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Prosecutor Loses Case For Citing Wikipedia

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the citation-needed dept.

The Courts 315

Hugh Pickens writes "The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on a recent case where the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) lost an appeal after seeking to impeach the testimony of a defendant's expert witness by citing an article from Wikipedia. In her brief, the defendant said 'the authority, alluded to by oppositor-appellant, the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders DSM-IV-TR," was taken from an Internet website commonly known as Wikipedia,' and argued that Wikipedia itself contains a disclaimer saying it 'makes no guarantee of validity.' The court in finding for the defendant said in its decision that it found 'incredible ... if not a haphazard attempt, on the part of the (OSG) to impeach an expert witness, with, as pointed out by (the defendant) unreliable information. This is certainly unacceptable evidence, nothing short of a mere allegation totally unsupported by authority.'"

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so... (5, Insightful)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415400)

who was actually correct about the facts of the matter?

sight unseen, i bet Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is useful... (5, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415436)

but I wouldn't cite it in court! What a moron.

It's crowdsourced knowledge, which is likely correct in many cases but is still subject to errors and abuse from bored teenagers and people with an agenda.

Re:Wikipedia is useful... (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415472)

Yup. Not even the WMF would have cited Wikipedia in a court of law. They don't recommend using it as the sole source of info for University, and they sure don't recommend that it be used to argue law!

Wikipedia cites sources - just cite the sources Wi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415910)

Linux just isn't ready for the desktop yet. It may be ready for the web servers that you nerds use to distribute your TRON fanzines and personal Dungeons and Dragons web-sights across the world wide web, but the average computer user isn't going to spend months learning how to use a CLI and then hours compiling packages so that they can get a workable graphic interface to check their mail with, especially not when they already have a Windows machine that does its job perfectly well and is backed by a major corporation, as opposed to Linux which is only supported by a few unemployed nerds living in their mother's basement somewhere. The last thing I want is a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS.

Re:Wikipedia is useful... (-1, Troll)

Domini (103836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415998)

Agreed! It's like taking the opinions of Glen Beck's collective multitude of followers as fact. #massstupidity

Also see Gary Kasparov vs. the world... (although it was still unfair that Gary could also read the opponent discussions)

Re:Wikipedia is useful... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33416060)

Agreed! It's like taking the opinions of Glen Beck's collective multitude of followers as fact. #massstupidity

Also see Gary Kasparov vs. the world... (although it was still unfair that Gary could also read the opponent discussions)

when you bring up Beck in a totally unrelated discussion and herald him as the epitome of all that which is stupid/evil/whatever that tells me one thing: he made some good points and they really stuck in your craw. now i'll have to start listening to Glenn Beck to see why he has so much power over your consciousness. thank you for helping me select something to listen to. with all the different programs out there it may have taken me a while to narrow it down.

Re:so... (5, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415454)

It doesn't matter which was right, what matters is you don't use an encyclopedia, any encyclopedia as a source to cite. If you try to cite wikipedia (or Britannica) in a college class, you'll flunk your paper.

I don't see how anybody who's ever been to college (including someone like me who was in college long before the internet existed) could be ignorant of this. Encyclopedias are only a starting point; you don't cite them in your paper, or in court. You go for their sources for your real research.

Re:so... (3, Insightful)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415508)

You go for their sources for your real research.

Which, when using Wikipedia, should be easy, if the article is properly sourced. This isn't always the case, though.

Re:so... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416074)

> This isn't always the case, though.

This one is.

Re:so... (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415566)

that's fine. they should have also cited wikipedia's citations. how is it a bad thing to cite the path to the answer rather than the answer alone? is not a well-edited wikipedia article and its commentary good background to defend one against potential accusations of argumentum ad verecundiam?

Re:so... (4, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415648)

Because nobody cares about the path to the answer, it's not important. Nobody cares that you started with Wikipedia to get the real reference to a reliable source. You cite the original source of a fact.

Otherwise were does it end? I started with some internet forum where some anonymous poster told be to Google it. That lead me to Wikipedia that cited this paper! Nobody cares!

Re:so... (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415744)

I tell people to don't bother citing the Wikipedia article, but go to the sources listed in the article, read those and the citations those articles have, then go from there, or even check those articles and their references out as well. At least with 1-2 layers of articles gleaned from citations, that might be enough for most references.

Caveat: A lot of papers require peer reviewed academic journal citations, so this does not replace going to the library and digging through for relevant academic items.

Re:so... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415930)

that's fine. they should have also cited wikipedia's citations.

Well now thats dependant on what was said. Not everything on Wikipedia is a word for word citation, and citing a "source" based on what was said on Wikipedia claiming it's cited from the source can often be taken out of context or used improperly.

