There has been some nasty buzz about Wikipedia lately. First there was Adam Curry’s ritual defacing and self-promoting on the podcasting entry (which he later said was just being done because he thought he was right). Then, there was the high-profile Kennedy assasination article, getting recognition in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune and all that. High-profile is really only describing the coverage, and not the data, as despite this inacccuracy sticking around for an exceptionally long time, it was on a page that few would see.
Anyhow, now there are nuts gathering at Wikipedia Class Action to organize a class action lawsuit … against Wikipedia. I quote,
There is a problem with the operation and functionality of Wikipedia. The basic problem is that none of the Trustees of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., nor any of the volunteers who are connected with Wikipedia, consider themselves responsible and therefore accountable for the content.
I find that there is inaccurate information on the Internet, and even some information that offends me. The original members working on the [D]ARPA project to create the Internet should all be sued for their lack of accountability and control over their content too!
Give me a break.
In any event, I don’t pretend any legal understanding whatsoever, but findlaw has a good discussion of the legal merits of this case.
But let’s just appeal to common sense. Wikipedia is a volunteer-populated encyclopedia. It’s moderated by volunteers. It’s going to be defaced from time to time, and there is no way everybody can catch everything. Even with this inherrent flaw, Wikipedia has become an incredibly dense source of information, and its benefit far outweighs its risks. Because of its nature, it will never be an appropriate source to cite in a research paper, but then encyclopedias never were (at least when I was a kid).
How could anybody in their right mind think that it makes sense to hold the people who run wikipedia accountable for its content? This is similar to the debate that ISP’s should be held accountable for what its users do, which makes no sense to me.