia Britannica and Nature: a response", Press release, Nature, 2006-03-23.</ref>

[edit] Threat to traditional publishers

Some observers claim that Wikipedia is undesirable, because it is an economic threat to publishers of traditional encyclopedias, many of whom may be unable to compete with a product which is essentially free. Nicholas Carr writes in the essay The amorality of Web 2.0, speaking of the so-called Web 2.0 as a whole:

Wikipedia might be a pale shadow of the Britannica, but because it's created by amateurs rather than professionals, it's free. And free trumps quality all the time. So what happens to those poor saps who write encyclopedias for a living? They wither and die. The same thing happens when blogs and other free on-line content go up against old-fashioned newspapers and magazines. Of course the mainstream media sees the blogosphere as a competitor. It is a competitor. And, given the economics of the competition, it may well turn out to be a superior competitor. The layoffs we've recently seen at major newspapers may just be the beginning, and those layoffs should be cause not for self-satisfied snickering but for despair. Implicit in the ecstatic visions of Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the amateur. I for one can't imagine anything more frightening.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Others dispute the notion that Wikipedia, or similar efforts, will entirely displace traditional publications. For instance, Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, wrote in Nature that the "wisdom of the crowds" approach of Wikipedia will not displace top scientific journals with their rigorous peer review process. Anderson made an economic argument based on the scarcity of slots in top journals and the large number of papers competing for those slots:

So the rise of the online "peer" has shown that there is another way of tapping collective wisdom. But it's not going to eliminate traditional peer review anytime soon. The reason why can be explained in the economic terms of scarcity and abundance. Closed peer review works best in scarce environments, where many papers fight for a few coveted journal slots. Open peer review works best in an abundant environment of online journals with unlimited space or the post-publication marketplace of opinion across all work.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] "Waffling" prose and "antiquarianism"

Roy Rosenzweig, in a June 2006 essay that combined both praise and criticism of Wikipedia, had several criticisms of its prose and its failure to distinguish the genuinely important from the merely sensational. While acknowledging that Wikipedia is "surprisingly accurate in reporting names, dates, and events in U.S. history" (Rosenzweig's own field of study) and that most of the few factual errors that he found "were small and inconsequential" and that "some errors simply repeat widely held but inaccurate beliefs," many of which are also reflected in Encarta and the Britannica, nonetheless "Good historical writing requires not just factual accuracy but also a command of the scholarly literature, persuasive analysis and interpretations, and clear and engaging prose. By those measures, American National Biography Online easily outdistances Wikipedia."<ref name=Rosenzweig>Template:Cite journal (Center for History and New Media)</ref>

Contrasting Wikipedia's treatment of Abraham Lincoln to that of Civil War historian James McPherson in American National Biography Online, he acknowledges that both are essentially accurate and cover the major episodes in Lincoln's life, but praises "McPherson’s richer contextualization… his artful use of quotations to capture Lincoln’s voice … and … his ability to convey a profound message in a handful of words." By contrast, he cites an example of Wikipedia's prose that he finds "both verbose and dull". Further, he contrasts "the skill and confident judgment of a seasoned historian" displayed by McPherson and others to the "antiquarianism" of Wikipedia (which he compares in this respect to American Heritage magazine), and states that while Wikipedia often provides extensive references, they are not the best ones. Still, he acknowledges that "not all historians write as well as McPherson and [Alan] Brinkley, and some of the better-written Wikipedia entries provide more engaging portraits than some sterile and routine entries in American National Biography Online.<ref name=Rosenzweig/>

Rosenzweig also criticizes the "waffling—encouraged by the npov policy—[that] means that it is hard to discern any overall interpretive stance in Wikipedia history." He cites as an example of this the conclusion of Wikipedia's article on William Clarke Quantrill. While generally praising the article, he nonetheless points to its "waffling" conclusion: "Some historians …remember him as an opportunistic, bloodthirsty outlaw, while others continue to view him as a daring soldier and local folk hero."<ref name=Rosenzweig/>

