A few days ago, a senior Wikipedia editor was “outed”. Essjay, as he was known, had claimed to be a professor of religious studies. In fact, his name is Ryan Jordan, and he is a 24-year-old college drop-out. An interesting question arises about how Wikipedia works and about the information it makes available. Ryan, although not who he claimed to be, was actually a pretty good editor, by all accounts, and did a great job of fixing up entries and applying the stringent Wikipedia encyclopedia rules for content, style, format, referencing, etc.
Wikipedia allows for anonymity, and, in fact, almost every one of its editors uses a pseudonym – in fact, their identities are jealously guarded. This assists in making sure that any editing decisions are dealt with (more) objectively than they might be, if there was potential for personal appeals. The anonymity creates a phoney equality, putting everyone on equal level. I wonder if this incident will change how Wikipedia works, with some Big Brother top-level/behind-the-scenes vetting of (at least) the editors? I doubt it. In this connected world, people are judged more on their outputs (the value of the job they did) than their qualifications or inputs. But, the fact that Ryan lied and therefore displayed a lack of integrity should raise some concerns. Given how Wikipedia operates, one wonders why he felt the need to do that in the first place.
Some interesting ethical issues await…
As an aside, the fact that at least one editor is very much NOT who he claimed to be is worrying. And a little disturbing for people (like me) who have had entries removed from Wikipedia for spurious (IMO) reasons.

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