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See Who Is Whitewashing Wikipedia 478

Posted by Zonk
from the who-isn't-these-days dept.
Decius6i5 writes "Caltech grad student Virgil Griffith has launched a search tool that uncovers whitewashing and other self-interested editing of Wikipedia. Users can generate lists of every edit to Wikipedia which has been made from a particular IP address range. The tool has already uncovered a number of interesting edits, such as one from the corporate offices of Diebold which removed large sections of content critical of their electronic voting machines. A Wired story provides more detail and Threat Level is running a contest to see who can come up with the most interesting Wikipedia spin job."
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See Who Is Whitewashing Wikipedia

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  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:56AM (#20225651)
    Mediawiki has already added the capability to look at the Special:Contributions for an IP range. I'm not sure if it's been enabled yet on EN.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @11:16AM (#20225951)
    Someone at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio apparently considers the place "prestigious [wikipedia.org]". I'd go more with "overpriced".
  • Re:That's ridiculous (Score:3, Informative)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @11:31AM (#20226181)
    All content contains a bias. Knowing that is a good starting point for interpreting the content. This project is fine, as far as it goes. But implying (as you seem to) that somehow Wikipedia wonks are more trustworthy and less biased than other editors is, well, silly.

    I don't buy that. I can say "the Chinese government killed student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989." There is no bias in that statement, its just a fact. Much of Wikipedia conforms to listing of dry facts, and areas that are speculating typically say its speculation, or section or entire articles are marked as "neutrality disputed" or unverified, etc.

    The only reason we can see spin being added or taken away is exactly because the whole editing process is open, and we can all see how minor (or major) tweaks change the tone of an article from dry fact to spin.
  • Re:TFA Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

    by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @11:49AM (#20226445) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I certainly don't want to turn the CIA as an entity into a bunch of nice guys, but

    have you checked out there Factbook? [cia.gov]

    It's arguably one of the best country resources for years, alas with an US slant (i.e. illicit drugs are very mymy in just about every country).

    Nevertheless, it would be a shame if such a resource was to be pulled for "security reasons").

  • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:10PM (#20226685)

    Mediawiki has already added the capability to look at the Special:Contributions for an IP range. I'm not sure if it's been enabled yet on EN.

    If you click on the IP address in an anonymous change in a history, it takes you to a list of that IP address's changes. The URL it takes you to is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions /IP-address [wikipedia.org], where "IP-address" is the dotted-quad form of the IP address.

  • by Pyrroc (1064152) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:10PM (#20226689)
    Cynicism... now if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black...

    You use the word truth as if it were not related to objective, external reality.

    Whose "objective, external reality" are you referring to? Our wonderfully objective media? All of the oh-so objective Slashdotters?

    There is no such thing as an "objective, external reality". All things viewed and/or reported by a human being are subjective.

  • by Chapter80 (926879) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:24PM (#20226887)
    Why don't you ping their web server (Ping resolves the name to an IP address immediately). And do a NSLOOKUP on their mail server (MX record for the domain). Use dnsstuff.com to show the IPs that way. Then you'll get an idea of some of their IP's although they can be offsite, too.

    then do a tracrt to the IP addresses found. Add and subtract one, and see if it tracert's to approximately the same place. You may be able to get a good idea that way of the names and locations with reverse DNS being returned on the tracert. You should be able to compile a good guess at the range(s) that way. Then use the article in question to see if you can find any correlation.

  • by weston (16146) <westonsd @ c a n n c entral.org> on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:46PM (#20227121) Homepage
    Sure, but so are scandal sheets. You don't rely on them for accuracy or reliable information.

    Not a brilliant comparison, since Wikipedia, by and large, is in fact useful for a large number of knowledge domains.

    What if this example, Wikipedia, has a particularly deleterious organizational culture, and an extremely rampant and calcified editorial bias? The problem is not the existence of an organizational culture or editorial bias, but to the degree that it is existent.

    I'm skeptical because the results I see don't suggest this is a crippling problem. I'm familiar with some of the problematic stories about the organization, but the bottom line is that nearly everything I've been in a position to verify has turned out to be defensbile at worst, and usually factual or accurate.
  • Re:That's ridiculous (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:51PM (#20227183)
    The whole point of a community resource like Wikipedia is to allow for multiple points of view, and by implication, multiple biases. As long as that's transparent and understood, it IS a bonus.

    No, I'm pretty sure that Wikipedia, "The Free Encyclopedia", is supposed to be like an Encyclopedia, presenting only the best available information. "Multiple points of view and multiple biases" is just a euphemism for "it's a big mess".

    Furthermore, if I want the best available information, having to sort through a bunch of strangers' "biases" is not the most efficient method. Multiple points of view aren't an advantage until after some good solid editing is applied. Not to mention that one really good, minimally biased writer could achieve the same goal without so much wasted effort, which makes me wonder about the whole Wikipedia model.

    The idea behind Wikipedia was originally that by letting the community control the content of the site, the result would be that best available information would (somehow) become the norm. "The wisdom of the crowd" and all that. That's why there have been accuracy comparisons between Wikipedia and more traditional encyclopedias -- because people are expecting Wikipedia to be the source of the best available information, just like a regular encyclopedia.

    I think what this article shows is that Wikipedia isn't there yet, and that getting there will probably involve moving farther away from the original idea of an encyclopedia which can be edited by anyone. Folks aren't going to want to contribute to articles if their contributions keep getting edited out by motivated zealots. Users aren't going to appreciate articles which change significantly from day to day. Of course, most articles probably aren't controversial enough to have this problem, but it's always the extreme cases which are the real test of any model.

    There are real advantages to the Wikipedia model over the traditional encyclopedia model. The extremely short delay between writing something and having it published for the world to see is probably the major one and (I suspect) the main reason why people contribute at all. "Multiple points of view" in and of itself is not purely an advantage. It has some serious downsides as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @03:58PM (#20229971)
    Good point about Wiki's editors, but don't be surprised at the characterization of the Bible as a "known and proven fraud". Scholars and insiders have known for centuries that not one single word in the "gospel" was written till well after Jesus supposed lifetime, and was codified by another crew of self-interested editors, the Council of Nicea.
  • Re:TFA Interesting (Score:2, Informative)

    by yammosk (861527) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @05:26PM (#20230835)

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer only has one musical episode.
    Hate this do this to you, but it is Slashdot. There were actually two episodes with songs in them. The second was one song in a flashback that did not appear in the original musical episode. So his question of which episode is technically valid. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfless_(Buffy_episo de) [wikipedia.org]
  • For those who are interested, the author of the above comment (MSTCrow5429) has been blocked several times [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia for making personal attacks on other editors.

    His current project appears to be shilling for Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)'s [wikipedia.org] position denying anthropogenic climate change by citing out-of-date and rejected journal articles [wikipedia.org]. By so doing, he appears to be neglecting important Wikipedia policies demanding reliable sources [wikipedia.org] and requiring material be presented from a neutral point of view [wikipedia.org].

    Sour grapes much? While I certainly agree that there are aspects of Wikipedia that deserve both criticism and scrutiny, I am somewhat disinclined to trust the judgement of MSTCrow on this.

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