I get tired of people complaining about Wikipedia and saying how inaccurate it is. If a politician or a celebrity is accused of sneaking through an edit in their favour (almost invariably to be found out later) some journalist will make some clever comment about “of course, Wikipedia is full of this sort of thing”. They ignore (or are ignorant of) how much effort Wikipedia put into monitoring edits to the pages of people in the public eye.
Wikipedia have even recently introduced an innovative artificial intelligence system to maliciously or frivolous edits and which flags the abuse up to Wikipedia’s vast team of moderators (see this article).
This is particularly important during the US Presidential Election when candidates pages are attacked pretty much continuously. However, in addition to various technology tools aimed at preventing abuse, Wikipedia has 280 paid employees whose job is “to ensure that the platform provides an open and neutral space for its community” (quotation from James Alexander, manager of Trust & Safety at the Wikimedia Foundation).
Yet still, journalists make throwaway remarks about Wikipedia being useless, corrupt, amateurish etc, etc without really knowing anything about it. For example, on Saturday 12 December in the London Times, Giles Coren, in a semi-humorous article about the proposed ban on Donald Trump entering Britain, he wrote that he would also ban Jimmy Wales who “with the invention of Wrongopedia made people think it was OK not to be educated . . . then by ensuring that everything on it was wrong, he basically killed off knowledge itself”.
I was therefore gratified that the newspaper published a letter from world-renowned historian John Julius Norwich on 14 December rebuking Giles Coren for just such an attack:
Sir, I am — as he knows — an enthusiastic admirer of Giles Coren, but he is badly misinformed about Wikipedia (“Why stop at Trump?”, Dec 12). As a writer of history I resort to it at least a dozen times a day. I could never have written my last two books without it, and I have never caught it out yet, which is more than I can say of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Its range is astonishing: it is almost impossible to find a person, place or subject that it has left uncovered.
I believe that we now have at our elbow a work of reference as useful as any in existence; I can only implore Giles and any others who doubt these words to cast aside their prejudices and try it for themselves. As for me, I can’t believe my luck.
For myself Wikipedia is a resource I use daily and think it is the best and most reliable reference resource on the Internet. I was happy to contribute a small amount to the fund-raising appeal which is popping up on it’s home page during December.