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Wikipedia Objects to Editing for Political Incorrectness

Anyone can change data on the free online encyclopedia, but Capitol Hill is denied access after entries are falsified or prettied up.

February 12, 2006|Yuki Noguchi | Washington Post

Kat Walsh of Herndon, Va., a bassoonist and Wikipedia editor, said the site dissuaded people from editing terms or profiles they felt personally invested in. But it happens, occasionally, and not just in politics: Some companies have tried to beautify their entries by entering press releases, she said.

Even Wales, the Wikipedia founder, has admitted repeatedly editing his own entry, a move he said he did openly, but now regrets.

Standard operating procedure is to replace offensive alterations with the original text, and send a warning letter to the user of the Internet address that made the problematic change.

"You have not been blocked because you appear to have refrained from continued vandalism," a sample warning to Senate staffers reads. "We welcome contributions from all possible editors, including staff of the United States Congress. However, please comply with our policies, especially those pertaining to personal attacks and neutrality."

Neutrality can be a tricky or nuanced thing with political terms, which is why disputes are sometimes vetted by mediators and arbitration committees, also made up of volunteers, Wales said.

"Especially with politics, it gets more and more borderline on what's in bad faith or good faith," he said. "Reasonable people can find a way to work together. Unreasonable people get blocked, of course."

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