Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia | The Trust Edge

When trust is lost, there is little time to lose. Discern the situation, and then quickly make a plan to rebuild it. Wikipedia thrives today because the company made haste to rebuild lost trust after the John Seigenthaler incident. In November 2005, it came out that an untrue and potentially libelous statement in the biography of John Seigenthaler, a famous journalist, had gone unnoticed for months on Wikipedia. Seigenthaler wrote a fairly scathing editorial in the New York Times criticizing Wikipedia as a “flawed and irresponsible research tool.”2 Since Wikipedia is open-source, deriving its value from the trust people have in it, as the public at large can edit it, this loss of trust was potentially devastating. The Wikipedia Foundation knew that it would need to do more than issue an apology to John Seigenthaler. Its actions were as follows:


1. It made a special section called “biography of living persons,” which would be more difficult to edit and would be monitored more frequently.

2. It stopped allowing anonymous users to create articles.

3. It spent time showing the relative validity of data in Wikipedia, especially as compared with well-respected encyclopedias.


The preventive and reactive measures taken by Wikipedia in this situation regained its public trust. Further boosting its reputation, Nature magazine compared the accuracy of Wikipedia with that of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and found them to have roughly an equal number of flaws!


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