Wikipedia’s Remaining Authenticity At Stake
By Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava
02 July, 2015
As the Congress accused that there were some wrong pieces of information added in Wikipedia on the First Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru; the issue has become relevant again about the authenticity status of the Wikipedia. Among the educational community world over; Wikipedia content does not carry mush esteem due to authenticity deficit.
Wikipedia is open for everyone to become its editor. There is no expert review of the entries and material posted on this internet encyclopedia. This makes it highly problematic for any laymen to know whether the material is authenticated or not.
Many people in the countries including India where literacy -knowledge level is quite low may get into trap of Wikipedia content. The person may think that this is the correct information but sometime it may not be so. For this reason Wikipedia is not an authentic source although is used by people the world over.
The information about Pt. Nehru was completely wrong as he himself had stated about his family history. Wikipedia volunteer editors deleted the addition but it has done some harm. It is likely that there may be other inaccurate additions which may still pour the minds of many in wrong way.
In this background the major point is how to handle this internet encyclopedia.
Wikipedia should itself go for expert assessment. It can allow ONLY reference material from standard books and journals.
Academic world SHOULD NEVER allow its material to be reproduced. We have banned completely Wikipedia to our students. Harvard University has also stated with an example that ‘Nevertheless, when you're doing academic research, you should be extremely cautious about using Wikipedia. As its own disclaimer states, information on Wikipedia is contributed by anyone who wants to post material, and the expertise of the posters is not taken into consideration. Users may be reading information that is outdated or that has been posted by someone who is not an expert in the field or by someone who wishes to provide misinformation. (Case in point: Four years ago, an Expos student who was writing a paper about the limitations of Wikipedia posted a fictional entry for himself, stating that he was the mayor of a small town in China. Four years later, if you type in his name, or if you do a subject search on Wikipedia for mayors of towns in China, you will still find this fictional entry.) Some information on Wikipedia may well be accurate, but because experts do not review the site's entries, there is a considerable risk in relying on this source for your essays.’ (Harvard Guide to Using Sources, http://isites.harvard.edu)
Students at their part should only go for authenticated books. There are many standard encyclopedias available on the net with their authentication value quite high as ‘Encyclopedia Britannica.’ Moreover they should put verify the content or put their queries to anyone who has standard knowledge as their own teachers.
Governments at the global level should develop an organizational structure to look whether there is any inaccuracy in any content not only in Wikipedia but also other material on internet and attempt to remove the inaccurate material with the help of search engine team.
Governments and NGOs should also promote some authenticated sites as ‘bepress (works.bepress.com)’ which publishes only authenticated research material and it is also free.
Moreover for research, certain research platforms as ‘JSTOR’ must be made available to people at very cheap cost as a result the research material may be easily available.
Government may also start country centric authenticated encyclopedia web pages on the net.
These are immediately required because the status of eminent person of any country may be derogated in this way. May be many generations pass and inaccurate information remain available on the Wikipedia and wrong perception is distributed in a continuous manner as none identifies the inaccuracy.
Wikipedia should try to understand the sentiments of the people as well. The information on Nehru was widely criticized by the student community. This is a duty of every citizen to maintain the honour of the respected people of the country. Wikipedia must pay attention to this aspect too and change its editorial policies as well.
Political culture of any country is shaped by multiple factors. Young ones must be provided with accuracy any content. Otherwise it may harm the society as a whole.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Assistant Professor, CSJM Kanpur University(affiliated College) and Vice Chairman CSSP, e firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments are moderated