User:JWSchmidt/Blog/10 November 2007
I previously commented on the never-ending debate over the role of experts within Wikimedia wiki projects. Veropedia has been added to the likes of Citizendium and says it hopes to make use of experts: "The role of experts and academics will be to check it and, ideally, approve it." Is it impossible for Wikimedia wiki projects to have a constructive relationship with experts? Are we inevitably moving towards a multi-tiered system in which Wikimedia wikis are the wild wikis "where anyone can edit" and other wikis will build upon Wikipedia content in a more controlled editing environment?
Spam and pseudoscience 
As an editor of science-related Wikipedia articles, I often notice when spam links to commercial and personal websites are added to articles. Often editors come to Wikipedia to push fringe pseudoscientific ideas and make links back to their personal websites where they try to market their quackery. This past Summer I noticed a situation in which a valid biology article had been hijacked by an interesting team of two POV pushers who were both promoting their personal websites. Eventually one of these POV pushers became involved in an arbitration case. This POV pusher had been adding garbage to Wikipedia for two years and was still defended by some administrators as a valuable contributor.
Using experts 
I recently made a comment in IRC #wikibooks that User:Whiteknight picked up on and blogged about. I commented there about the idea that we can think about Wikipedia as a book for which the Wikipedia model for collaborative book writing might be adequate because Wikipedia articles cover a network of topics that readers can explore in many different orders. Wikipedia sells itself as just a starting place for readers who are interested in a topic. The Wikipedia approach might not work for Wikibooks and Wikipedia. Many people view textbooks and curricula as tools to be used for an extended period of time and as a way to learn an extensive and coherent understanding of a subject area. When people are thinking about making that kind of investment of time, they do not want to be told, "this textbook can be wrong, use at your own risk". Really, people want a textbook that has some kind of expertise behind it, some sort of guarantee that they will not be wasting their time if they read it it. This is why I think Wikiversity needs to create new ways to involve and support expert editors (see Wikiversity:Review board) and I am also interested in ways to protect mature learning resources from vandalism.
Service provider vs Publisher 
A recent new start of Wikipedia:Expert editors at Wikipedia:Expert editors/New draft quickly attracted this comment "Wikipedia, by legal Section 230 definition is an Internet service provider, not a publisher. Your attempt to create an "elite" corps of super-editors will threaten the protections that Section 230 accords, and therefore is not acceptable."
Would any attempt to make use of the expertise of wiki editors convert the Wikimedia Foundation from an internet service provider to a publisher? In a French lawsuit, a judge found that since the Wikimedia Foundation had quickly removed content upon request, the Foundation could not be liable for damages based on a claim of defamation and invasion of privacy arising from comments added to Wikipedia.
Section 230 
The Wikipedia article "Online service provider law" lists some legal cases in which various websites were or were not held responsible for online content. I do not understand how section 230 is relevant to the issue of making use of experts to screen wiki content. Wikipedia might face special legal concerns because it includes biographies of living persons. The "Online service provider law" article cites a 2002 case in which it was decided that "a defendant who had notice of a defamatory statement must stop publishing it or face liability". Wikiversity has Wikiversity:General disclaimer....I wonder if there should also be a page like Wikipedia:Contact us/Article problem/Factual error (from subject) (gotta love that page name).