Fake Deaths May Force Changes in Wikipedia

Site considers blocking users from direct edits

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 27, 2009 1:57 AM CST

(Newser) – The greatly exaggerated deaths of Sens. Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy last week on Wikipedia has sparked a push for a radical change in how the site's information is edited, Wired reports. The edits, traditionally open to all users, gave the false impression that both lawmakers had died. Founder Jimmy Wales is calling for "flagged revisions" which would ensure that changes made by unregistered users are first reviewed by editors before they appear on the site.

A final decision has  apparently not yet been reached. A majority of users approve of the change, but the issue remains controversial. Many say the speedy correction of the Byrd and Kennedy entries proves that the existing system works. "It took less than 5 minutes for the vandalism to be removed, and that's  impressive," wrote  one user. "Instead of being proud of your users, you take it as an opportunity to push for flagged revisions."

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, answers a question during a 2007 interview.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, answers a question during a 2007 interview.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, file)
Sen. Robert Byrd  arrives for the inauguration of Barack Obama last week. Byrd's Wikipedia page was changed to inaccurately report that he died after he collapsed at a luncheon that day.
Sen. Robert Byrd arrives for the inauguration of Barack Obama last week. Byrd's Wikipedia page was changed to inaccurately report that he died after he collapsed at a luncheon that day.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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This nonsense would have been 100% prevented by flagged revisions.
- Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

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