Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Wikipedia War

A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News titled “On Wikipedia, someone's adding mayor's troubles to his profile” revealed that the popular Wikipedia website, which allows visitors to edit the content of encyclopedia-like articles, has become a new battleground in the San Jose mayoral race. The public-edit feature, intended to democratize internet content, has instead politicized it as supporters advance the agenda of their candidate on the candidate's online entry. Although the Mercury article focuses on how this phenomenon has affected Mayor Ron Gonzales, who’s entry portrays him in all his indicted glory, it also highlights a definite bias against Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez. Chavez’s Wikipedia entry contains a section entitled “Norcal and Grand Prix Scandals” and alleges that Cindy has some sort of secret alliance (a la Survivor conetestants) with Mayor Gonzales. On the other hand, the Mercury article explains, “Mayoral rival Chuck Reed's entry is more flattering”. His entry has material on every single achievement of his life save the Outstanding Student of the Month Award he received at Woodward Elementary School.

Wikipedia entries may be deleted if they violate the Neutral Point of View policy, which states that all Wikipedia articles must be written representing views fairly and without bias. Proving bias is not a science. Instead of arguing for bias, people discovered that it’s easier to just go in and change it themselves. After the Mercury article was published, Wikipedia users started logging on and the entries began slowly evolving. For example, on the day the article was published, it reported that Chuck Reed’s Wikipedia entry praised the fact that he voted against “several actions which later proved to be far more expensive than expected”. The next day, that sentence was changed to state that Reed voted against “several actions which he thought were too expensive.” Not the boldest of changes, sure, but the editors on staff at Wikipedia would most likely delete something more saucy like “Write in Joe Schmo for Mayor!” And after dozens of similarly small but purposeful changes, the entries are looking quite different than they did on the day of the Mercury article.

The majority of changes occurred on Chavez’s entry. To balance the section on Cindy’s alleged scandals, entire sections have been added on her Sunshine Proposals and Public and Community Service. In addition, some of her high-profile endorsements have been added to the Campaign for Mayor section. In their attempt to “neutralize” the entry, Chavez supporters may have gone too far to the other side, thus prompting a request for deletion from a Reed supporter. The request claims that “Chavez supporters have been vandalizing this page” by adding “enthusiastic propaganda”. In response, the Chavez supporters wrote, “The edits made to this page eliminate some of the obviously biased description of the recent Mayor's race, information clearly intended to portray Ms. Chavez in a negative light.” As a result of the discussion, the man behind the curtain at Wikipedia determined that there is no consensus so that he would default to keep it.

Go see for yourself. Take a look at Chavez’s entry: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Chavez) and Reed’s entry: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Reed). If any part of the entries stands out as opinionated or biased, change it. That’s the beauty of our modern day technology.

“Neutral Point of View: All Wikipedia articles must be written from a neutral point of view, representing views fairly and without bias."

-Governator Jr.


At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm "LittleOne" the person who put the Klan shit on Reed's page and made Cindy seem like a lesbian. I really hope Reed wins.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Governator Jr. said...

That's pretty special.


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