Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From Lockerbie to the wiki

No one in their right mind believes the Libyans did Lockerbie. Now the man unjustly imprisoned for it may be released.

This is a "conspiracy theory" that has more solid grounding than the official story. It's not clear which conspiracy actually resulted in the bombing but the evidence has never been there to convict Megrahi. Plenty of people with axes to grind have not let that stop them from insisting it has been, to the point at which a cynical Libya was willing to indicate that it was responsible to get off the sanctions hook.

Among those pushing the story hard, and trying to suppress alternative explanations for the bombing, are the editors of Wikipedia. One reason, among several, that I don't bother with the wiki is that it has an influence out of proportion to its merit, and that influence can be controlled by relatively few, determined people. If those people care about the truth, well, that's not so bad, but if -- and it's usually the case -- they only care about having their own view of what is true presented, that's a dangerous thing.

The other day, Zenella was looking up "ant" and she stumbled across the Wikipedia page. I don't doubt that the "ant" page is reasonable, but what if one day she googles "Lockerbie"? The wiki page will come high in the results. I know that the page is slanted, and I know how it was achieved (I've worked on the page even, myself, although I didn't contribute much in the way of content).

I know, and doubtless anyone reading this knows, that believing what you read on the interwebnet is foolish, but children do not know that. Part of the wikiculture demanded of contributors is that they should assume that long-term contributors are working on the encyclopaedia in good faith. But what if they aren't? You are not permitted to ask that. I think you should be, given the breadth of Wikipedia's aims, and the success it has had in achieving them.


Post a Comment

<< Home