Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, is tightening submission rules after a prominent journalist complained...
SAN FRANCISCO — Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, is tightening submission rules after a prominent journalist complained that an article falsely implicated him in the Kennedy assassinations.
Wikipedia will require users to register before they can create articles, Jimmy Wales, founder of the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Web site, said Monday. People who modify existing articles still will be able to do so without registering.
The change comes less than a week after John Seigenthaler, a one-time administrative assistant to Robert Kennedy, complained in an op-ed piece published in USA Today that a biography of him on Wikipedia claimed he had been suspected in the assassinations of the former attorney general and senator, and his brother, President Kennedy.
Wikipedia, often cited as a prime example of the type of collective knowledge-pooling that the Internet enables, has about 850,000 articles in English, as well as entries in at least eight other languages.
Since its launch in 2001, it has grown into a storehouse of information on topics ranging from medieval art to nanotechnology.
The volume is possible because the site relies on volunteers, including many experts, who submit entries and edit previously submitted articles.
Wales said he hopes the registration requirement will limit the number of articles being created.
Although it would not prevent people from posting false information, the new process will make it easier for the site’s 600 active volunteers to review and remove factual errors, defamatory statements and other material that runs afoul of Wikipedia policy, Wales said.
The episode demonstrates the lack of accountability that often comes with articles posted by anonymous people on the Internet.
“I sympathize with this person, but it’s really not any different than a posting on an anonymous Web page,” said Eugene Volokh, a law professor specializing in the First Amendment, referring to Seigenthaler.
Seigenthaler, USA Today’s founding editorial director and a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, said that after the op-ed piece was published, Wikipedia’s biography was changed to remove the false accusations. But Seigenthaler said an entry Monday still got facts wrong, apparently because volunteers are confusing him with his son, a journalist with NBC News.