Rewriting history on Wikipedia: has Web 2.0 Gone Mad

It’s not because you are a collaborative work enthusiast that you have to agree with everything that is going on in the name of so-called WEB 2.0. A USA Today editorial published on Nov 29th entitled “A false Wikipedia biography” is making our hair stand on end.

Rewriting history
Rewriting history and Seigenthaler’s bio on Wikipedia – Photo by Curtis Palmer – Wikipedia

How come anybody can log in to a system as visible as Wikipedia and fabricate a biography for a living person. Besides, other online encyclopedias have copied this information too.

One may imagine what it would be if someone started to rewrite history in that manner. Historical characters would not be able to rise from the dead in order to correct such mistakes.

In retrospect, this is more than just outrageous. What we are seeing here is the end of a myth around collaboration, it is Web 2.0 gone mad (see previous entry about Nicholas Carr’s latest article against the Web 2.0 craze).

And Web 2.0 gone mad is just like 1984. With people rewriting history as they like. There has to be – eventually – limits to our freedom of speech, and these limits are set by the general interest. Failing to understand this would definitely kill Web 2.0 and the wonderful tools brought by the Internet.

A false Wikipedia ‘biography’

By John Seigenthaler

“John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960’s. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”
— Wikipedia

This is a highly personal story about Internet character assassination. It could be your story.

I have no idea whose sick mind conceived the false, malicious “biography” that appeared under my name for 132 days on Wikipedia, the popular, online, free encyclopedia whose authors are unknown and virtually untraceable. There was more:

“John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984,” Wikipedia said. “He started one of the country’s largest public relations firms shortly thereafter.”

At age 78, I thought I was beyond surprise or hurt at anything negative said about me. I was wrong. One sentence in the biography was true. I was Robert Kennedy’s administrative assistant in the early 1960s. I also was his pallbearer. It was mind-boggling when my son, John Seigenthaler, a journalist with NBC News, phoned later to say he found the same scurrilous text on Reference.com and Answers.com.”

> Read on at USAtoday.com

Yann Gourvennec
Follow me