Wikipedia testing new method to curb false info

ByABC News
August 25, 2009, 9:33 PM

NEW YORK -- Wikipedia said it is testing a new method for curbing false information in its entries as the online encyclopedia seeks a balance between credibility and openness.

While anyone can still edit articles, the site is testing pages that require changes to be approved by an experienced Wikipedia editor before they show up. If the site's users respond well to the test run, the new restrictions will apply to all entries for living people.

The idea is to block the kind of high-profile vandalism that has marred the pages of some famous people.

Still, Wikipedia risks discouraging legitimate editing if restrictions on changes or additions become too burdensome, such that articles won't get better or keep up with events. That may be especially true on more obscure pages with fewer active volunteers to approve edits in a timely way.

Aware of the risks, Wikipedia has set the criteria for "experienced editor" status relatively low. Users who are registered for a few days can give changes the OK, said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site.

A more uniform system for filtering changes on Wikipedia represents something of a step back from the site's original philosophy, which called for harnessing the collective knowledge of volunteer editors without any major restrictions.

But it is not the first time Wikipedia has attached some strings.

The same flagging process, for example, has been imposed on all entries in the German-language Wikipedia for more than a year.

On the English site, too, high-profile pages that are likely to be defaced, such as Michael Jackson's, have been tightly restricted.