Wikipedia is experimenting with tighter controls on its pages, to stop the posting of inaccurate, untrue or defamatory material.
Software called Flagged Revisions, which has been in use on the German version of Wikipedia and other wikis for more than a year now, is to be introduced on the English-language version soon for a two-month trial.
Wikipedia has been forced to delete some pages recently relating to prominent figures including the late Senator Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson. Because any registered user can update the pages, they have been open to misleading postings from‘vandals’ with an axe to grind. Problems with postings concerning Scientology led to a number of contributors being blacklisted.
Flagged Revisions uses a colour-coding system that tracks an author’s editing and the amount of complaints or objections from other editors. The fewer objections an author gets, the more his or her reputation as a reliable source will grow. The colour orange will highlight the most questionable information. As an edit gets more trustworthy the page will fade from orange to white.
“The idea behind this proposal is to allow regular contributors to systematize a first, basic assessment of all edits by new contributors,” the Wikimedia blog explained. “However, this assessment will be purely for informational purposes to the reader: a reader will see whether or not the version of an article they look at has been patrolled, and if not, whether a prior patrolled version is available.
“Only in a small percentage of cases, we would require changes to be patrolled before becoming the default view for readers.”
The current proposal is for articles that are currently under normal mechanisms of protection (where new and unregistered users cannot edit) to be eligible for the new protection model, which allows for more open editing.
Wikimedia says reports that it is “clamping down” on the open editing system are “nonsense”.