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Conflicts of interest in Wikipedia’s conflict of interest controls

Posted by todd at 3:47 AM on February 9, 2008

A very well researched and written story on The Register on a Wikipedia admin with a conflict of interest. While this admin edits a lot of the entries on cults, he is a previous (or maybe even current) member of one of the ‘guru’s’ he edits a page for. While it is well argued that his edits are biased he is technically operating within the bounds of Wikipedia’s conflict of interest policy. However this particular admin has also had a large hand in modifying the COI policy, and runs the conflict of interest noticeboard.

What will be interesting is how Wikipedia handles this. While I am sure some will take this as further evidence that Wikipedia is an unreliable source of information. In reality though, I am sure that there are similar things happening in just about every information source, the media in particular is rife with hidden agendas and half truths. The difference with Wikipedia is that the history of how the information was collated is there for all to see. The Register reporter would not have been able to gather such a complete picture of the story if the situation had occured in a different publication.

It is almost impossible to eliminate conflicts of interest when you have people involved in a project. What this may show is that openess of the process makes it easier for these COIs to be found. This in turn makes for a more reliable information source.

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