Press releases/Wikipedia tightens editorial control

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6 December 2005, Tampa, Florida. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced today the establishment of stricter editorial practices in the English edition of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. On December 5, Wales experimentally removed the ability of unregistered users to create new articles in Wikipedia. Unregistered users will still be able to fix spelling mistakes and add to existing articles but are required to register a user account before creating new pages. Wales said: "This will reduce the work load on the volunteer editors controlling contributions to the project."

Wikipedia has been a subject of media coverage recently over a complaint in USA Today by retired journalist John Seigenthaler, who discovered insinuations in his Wikipedia biography that he had been involved in the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy. Seigenthaler contacted Jimmy Wales about the situation two months ago and this version of the article was immediately removed from the site. The article has since been rewritten. Like many of the problematic contributions to Wikipedia, the offending version of the Seigenthaler article was written by an unregistered user. Wikipedia volunteers patrol a large volume of contributions in an effort to catch such problems.

"Our main goal is to produce a free high quality encyclopedia. The open editing process is a means to this end which allowed us to build Wikipedia and make it available to everyone free of charge. It is not a goal in itself," said Wales. Wikipedia is a volunteer project in which quality control and fact checking are handled by a community of more than 1000 regular authors. Feedback about the change has been positive: "As a new page patroller, the new system does seem to be working. It's pleasant to be spending more time fixing useful articles, and less time getting rid of newbie tests" said one regular on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has become increasingly popular as a reference work while it still remains a work in progress. However, the Wikipedia community takes its responsibility toward its readers very seriously. In response to this incident, community members have debated a number of options to prevent such cases in the future. Possibilities under consideration include features to rate articles and identify stable versions that are suitable as finished work.

About Wikipedia

Started in January 2001, Wikipedia is currently the world's fastest-growing, most current, and largest encyclopedia, with 2.5 million articles under active development in over 120 languages. It is created entirely by volunteers who contribute, update, and revise articles in a collaborative process. The English-language edition contains 10 million internal links, and incorporates 25,000 edits and 1,500 new articles each day.

Wikipedia's content is written for a general audience, and is continually being revised for clarity, readability, and accuracy. Original text, images and sounds contributed to Wikipedia are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence (GFDL), which lets users copy and modify each other's work based on a principle known as "copyleft." The entire database is freely downloadable.

About Wikimedia

The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit corporation based in Florida, USA. It was founded in 2003 to maintain and develop free-content projects like Wikipedia, and to provide the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.

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Contact

For questions and interviews, please contact:

Jimmy Wales, Chair, Board of Trustees, Wikimedia Foundation
Phone: +1 727 231 0101
Email: jwales@wikimedia.org

Elisabeth Bauer, Press officer, Wikimedia Foundation
Phone: +49 173 355 8645
Email: ebauer@wikimedia.org