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4/17/2006
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Wikipedia Protest Site 'A Hoax' - Founder

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says a protest Web site reportedly launched by contributors to the online encyclopedia is a "hoax."

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on Monday claimed that a protest Web site reportedly launched by contributors to the online encyclopedia is a "hoax."

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the site called Wikitruth was launched by a dozen Wikipedia administrators who were unhappy with what they believed to be the gradual deterioration of the site.

"It's a hoax," Wales said of Wikitruth. "There's no evidence at all that there are any Wikipedia administrators associated with it."

Wikitruth claims to be "dedicated to the subject of flaws and issues" related to Wikipedia, a collaborative project in which anyone can submit an article, or change previous submissions. Last month, Wikipedia, which is run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, published its 1 millionth article.

Wikitruth organizers were not immediately available for comment on Monday. Rather than list an email address or phone number, the site suggested contacting them through Wikipedia by logging in and opening a new article or editing an old one, or by visiting a talk page, a meta-page or a meta-discussion page.

"Call out to us with the magic words: 'Tell the Wikitruth,'" the instructions said. "Follow up with what you want us to talk about, and we will be summoned to your page to read your words, your suggestions, your insults and whatever it is that passes for logic today. We'll take it under advisement and get back to you on these pages."

Wales said anyone logging in to Wikipedia could access such postings, not just administrators.

"Somebody might contact you, but that doesn't mean they're administrators," Wales said. "They're just people who know how to use the search tool."

In The Guardian article published late last week, a person claiming to be a Wikipedia administrator who goes by the pseudonym of "Skip" said he and his colleagues were battling Wikipedia's declining quality. The 30-year-old IT professional in Silicon Valley, Calif., also said that some of Wikipedia's most valuable contributors had left in the last year.

Wales denied the allegations and took issue with articles the site said were "carelessly deleted, censored and then cherry picked as to what is encyclopedic enough." The Wikipedia founder said articles are taken down for a number of reasons, including potential libel.

"We delete things that are not good," Wales said. "They're taken down for good reasons."

Wales believed disgruntled people who had their own articles deleted or modified on Wikipedia were behind Wikitruth.

"It's almost certainly people who have been banned by Wikipedia," Wales said.

Wikipedia has been the subject of intense controversy before. In a high-profile case, a serious error in Wikipedia linked a well-known journalist and assistant to Robert F. Kennedy in the early 1960s to the assassinations of Kennedy and his brother President John F. Kennedy. The error was corrected, but inflicted some damage to Wikipedia's credibility. As a result, the site tightened its rules for posting articles.

The collaborative encyclopedia project has also come under fire by Encyclopedia Britannica. An article in the science journal Nature that found Britannica and Wikipedia comparably accurate sparked the angry criticism.

Britannica, which employs 100 staff editors in its Chicago headquarters and works with thousands of contributors and advisers around the world, said "the study was so poorly carried out and its findings so error-laden that it was completely without merit."

At the time, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales acknowledged that the project does not have the same level of accuracy as Britannica in all subjects. The online encyclopedia is particularly strong in science and technology, but weak in many other areas.

Other critics of Wikipedia have included Nicholas Carr, a business writer and former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. In his blog, Carr has said that the open-source encyclopedia on a factual level is "unreliable, and the writing is often appalling."

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