1137 Nazism and Wikipedia

I am an ardent Wikipedia fan … I use it practically day by day and I rely on that it is not only correct and truthful, but also unbiased. So, when I came across this  WIRED  article, I was concerned. I am interested in Nazi Germany too, being of German decent, born in 1947.


When KSENIA COFFMAN, who was born in Soviet-era Russia and lives in Silicon Valley, started editing Wikipedia, she didn’t know there was a Nazi problem. As she link-hopped through articles about the Second World War - one of her favorite subjects - she saw what seemed like a concerted effort to look the other way about Germany’s wartime atrocities.


Her concern set in when she read the article about the SS, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary, which included images that felt to her like glamour shots - action-man officers admiring maps, going on parade, all sorts of “very visually disturbing” stuff, and then she clicked through some of the pages about German tank gunners, flying aces, and medal winners.


There were hundreds of them, and the men’s impressive kill counts and youthful derring-do always seemed to exist outside the genocidal Nazi cause. What was going on here? Wikipedia was supposed to be all about consensus. Wasn’t there consensus on, you know, Hitler?


Coffman navigates over to the Wikipedia article about a high-ranking member of the SS, Arthur Nebe. It is claimed that he came up with the idea of turning vans into mobile gas chambers by piping in exhaust fumes. The article acknowledges both of these facts, along with the detail that Nebe tested his system on the mentally ill. But it also says that he worked to “reduce the atrocities committed,” going so far as to give his bloodthirsty superiors inflated death totals.


Coffman will recall that she feels “totally disoriented.” She cannot believe that an innovator in mass murder would have tried to protect the Jews and other supposed subhumans his troops rounded up. She checks the footnotes. The claim is attributed to War of Extermination, a compendium of academic essays originally published in 1995.

Coffman knows the book is legit, because she happens to have a copy on loan from the library. When she goes to the cited page, she finds a paragraph that appears to confirm all the Wikipedia article’s wild claims. But then she reads the first sentence of the next paragraph: “This is, of course, nonsense.”


The level of bad faith is eye-opening for Coffman. She is “very appalled.” She sees that her confidence in Wikipedia was “very much misplaced.” All it takes to warp historical memory, she realizes, is something this small, achievable for almost anyone with a keyboard. “So few people can have so much impact, it’s a little scary,” she says. 


This is the point where I’m thinking, “wow … this is amazing. What else could be wrong with Wikipedia?” So I googled, “How reliable is Wikipedia?”

This is interesting: Live Science:


When you Google the question "How accurate is Wikipedia?" the highest-ranking result is, as you might expect, a Wikipedia article on the topic ("Reliability of Wikipedia"). That page contains a comprehensive list of studies undertaken to assess the accuracy of the crowd-sourced encyclopedia since its founding. Of course, if you find yourself on this page, you might worry that the list itself may not be trustworthy. Well, the good news is that almost all those studies tell us that it probably is. In 2005, the peer-reviewed journal Nature asked scientists to compare Wikipedia's scientific articles to those in Encyclopaedia Britannica - "the most scholarly of encyclopedias," according to its own Wiki page. The comparison resulted in a tie; both references contained four serious errors among the 42 articles analyzed by experts. And last year, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that Wikipedia had the same level of accuracy and depth in its articles about 10 types of cancer as the Physician Data Query, a professionally edited database maintained by the National Cancer Institute. The self-described "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" has fared similarly well in most other studies comparing its accuracy to conventional encyclopedias, including studies by The Guardian, PC Pro, Library Journal, the Canadian Library Association, and several peer-reviewed academic studies. Still, because anyone can edit Wikipedia entries, they "can easily be undermined through malice or ignorance," noted BBC technology commentator Bill Thompson.

Here is another - more recent - article in The Conversation: Students are told not to use Wikipedia for research. But it’s a trustworthy source


For popular articles, Wikipedia’s online community of volunteers, administrators and bots ensure edits are based on reliable citations. Popular articles are reviewed thousands of times. Some media experts, such as Amy Bruckman, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s computing centre, argue that because of this painstaking process, a highly-edited article on Wikipedia might be the most reliable source of information ever created.