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Is Wikipedia a vulnerable tool for propoganda? | Digg | Google | Reddit
Wikipedia is the most celebrated example for success in Search Engine Optimization. There are hundreds of thousands of keywords that get a link to Wikipedia on the top 5 search results on Google. This being the case, Wikipedia holds tremendous clout on what internet users read and perceive.

Though it does not make financial nor commercial sense for companies to use Wikipedia for customer's perception about the company's and their competitor's products, Wikipedia still remains widely vulnerable to attack from the different intelligence agencies on political issues. Recently, Slashdot published an article on a Wikipedia admin who was found to be a former investigator of Britain's MI5. This raises questions on how much vulnerable Wikipedia is to propogate distorted information.

Where is the problem?

The problem lies in the very nature of the internet and in the way Wikipedia chooses its administrators. All one requires to become an admin on the Wikipedia network is a dedicated contribution is addition and edition of articles on Wikipedia. Such Wikipedians can then be chosen admins on request and approval. All along, the admin remains anonymous and there is no way out but to take the information that he provides at face value.

Can the problem be solved?

It is humanly impossible to manage the huge database that Wikipedia is. Hundreds of thousands of modifications happen everyday that Wikipedia cannot afford a centralized contol of information and has to rely on the admins and the approval of co-admins to the decisions taken by each of the admins.

However, a background of the admins, atleast for the policitally sensitive articles needs to be known. For this, Wikipedia needs to categorize the pages as politically sensitive or not. This can be quite easily achived by asking the very readers to rate it as sensitive or not. Such pages alone may be edited by only those admins who have provided their background and other information like the Social Security Number etc. This will help provide more unbiased editing of such articles.

Can companies use it for propoganda

Given the current scenario, can companies use it as a propoganda tool? Could Enron have used Wikipedia to tell people that nothing was their fault? Yes for reasons already said, but it is also commercially unviable. Firstly, an effective propoganda can be made only if there are quite a few admins from 'your side' who can approve of each others' actions. Repeated attempts by an admin to propogate false information can lead to his banning from other admins. Secondly, the exercise is not a one-time effort. Companies requires the admins to be dedicatedly work as long as the propaganda needs to stay. In case of companies that are looking to exist to the future, such a means is financially unviable and serves little purpose as the propaganda if exists can still be made news through other channels of communication.

On an ending note, here is an interview of Mathias Schindler, a Wikipedia admin that can give insights on the job of an admin.

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