The recent appearance of false reports on Wikipedia about the deaths of U.S. senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd during the inaugural lunch has started a serious debate on whether or not edits by unknown users should be edited by trusted editors.
Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has proposed that any information submitted by unknown users should first be sent to trustworthy editors for confirmation or ‘Flagged Revisions’ before it is posted for general viewing on the online encyclopedia.
False information could have been prevented from appearing by locking certain articles to prevent edits, or by preventing unknown editors from editing. But, as Cade Metz points out, both these options are contrary to the principles on which Wikipedia is based.
The reason for the debate on the introduction of flagged revisions is that it defeats the whole purpose of Wikipedia, which has so far allowed all users to make changes to articles as they see fit – a principle that has made Wikipedia so popular.
Jimmy Wales says that if flagged revisions had been introduced, such false reports would definitely have been prevented. He claims that during a survey of Wikipedia users, 60% were in favour of this scheme. However he admits that while such an editorial system is already in use for all articles in the German version of Wikipedia, it has resulted in a delay of 3 weeks before publication, which is clearly unacceptable. The delay for the English version should be no more than 1 week and preferably even less as only some of the articles will be edited.
Those in favour of the scheme have applauded the move as being “in the best interests of the project”.
On the other hand, those opposed to this proposal have protested strongly saying that even the false reports had been removed in just 5 minutes, which is very impressive, and hence the flagged revisions that will delay the articles greatly should not be introduced.
DMOZ started off and grew tremendously in popularity on the same principle. Power corrupts, though, and DMOZ was no exception to this and neither will Wikipedia be.
It is very likely that once editors get even greater powers to police and filter content they will start forming cartels and abusing this power to ensure that only the content and opinions that they want will appears on Wikipedia. Reports in the past have already alleged formation of cartels by groups of active editors who almost immediately overwrite changes that go against their thinking.
Users have been asked to suggest other alternatives to this proposal.