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How Sarah Palin Shows Wikipedia's Weaknesses

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Wikipedia is a tool. And, no, I don't mean that in a good way. I've always complained it's a faux-academic source. What I mean in this posting is that it's truly a tool; a public relations tool, a tool for shameless manipulation and for spinning the facts.

Case in point; The McCain camp announced on Friday that Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, has been tapped to run in the number two spot on his ticket.

According to C/Net, citing Wikipedia editors as its source for the story, Palin's Wikipedia page was "edited" no less than 1000 times that same day. More interesting, however, The Washington Post, getting its confirmation from Cyvellience, a cyber intelligence consulting group, is reporting there was a mysterious spike in edits those few days before the announcement. The edits were largely favorable, clearly putting a spit shine on her biography.

For the record, the story of her teenage daughter who is five months pregnant is up on Wikipedia. It was not one of those 1000 edits before the announcement or the day of the announcement. It went up the same day the press got hold of it.

A suspicious number of the edits were also authored and dove tailed perfectly with companion edits on McCain's Wikipedia page.

Why do we care?

Wikipedia pages always rank high on the first page of search results. For the record, I ran a Google search on both McCain and Palin. McCain's Wikipedia page ranked number three, Palin's ranked number one.

So, Wikipedia has a lot of gravitas and the power to be abused effectively. Politicians never seem to miss an opportunity.

Neither do many PR folks. Tip to businesses and executives who care about managing their online reputations; keep an eye on your Wikipedia page and those of your main competitors.

It matters.

Last updated: Sep 2, 2008




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