The Register reports on how the wikipedia entries on short selling, and possibly other financial sections where being controlled by a person with a very biased view on these subjects. The article alleges that one the effects control of this section of articles had was to supress discussion of the negative side of ‘naked short selling’. This type of activity has had an impact on the current financial crisis, and the supression of discussion bridged into the mainstream press.
The worry from a technical viewpoint is that someone was essentially given moderater style controls over a topic that they had a vested interest in. I find this disturbing as these clear conflicts of interest should be easy to avoid. I do not think it is necessary to have any more checks on contributers identities than there already is. There are a number of people that track for spurious entries and it is better to make it easy to contribute so more information comes in.
The topic moderators, acting as editors of the content should be held to a much higher standard of identification. If no person on Wikipedia was allowed to become a moderator, or any kind of administrator, without some verifiable identity checking being performed. It would be silly to expect absolute accuracy from a service like Wikipedia. If it is to survive though, it must demonstrate that it is protecting itself from such gross manipulations as seems to have occured here. It really also needs to take steps to make sure it is protected to some degree from agendas.
Each person with any moderation or administration responcibility needs to verify their true identity in some way. They then need to be vetted for any potential conflicts of interest. A conflict should not bar them from looking after a topic as their knowledge would be valuable in evaluating what goes on there. If there is a conflict a second person that has no conflict should be required to verify their decisions. This second person (or people) don’t need the knowledge they just need to challenge the moderator for evidence to backup their decision. While these people do not need to have their full identities disclosed any potential conflicts of interest should be clearly stated on their profile.