MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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And in this corner, Wikipedia…

scienceA few weeks ago an online controversy was brought attention to on the blog I have been following, Net Effects. Well this week, Evgeny Morozov is blogging again about the Wikipedia vs Scientology scandal.

In case you have yet to hear, Wikipedia is taking a stance on their opinion on Scientology and are banning any IP addresses associated with the Church of Scientology editing any Scientology-based articles. Yikes. As Morozov says “Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone can edit but scientologists”. Soon mainstream media jumped on the scandal story.

This week, Morozov follows up the coverage with some points to ponder.

1) The Church of Scientology is a large institution and has lots of money to spend on defending the Scientology name. PR companies representing Scientology would be able to think of other ways around IP addresses associated with them. The added interest raised in the media will bring more traffic to the Wiki page, making Scientologists more apt to find ways around the ban to have control over the pages content.

2) The Wikipedia editing war between Wikipedia and Scientologists is not the first of its kind. But it raises an issue about how controversy articles on Wikipedia are being updated. To eliminate these petty editing wars, Morozov recommends that Wikipedia invest in better tools that will distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate updates. Although this tool exists in WikiTrust, many times Wiki Admin and other editors get boggled down in petty editing wars. As Wikipedia is an important project, Morozov suggests that the editors and Wiki employees spend their valuable resources on more important issues just as approving new articles rather than spending hours on smaller controversies.

Wow! So this raises so many issues, eh? Does Wikipedia have the right to ban an organization for not agreeing with their beliefs? Is this getting into free speech issues?

What do you think?




June 7, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


  1. I agree – this story does raise a lot of issues. I followed your link to the recent LA Times article about this online feud and found an interesting quote:

    “Wikipedia has more power over speech than many governments. We have to make sure that they’re being reasonable.” (Tim Wu, a professor of Internet law at Columbia Law School and the chairman of Free Press, a media reform group.)

    I think this will definitely have implications for us as communicators. As we navigate the online world on behalf of our employers, we will have to ask the same questions. Is our information being filtered by the online gatekeepers? And if so, are they being reasonable?

    Comment by sarahjanemac | June 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. This post and Sarah’s comment raise very interesting questions about online gate keeping and the flow of information. I think that this is so shocking because people expect so much transparency from Wikipedia, but this instance pretty much proves that it is no better, or different, than traditional encyclopedias.

    Back in the day encyclopedias offered ‘expert’ knowledge on a variety of things, but groups of people who (from a Eurocentric perspective) were not considered experts, really had no control over how information (even information related to them) was published.

    Today, Wikipedia offers that ability for everyone to be somewhat of an expert and offer their perspectives on anything. The issue with Wikipedia banning Scientologists from updating or adding to their sites, for me, seems to be a huge step backwards in our ‘wiki freedom.’

    How much further will this go? Will they continue to ban things that Wiki execs don’t agree with?

    On the flip side what about hate groups, cults etc… where do you draw the line on what can be posted and who can edit and add to these types of articles?

    Comment by beewilly | June 8, 2009 | Reply

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