[edit] Anonymous editing

Wikipedia has been criticized by many for allowing users to edit anonymously, with only their IP address to identify them. This is said to allow the vandals anonymity and makes it difficult to track them, due to the long and hard-to-remember nature of IP addresses. For instance, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger wrote:

Widespread anonymity leads to a distinguishable problem, namely, the attractiveness of the project to people who merely want to cause trouble, or who want to undermine the project, or who want to change it into something that it is avowedly not--in other words, the troll problem.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

However, anonymous editors reveal their IP addresses, which can be used by admins to complain to Internet service providers or to put "range blocks" in place. Admins may also choose not to block because they might exclude regular contributors who share the same IP. Knowledgeable computer users and hackers, though, are easily capable of finding ways around IP blocking. Many have suggested requiring users to register before editing articles, and as of December 6, 2005 only registered users can create pages.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Copyright issues

A significant number of people, including Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales, have commented that many images, and some articles, are copyright violations.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Often images are uploaded and incorrectly tagged as fair use, which is discouraged but not disallowed on the English-language Wikipedia (other language projects each have their own image copyright policy). However, unless an image provides a reasonable justification for fair use, it will usually be deleted within a few weeks. There is also a copyright violations page where violations can be listed, and Wikipedia has their own designated agent<ref>Wikimedia Foundation designated agent. As of 28 August, 2006, that agent is Jimmy Wales.</ref> who can take down content upon request, as required by current United States law (see OCILLA).

[edit] Criticism of the participants

[edit] Flame wars

Some people predict that Wikipedia is going to end up as "just a bunch of flame wars." This concern has been acknowledged by Wikipedia, which has developed a concept of "Wikiquette" in response.

[edit] Fanatics and special interests

Several contributors have complained that editing Wikipedia is very tedious in the case of conflicts and that sufficiently dedicated contributors with idiosyncratic beliefs can push their point of view, because nobody has the time and energy to counteract the bias.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Some contributors have alleged that informal Wikipedia coalitions work regularly to push and to suppress certain points of view. For example, they often allege that certain pages have been taken over by fanatics and special interest groups.<ref>Findings of a mediator — "...that the participants are pro Perl POV pushing is fundamentally true...they actively tend to present material about Perl in the most favorable light...the article has a sympathetic point of view / apologist point of view. Certain types of evidence are given undue weight and other evidence is under-weighted."</ref> These groups often revert the contributions of new contributors. This problem tends to occur most around controversial subjects, and sometimes results in revert wars and pages being locked down. In response, an Arbitration Committee has been formed on the English Wikipedia that deals with the worst offenders — though a conflict resolution strategy is actively encouraged before going to this extent. Also, to stop the continuous reverting of pages, Jimmy Wales introduced a "three revert rule", whereby those users who revert an article more than three times in a 24 hour period may be blocked.

[edit] Censorship

Some argue that criticisms and commentary on certain topics are systematically excluded, deleted or reverted by self-appointed censors, and that even attempts to make compromises or build up articles to include a variety of views are thwarted by uncompromising "vandal-editors" who simply remove or revert unwanted views that don't fit their agenda.

Other users have stated that Wikipedia attempts to suppress criticism of itself, citing the alleged treatment of Wikipedia Review, Wikitruth, and Wikipedia Watch, Internet sites which are highly critical of the encyclopedia, as points in case. The sites have been generally been excluded from being listed as a reference in several Wikipedia articles. Critics charge that these sites are systematically excluded due to their anti-Wikipedia viewpoints. Encyclopedia administrators, on the other hand, have claimed that the websites, Wikipedia Review in particular, fail to meet Wikipedia's standards as a reliable source, and note that many websites and publications which are critical of Wikipedia are included as sources by the encyclopedia.

Wikipedia's policy is to fairly represent all sides of a dispute by not making articles state, imply, or insinuate that only one side is correct; however it can be difficult for this policy to be enforced.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Abuse of power

Some contributors have quit after denouncing what they have described as abuses of power by Administrators and the Arbitration Committee.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Such abuses include ignoring violations by Administrators and conducting Arbitration Committee actions which are in violation of the Wikipedia arbitration policy.

