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Eligibility issue sparks 'edit war'
Posted By Aaron Klein On 03/09/2009 @ 8:42 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Portrait of President Obama featured on Wikipedia
A WND article reporting yesterday that Wikipedia had been scrubbing President Obama’s biography of criticism has resulted in an “edit war” on the website in which a large number of users were barred from posting on key issues, including any mention of challenges to Obama’s eligibility.
Ultimately, administrators at Wikipedia, the online “free encyclopedia” mega-site written and edited by its users, entirely locked Obama’s page so that only top editors could make changes to the entry – and only if a change is supported by a consensus of editors.
A perusal through Obama’s Wikipedia entry yesterday found a heavily guarded, mostly glowing biography about the U.S. president. Some of Obama’s most controversial past affiliations, including with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weathermen terrorist Bill Ayers, were not once mentioned, even though the associations received significant media attention and became themes during the presidential elections last year.
Also completely lacking is any mention of the concerns surrounding Obama’s eligibility to serve as commander in chief.
Following WND’s report on Obama’s Wikipedia page, the news outlet monitored the page as scores of users attempted to add entries about eligibility concerns, and the president’s past associations with Ayers and Wright. All attempts to post on Ayers or Obama’s birth certificate were removed within minutes by the site’s volunteer administrators.
One mention of Wright was finally allowed. Obama’s page currently states, “Obama resigned from Trinity [United Church of Christ] during the Presidential campaign after controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright became public.”
The Wikipedia entry does not currently outline some of Wright’s remarks, such as exclaiming “God damn America,” claiming the 9-11 attacks signified “America’s chickens” were “coming home to roost” or telling congregants the U.S. government invented the HIV virus as a means of “genocide” against black people.
Following a large volume of attempted postings on controversial issues, administrators yesterday placed a “protection” lock on Obama’s page, informing non-administrators that new postings would not be allowed until “disputes have been resolved.”
Meanwhile, WND was inundated with e-mails from Wikipedia users yesterday stating their recent attempts to edit Obama’s page were blocked. Some said they believed the site to be “biased” in favor of Obama. A sampling of e-mails included:
While Wright finally made it onto Obama’s Wikipedia page – if only in one sentence – multiple times the past month, Wikipedia users who wrote about the eligibility issues had their entries deleted almost immediately and were banned from re-posting any material on the website for three days.
In one example, one Wikipedia user – acting as part of WND’s investigation – added the following to Obama’s page:
“There have been some doubts about whether Obama was born in the U.S. after the politician refused to release to the public a carbon copy of his birth certificate and amid claims from his relatives he may have been born in Kenya. Numerous lawsuits have been filed petitioning Obama to release his birth certificate, but most suits have been thrown out by the courts.”
As is required on the online encyclopedia, the entry was backed up by third-party media articles, citing the Chicago Tribune and WorldNetDaily.com
The entry was posted Feb. 24, at 6:16 p.m. Eastern Time. Just three minutes later, the entry was removed by a Wikipedia administrator, claiming the posting violated the website’s rules against “fringe” material.
According to Wikipedia rules, however, a “fringe theory can be considered notable if it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious manner, in at least one major publication, or by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory.”
The Obama eligibility issue has indeed been reported extensively by multiple news media outlets. WorldNetDaily has led the coverage. Other news outlets, such as Britain’s Daily Mail and the Chicago Tribune have published articles critical of claims Obama may not be eligible. The Los Angeles Times quoted statements by former presidential candidate Alan Keys doubting Obama is eligible to serve as president. Just last week, the Internet giant America Online featured a top news article about the eligibility subject, referencing WND’s coverage.
When the user tried to repost the entry about Obama’s eligibility a second time, another administrator removed the material within two minutes and then banned the Wikipedia user from posting anything on the website for three days.
Wikipedia administrators have the ability to kick off users if the administrator believes the user violated the website’s rules.
Over the last month, WND has monitored several other attempts to add eligibility issues to Obama’s Wikipedia page. In every attempt monitored, the information was deleted within minutes and the user who posted the material was barred from the website for three days.
The Wikipedia entry about former President George W. Bush, by contrast, is highly critical. One typical entry reads, “Prior to his marriage, Bush had multiple accounts of alcohol abuse. … After his re-election, Bush received increasingly heated criticism. In 2005, the Bush administration dealt with widespread criticism over its handling of Hurricane Katrina. In December 2007, the United States entered the second-longest post-World War II recession.”
The entry on Bush also cites claims that he was “favorably treated due to his father’s political standing” during his National Guard service. It says Bush served on the board of directors for Harken and that questions of possible insider trading involving Harken arose even though a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation concluded the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading.
Angela Beesley Starling, a spokeswoman for Wikipedia, explained to WND that all the website’s encyclopedia content is monitored by users. She said the administrators who deleted the entries are volunteers.
“Administrators,” Starling said, “are simply people who are trusted by the other community members to have access to some extra tools that allow them to delete pages and perform other tasks that help the encyclopedia.”
According to Alexa.com, Wikipedia is the seventh most trafficked website on the Internet. A Google search for the words “Barack Obama” brings up the president’s Wikipedia page in the top four choices, following two links to Obama’s official websites.
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