Spotting disinformation (and the misinformed) from Internet and media sources gets easier once you know the hallmarks. A (proposed) fact becomes suspect to me when instead of using arguments from logic and objective reasoning, the proponent of the fact uses against his/her opponent (1) ridicule, (2) association of the individual to a disfavored group or label, and/or (3) an ad hominem attack. For example,
- You must be an idiot to believe that.
- Oh, I get it, you’re a conspiracy nut.
- Didn’t you fail out of your college engineering program?
None of these claims, whether true or false, gets you any closer to resolving the question at hand, i.e., is the proposed fact true or false? Those who are holding an inaccurate or biased position tend to avoid rational thought and calm productive discourse.
Wikipedia Edited By Intelligence Agencies, Corporations
I read a claim touting the accuracy and reliability of Wikipedia, which said in favor of the author’s position, something to the effect of “Wikipedia is not revisionist history, evil, related to SPECTRE, or used to take over the whole world,” which couches one very reasonable position (whether history is being revised post facto) along with three somewhat ridiculous claims. The implication is that any position in opposition is outrageous and worthy of mocking. To his credit, he citems a study (a way outdated and poorly conceived study, but still, he tried).
I left a comment but it’s been held in moderation, so I’ve decided to post it here where, again, I have a little more legroom. The comment references a news-story reported and published by the BBC which can be found here. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6947532.stm. My comment follows:
“I think there’s more to the concern regarding Wikipedia’s accuracy than the Brittanica study addresses.
While the mere susceptibility of manipulation of Wikipedia entries do not raise a further concern for the accuracy, it did suggest the potential for abuse. The BBC did a story about a bot catching computers traced back to the CIA. [meaning the potential has already been realized.]
‘Wikipedia Scanner allegedly shows that workers on the agency’s computers made edits to the page of Iran’s President. …’ A CIA spokesperson contacted by the BBC did not deny it, rather declined to confirm anything. The CIA spokesperson then redirects the question of whether the CIA is tasked to protect the country (this is irrelevant to the conversation) The site also indicates that Vatican computers were used to remove content from a page about the leader of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams.
Wikipedia Scanner also points the finger at commercial organisations that have modified entries about the pages.”
Now, the Britannica study compared the two encyclopedias for major errors, but did not have a mechanism to determine what facts omitted would constitute an error.
In Mike Woods’ article for the Business Insider, “I Get Paid To Edit Wikipedia For Leading Companies,” he discloses,
“As for me, I have made money from Wikipedia and will continue to do so as long as the community continues to create the environment for it. With each article that is deleted by the community, there is another client looking to pay me to get the article back up.
For every article that is tagged, there is a marketing company contacting me to re-write the article and remove the tag. For every person who tries to find my account and block it, there are ten emails that I am responding to, giving quotes to write their article. No one can make money from Wikipedia?”
Medical Decisions Based on Wikipedia?!
If that doesn’t give you pause about the supposed democratic nature of the online encyclopedia, a story from The Atlantic less than a year ago will.
“On January 11, 2013, James Heilman, an emergency-room physician and one of Wikipedia’s most prolific medical editors, was standing watch over the online encyclopedia’s entry for a back procedure called a kyphoplasty. The page originally suggested that the procedure’s effectiveness was “controversial,” and an unidentified Wikipedia user had proposed changing the text to “well documented and studied”—a characterization that Heilman thought wasn’t supported by existing research. He rejected the change. . . .
Some are concerned about the money being spent on a procedure that’s controversial and sometimes risky. “To my mind, [kyphoplasty] is an unproven modality and based upon current evidence would have to say it works as well as vertebroplasty, which is to say likely to work as well as a placebo,” says Rachelle Buchbinder, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Australia’s Monash University, as well as a co-author of a recent vertebroplasty review published by the Cochrane Collaboration, a network of independent researchers. She notes that in Australia, where she lives, public funding for the procedures was withdrawn after the two 2009 studies were published. “From my perspective there is no longer any dispute,” she says.
. . .
“If I go to Google, and I put in ‘percutaneous vertebroplasty,’ the first page that comes up is Wikipedia.” Is it really a concern that some high-level decision maker at Medicare or a hospital system might be making billion-dollar decisions based on information from Wikipedia? “Yes,” Heilman insisted. “Definitely.” Indeed, Schelble at one point complained in an email to Heilman, “This site and the content on here is scaring prospective patients and insurance companies are not wanting to cover these procedures.”
Now let’s take a look at revisionist history actually occurring…
“One in particular is Diebold, a company which supplies electronic voting machines in the US.
In October 2005, a person using a Diebold computer remoted paragraphs about Walden O’Dell, chief executive of the company, which revealed that he had been “a top fund-raiser” for George Bush.
A month later, other paragraphs and links to stories about the alleged rigging of the 2000 election were also removed.
The paragraphs and links have since been reinstated.
Diebold officials have not responded to requests by the BBC for information about the changes.”
Money corrupts, and it has corrupted the accuracy and reliability of the crowd-sourced encyclopedia to the point where Wikipedia’s bolstering its own accuracy… It’s laughable, to make such a claim as this without a supporting source is madness….
“Between 2008 and 2012, articles in medical and scientific fields such as pathology, toxicology, oncology, pharmaceuticals, and psychiatry comparing Wikipedia to professional and peer-reviewed sources found that Wikipedia’s depth and coverage were of a high standard.”
Wikipedia is dead. Don’t use it.