Honestly, anything could make it as a source for Wikipedia, which doesn't make the source any more credible. A source needs to be peer reviewed at the least.

Re:so... (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415784)

I had some professors tell me that Encyclopedic citations were ok so long as they were reputable sources and they aren't your sole source. Any time I had to do a background or historical piece in a paper I found encyclopedias to be useful as a way of citing a reputable summary. If you're piecing information together to make a new or novel argument then encyclopedias wouldn't really help, but in some cases they might be useful.

But citing wikipedia? dumb. Just dumb.

Re:so... (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415848)

But citing wikipedia? dumb. Just dumb.

I've had professors tell me citing Wikipedia is fine as long as it's done properly. There's a specific way to site an article which gives you a link that goes to a specific revision. Then you can vet the article and make sure the references Wikipedia uses are good. It's really only helpful if you're going to site one article several times and each place in the article you're citing would actually be a separate source. Otherwise you're better off citing the original source.

Re:so... (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416036)

Meh, I've seen journal articles cite wikipedia. Usually it's for some odd, commonly accepted fact, where the original information was never published or so old, that digging up the original citation is a pain. Citing wikipedia is fine I think, as long as it's not the foundation of your argument/claim.

Re:so... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33416080)

Yes, the method is called Cite this page and the link is on the left side of the article. Most people are not aware of this. It even shows the obvious disclaimer:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Most educators and professionals do not consider it appropriate to use tertiary sources [wikipedia.org] such as encyclopedias as a sole source for any information—citing an encyclopedia as an important reference in footnotes or bibliographies may result in censure or a failing grade. Wikipedia articles should be used for background information, as a reference for correct terminology and search terms, and as a starting point for further research.

As with any community-built [wikipedia.org] reference, there is a possibility for error in Wikipedia's content—please check your facts against multiple sources and read our disclaimers [wikipedia.org] for more information.

Re:so... (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415904)

Oh yeah, just to clarify, this was a 3rd year undergrad economics course that I did this paper for. A bit different from citing mental health stuff in the court of law.

Re:so... (0, Troll)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416012)

The whole idea smacks of academic elitism. I edit Wikipedia articles on a few different subjects and I can say without equivocation that my knowledge of those subjects is second to none. Granted, none of them is going to change the world but they are topics of interest to me and I have a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of them.

It's no different than "Oh. HE says that. Well you know how unreliable he is.", without any proof of the incorrectness of the statement, it gets completely disregarded.

I think it's a bad idea to quote JUST wikipedia in a court case, but come on... To dismiss information out of hand just because it came from the internet is just as ridiculous as accepting the testimony of any expert at face value.

LK

Re:so... (5, Insightful)

codegen (103601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415572)

sight unseen, i bet Wikipedia

I think you would loose that bet. If you actually read the article (I know, I know, this is slashdot), you would find that it involves the psychological evaluation of a woman and her husband. At the trial, the expert who had done the evaulation was not cross examined, and in the appeal the OSG attempted to impeach the expert using general information from Wikipedia. Using an article from any general information source (encyclopedia britannica or wikipedia) to attempt to contradict a specific evaluation of a specific case by a recognized expert in the field is foolhardy at best and deserves to be shot down. In Addition, the court noted that the Solicitor General had access to government mental health experts that could be used, and failed to use them.

Re:so... (4, Funny)

multisync (218450) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415856)

I think you would loose that bet.

Well then he'd better be careful. I certainly wouldn't want any bets to get loose!

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415862)

I think he would tighten the bet.

Re:so... (2, Insightful)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415864)

Because it is reasonable to assume an article written by amateurs is much more reliable than an expert witness, a practicing psychologist, who actually interviewed the people in question.

/sarcasm

Re:so... (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415956)

Because it is reasonable to assume an article written by amateurs is much more reliable than an expert witness, a practicing psychologist, who actually interviewed the people in question.

Yes, it is. First, the "amateurs" who wrote the Wikipedia article are almost certainly people trained in its field, in the same way that the physics and computer articles are generally edited by physicists and computer people. Second, the Wikipedia editors have not been paid to testify on behalf of either party and are completely unbiased authorities with respect to this particular case.

That said, the prosecutor is still a jackass. Wrong way: cite Wikipedia in court. Right way: use Wikipedia to bone up on the subject at hand, then cherry pick evidence from the articles it references that support your position and cite those articles directly.

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33416044)

Not that I disagree with your point, but I've known some "experts" that were far from reliable in their chosen profession. They were expert bullshitters, I'll give them that, but they didn't know fairly basic aspects of their profession. Case in point, a "Perl programmer" who didn't know how to walk a directory programmatically.

