Revenge is Best Served On Wikipedia


Wikipedia has long been the friend of millennials looking to find information on a subject for initial research, studying, or to settle an argument with a friend. But all know that the validity and truthfulness of the online, collaborative encyclopedia is suspect because any person with a computer and internet access to edit any page on Wikipedia. There is even an live stream map showing recent changes made to Wikipedia pages available that illustrates just how often edits are made from everywhere in the world. Wikipedia has become victim to a malicious type of revising known as "revenge edits," which are modifications to Wikipedia pages motivated by anger and used as a means to punish or disgrace.

The most recent act of revenge editing came from a Wikipedia editor named "Qworty," who made a series of 14 separate edits to the Wikipeda page of the late writer Barry Hannah, a well-regarded Southern novelist. Some of these edits included removing links to interviews, obituaries, and reminiscences concerning Hannah, cutting out literary prizes he had won, and changed his cause of death from "natural causes" to "alcoholism." Qworty was later identified to be a man named Robert Clark Young, a novelist who had built a personal grudge against Hannah after Young's work was poorly received at a writer's workshop run by Hannah.

This is not an isolated instance of revenge editing on Wikipedia. In April, novelist Amanda Filipacchi wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling Wikipedia sexist. Filipacchi exposed how Wikipedia editors had begun the process of systematically moving women novelists from the "American Novelists" category and moving them to the "American Women Novelists" subcategory. Wikipedia editors retaliated against Filipacchi by revenge editing her Wikipedia page and the pages of her published novels.

Both of these examples show that Wikipedia is not only an unreliable source but also becoming a forum for angry editors to take out their frustrations. And the managers of Wikipedia are currently unwilling to make any changes to more closely oversee editing. Under the philosophy of Wikipedia, if a page becomes subject to any false editing, especially those receiving attention, the Wikipedia community will naturally swarm down to scrub away any falsehoods. The only active step Wikipedia takes is to freeze any pages that devolve into an "edit war," where multiple edits are made on a page in quick succession. Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales has himself stated that the accuracy of the Wikipedia pages is the greatest challenge but only offered sending "a fricking email" as a solution. Until Wikipedia changes its operating practices, it will continue to be seen as an inaccurate and unreliable source of information subject to the whims of any editor.