After cricketer Arshdeep Singh’s Wikipedia page was distorted following India’s loss to Pakistan in the Asia Cup match, India Tuesday summoned officials of the website. Union Minister for Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar tweeted that “no intermediary operating in India can permit this type of misinformation” and that it “violates our govt’s expectation of safe & trusted Internet”.
Arshdeep Singh had dropped Asif Ali’s catch in the 18th over of the match, leading to internet trolls calling him a “Khalistani”. His Wikipedia page too was edited to reflect the same.
Who exactly can edit Wikipedia pages, and can all editors access all pages? How does Wikipedia protect itself against misinformation? Is there a mechanism to penalise those who vandalise a page? We explain.
Anyone. There is an ‘edit’ button on Wikipedia articles next to subheads, and anyone can click on it to reach a version of the page where they can make changes. While it is not necessary to have a Wikipedia account to make changes, those with registered accounts get some benefits.
According to Wikipedia, “Creating a user account offers a number of benefits. Firstly, it offers you privacy and security. Though counterintuitive, editors registered under a pseudonymous username actually have greater anonymity than those who edit “anonymously”. A few of us have chosen to associate our accounts with our real identities.., As in academic circles, a good reputation helps your wiki career.”
The link to create an account is available on Wikipedia.
Very briefly, accuracy, neutrality, and lots of links to establish the source of the information being put out. Wikipedia does not carry original pieces. Some of the rules Wikipedia expects its editors to follow are “be bold, but not reckless”, “know your audience”, “do not infringe copyright”, “avoid self promotion”, and “cite, cite, cite”.
Whatever changes you make will be immediately visible to everyone. However, there are certain safeguards. Wikipedia has page histories, so along with the latest version, the previous version will exist too, available to both readers and editors.
Wikipedia editors monitor what is happening across the site on a page that lists all the most recent changes, and they will revert to the older version if the latest change is erroneous or malicious. The website also uses bots to weed out wrong or misleading information.
According to Wikipedia, the fact that anyone can make changes is “not a blank check”.
“Some users waste so much of other people’s time that as a last resort we restrict their editing. Some pages attract so much rubbish, or are so critical to the project, that as a last resort we restrict editing of them. Some material is so damaging that we immediately and permanently remove it,” Wikipedia says.
Can Wikipedia trace anonymous users?
If you are making changes anonymously, your IP address will tell Wikipedia who you are. If you change your IP address and come back, the kind of articles you choose, patterns of editing, etc. will still lead Wikipedia editors to you. While it is not impossible to keep adding wrong information to pages and escape detection, it is not easy either.
What happens to those who add misinformation/troll
Wikipedia will undo your changes, and in some cases, block you from editing. For this, there is a warning process of up to five stages. One or more of these stages can be skipped if the user is understood to be “acting in bad faith.”
Pages that are frequently targeted can be “protected’, meaning not everyone can edit them. There are levels of this protection based on the threats involved. “A semi-protected or fully protected page can be edited only by accounts that meet certain account age and activity thresholds or administrators respectively,” says Wikipedia.