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8/26/2009
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Wikipedia Tightens Editing Policy

The online encyclopedia is implementing a review policy for new users to improve accuracy and prevent vandalism on high-profile articles.

Wikipedia has tightened its editing policy to improve accuracy and prevent vandalism on the user-written online encyclopedia.

The changes were discussed Wednesday on the site's blog, following reports on the Web that the site was "clamping down" on its open-editing process, which allows anyone to contribute articles or revise information on existing articles.

Under the new policy, which applies to the English version of the site, articles edited by new contributors will be reviewed by regular contributors, whose comments on the revisions will be posted with the article. Readers will have the option of seeing the article before the changes were made.

In a "small percentage of cases," edited articles will have to be reviewed before they are posted, Wikipedia said. The rule will apply to articles at high risk of vandalism, such as biographies of controversial living people. In those cases, "false information can do the most serious harm to an individual," Erik Moeller, deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in the blog.

The latter change is what sparked reports that Wikipedia was moving further away from its origins as a source of information generated solely by anyone who wants to contribute to the site. However, Moeller said the new rules are an improvement over the previous policy of not allowing new contributors or unregistered users to make any changes to high-risk articles. One example is the article about President Obama.

"It's a very thoughtful proposal that attempts to balance the desire for higher quality, and more systematic assessment thereof, with the immediacy of Wikipedia as it exists today, and was supported by a large majority of interested Wikipedia editors," Moeller said.

More conservative review policies are in place in other versions of Wikipedia. For example, any edit on German Wikipedia by a new or unregistered user must be reviewed before it is visible to readers.

"This is definitely not the case in the proposed English Wikipedia configuration," Moeller said. "We believe in letting our communities experiment with different approaches in an attempt to find the right balance."

The latest changes are expected to be fully implemented within two to three months, following testing.

Wikipedia is no stranger to controversy stemming from articles. Last year Lutz Heilmann, a German member of parliament, sued the site, claiming portions of the entry about him were slanderous. Heilmann eventually dropped the suit, and changes to the article were made.

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia, which is supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, has made changes over the years to its editing policies to improve accuracy and prevent vandalism.


InformationWeek Analytics has published an analysis of the current state of identity management. Download the report here (registration required).

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