Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia to which anyone can make contributions, will soon be introducing restrictions on editing information about living people.
The encyclopaedia, better known for allowing users to edit and contribute to articles, would be bringing in the restrictions only for bios of living people, which are at high risk of being vandalised.
“This (restrictions) is a two-month trial. It will probably be in place in the next few weeks — we are doing final testing now,” a Wikipedia spokesperson told PTI.
As per the plan, a set of experienced users of Wikipedia would have to approve the changes made to the bios of living people before a casual reader can see it on the site. These would be termed as “flagged revisions.”
According to the official, the restrictions would not be applied on all living bios but only on the ones which could be targets of vandalism.
“Anything in a living bio that is dubious, needs a good source and evidence of relevance, or it can be summarily removed,” the spokesperson noted.
Currently, Wikipedia, which has over three million articles, keeps away from “abusive or libellous information” in a living bio by locking it — whereby the user would not be able to make any changes.
About 1,000 out of 4,00,000 living bios including that of U.S. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush are locked at any time, the official said.
“With ‘flagged revisions’, a version can be flagged as ’good’ and will be visible to casual readers. Editors can still edit the live version.
“So, we have the visible result of locking the page, but now, we will be able to improve the article as well,” the spokesperson noted.
Regarding people who would be approving the versions, the official said that in the beginning there would be 1,500 of them.
“There will be about 1,500 people who can approve versions at the start, we expect to add lots more fairly quickly. Keeping the time for approval, short, is very important,” the spokesperson added.
About the idea of “flagged revisions”, Wikipedia in a recent posting on the site said only a small percentage of cases would require changes to be patrolled before becoming the default view for readers.
“The proposal is to do so initially in the case of articles at high risk of vandalism, including high risk biographies of living people, where false information can do the most serious harm to an individual,” according to the posting.
The “flagged revisions” are already in place for the German language Wikipedia for more than a year now