It has also been alleged that there is a cult-like reverence of leader Jimmy Wales. The websites and Wikipedia Watch are among those that level this charge. References to "King Jimbo" and "Prince Danny" are often used in circles critical of Wikipedia, due in part to the fact that Wales and Wikimedia Foundation employee Danny Wool are able to take unilateral action in stripping articles of perceived bias where threats of lawsuits or libel charges are involved.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Although Wikipedia is largely self-governed, Wikipedia leadership also has the ability to make binding policy decisions, even with little support among contributors for these changes. This creates a potential for alienation of contributors, although to date such changes have not invited great controversy.

[edit] Level of debate

The standard of debate has also been called into question by persons who have noted that contributors can make a long list of salient points and pull in a wide range of empirical observations to back up their arguments, only to have them ignored completely on the site.<ref>Arthur, Charles. "Log on and join in, but beware the web cults", 2005-12-15. Retrieved on 2006-07-14.</ref> Also, attempts to develop "standards" for articles pertaining to similar topics, or layouts of articles, can often become mired in a debate that goes round and round about who prefers what layout, with no end consensus being possible. An example of this is the endless debate as to whether all of the English Wikipedia should use British or American English exclusively. Due to the open-source nature of the Wikipedia project, it becomes impossible to establish and maintain standard article models and styles. Hence, editorial choices can often become the sole purview of person who have the most time to contribute to Wikipedia, whether or not their preferred style is accepted outside of Wikipedia.

[edit] Recent media discussions

[edit] New Yorker article

In July of 2006, The New Yorker featured a thorough critique and review of Wikipedia. The article included expert's criticisms of Wikipedia and the idea of an open edit encyclopedia. It detailed various problems with the encyclopedia, including the apparent anti-elitism and vandalism. Several experts, including the president of Encyclopædia Britannica, Jorge Cauz, and the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, weighed in on the problems and the future of Wikipedia. Cauz stated that Wikipedia had "decline(d) into a hulking, mediocre mass of uneven, unreliable, and, many times, unreadable articles" and that "Wikipedia is to Britannica as American Idol is to the Juilliard School".<ref>Schiff, Stacy. "Know It All", The New Yorker, 2006-07-31.</ref>

Wales countered by stating that he would be more intimidated by Britannica if he didn't think that "they will be crushed out of existence within five years."

[edit] Wall Street Journal debate

In the 2006-09-12 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales debated with Dale Hoiberg, editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Britannica.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Hoiberg focused on a need for expertise and control in an encyclopedia and cited Lewis Mumford that overwhelming information could “bring about a state of intellectual enervation and depletion hardly to be distinguished from massive ignorance.”

Wales emphasized Wikipedia's differences and that openness and transparency lead to quality. In response to Hoiberg's claim that he “had neither the time nor space to respond to [criticisms]” and “could corral any number of links to articles alleging errors in Wikipedia”, Wales wrote: “No problem! Wikipedia to the rescue with a fine article” and included a link to this article.

[edit] Parodies

Several parodies of Wikipedia appeared in 2006, calling attention to factual inaccuracies that may appear in Wikipedia due to sloppy or biased editors and/or vandalism. One appeared in The Onion and was entitled "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence". Another was a skit on The Colbert Report, entitled "All Hail Wikiality!".<ref>Caroline McCarthy. "Colbert speaks, America follows: All Hail Wikiality!", c-net, 2006-08-01.</ref> The skit by Stephen Colbert provoked a wave of vandalism of Wikipedia.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Mad magazine has also spoofed Wikipedia several times in a section of "short takes" on topics of current interest, and a number of comic strips, comic books, and webcomics have made mention of it, usually in a satiric vein. In addition, Uncyclopedia is a parody of Wikipedia.

[edit] Notes


[edit] See also

In Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2005-10-31/Guardian rates articles.

[edit] External links

[edit] Dated links

This article incorporates text from the GFDL Wikipedia article Wikipedia:Replies to commonédia:Critiques de Wikipédia ru:Википедия:Критика Википедии zh:對維基百科的批評

Criticism of Wikipedia

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