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Innovation

Newsflash to Wikipedia: People lie

After New Yorker exposes "theology professor" as a fraud, Wikipedia does some soul searching and comes up with a bright idea: Verify claimed credentials.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

Anonymous democratic participation is the basis of the Wikipedia phenomenon; it is also the subject of its growing pains. An article by The New Yorker which exposed a contributor to Wikipedia to have bogus credentials has prompted the site to change some of their fundamental policies. The Associated Press reports.

Struggling to gain more legitimacy while remaining true to its original ideals of anonymity, Wikipedia is making plans to ask contributors who claim certain credentials to identify themselves.

This change came after it was revealed that one of the top contributors to Wikipedia who claimed to be a professor of theology turned out to be a 24-year-old college dropout, Ryan Jordan.

Contributors will still be able to remain anonymous; however, they will only be allowed to claim some professional expertise in a subject if those credentials have been verified, said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

"We always prefer to give a positive incentive rather than absolute prohibition, so that people can contribute without a lot of hassle," Wales wrote.

Jordan's real credentials came to light after The New Yorker published an editor's note stating that a 2006 Wikipedia profile in the magazine had erroneously described his academic resume.

Jordan has publicly apologized for any harm he caused Wikipedia, and has retired his "user page."

"It was, quite honestly, my impression that it was well known that I was not who I claimed to be, and that in the absence of any confirmation, no respectible (sic) publication would print it," he wrote.
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