Ha (3, Insightful)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415402)

The prosecutor was an idiot. Everyone knows you use the citations from the article, not the Wikipedia itself! :P

Re:Ha (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415640)

Your statement is completely true, but the smilie face at the end makes me feel as though you posted it as a joke, or feeling smug, by perhaps implying that following your solution would "cheat" the would-be checkers into believing the otherwise "unreliable" wikipedia information would suddenly become "reliable" by citing it's source instead of the article itself.

In fact, the above statement is exactly how things are supposed to be, no joking or smugness. Wikipedia in and of itself is NOT a realiable source, does NOT try to be a reliable source, does NOT pretend to be a reliable source, and does NOT want anyone assuming it is a reliable source. It's the sources it cites which, depending on the circumstances, MAY constitute a reliable source. This is why any researches is supposed to do EXACTLY what you described, and it is not cheating or circumventing, but the actual legitimate way to do research when using Wikipedia.

Re:Ha (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415762)

I think the reason the OP put a smiley in there was because what usually happens is that one copies the facts/ideas from the Wiki article, and then just puts one or more sources in works cited, whether they actually support what they are supposed to, or not.

Re:Ha (4, Informative)

Digicrat (973598) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415822)

Yes, but citing the source generally means you go out and read the source to base your claim on, or at least to verify that the summary is valid. The GP (based on the smiley), is speaking about cheating the system by citing the wikipedia source, without taking that extra step to actually verify for himself that the source validates the article (which isn't always the case on wikipedia, though they try).

Re:Ha (1)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415830)

I don't know if this deserves a "whoosh". But I read the :P as:

1. go to wikipedia

2. copy and paste the sources listed in the article

3. ???

4. Profit!

Blindly using citations found in Wikipedia, or any other place, is not a good way of doing research. The citations may be bogus, or plainly unreliable. Of course, a lot of researchers actually do this, perhaps just not from Wikipedia.

Re:Ha (1)

ejtttje (673126) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415846)

I think the "joke" that GP is implying is that people will just list the wikipedia article sources as their own sources instead of following up and reading these sources themselves to verify the content.

In other words, people will be lazy and still base things only on the wikipedia summary, and just pretend they got it from the cited source.

well, duh (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415406)

Well, the disclaimer was there....a lawyer of all people should have known what that means in the legal sense...

Please post on slashdot in the form of a meme :) (5, Funny)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415518)

The judge proclaimed "[citation needed]"

Re:Please post on slashdot in the form of a meme : (1)

Domini (103836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415896)

would have been funnier if the joke was not already made in the article heading.

"from the citation-needed dept."

Re:Please post on slashdot in the form of a meme : (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416022)

Is it possible to be funnier than +5?

Just one word... (0, Redundant)

bannable (1605677) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415416)

Good.

Re:Just one word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415976)

backslider?

Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (1)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415430)

Don't these prosecutors have better things to do than try to keep people who want a divorce together by law?

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415620)

I would quote the relevant portion of the article, but Slashdot has decided it's going to block clipboard pastes (?!?) so you'll just have to RTFA yourself...

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415700)

Block clipboard pastes? What chu talkin' ''bout Willis?

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415634)

Don't these prosecutors have better things to do than try to keep people who want a divorce together by law?

If they're divorcing, they split assets. If the marriage is annulled, they do not. This may be a significant monetary difference.

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (4, Informative)

mrsurb (1484303) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415682)

An annulment is not a divorce. A divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, an annulment is a declaration that the marriage was invalid. This has all sorts of legal consequences. From TFA, "In annulment cases, the OSG enters an appearance in court to ensure there is no collusion between husband and wife when they seek to annul their union or to see to it that the nullification of a marriage is based on valid grounds."

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (1)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415804)

Yes, I saw that "ensure there is no collusion between husband and wife", but I really don't understand it. If the annulment is disadvantageous to one party as another poster seems to indicate, then why would they be colluding?

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415954)

Don't these prosecutors have better things to do than try to keep people who want a divorce together by law?

Philippines. 80% Catholic. [wikipedia.org] Thanks to religious bullshit, you basically can't get a divorce there [wikipedia.org] . (Well, according to the wik, so some irony here...)

Which is why this is about an "annulment", which requires you to have -- or pretend to have -- some sort of reason why the marriage was never actually valid, such as "psychological incapacity".

Just speculating, but perhaps the prosecutor knows this is a bunch of BS, didn't really want to block the annulment, but still has to look busy?

Re:Why even appeal a marriage annulment? (1)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415992)

Thank you! This explanation finally makes sense to me.

Confused (1)

jonescb (1888008) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415432)

Didn't read the TFA since this is Slashdot and all, but based on the summary how did the defendant know Wikipedia was their source? It just sounds like the defendant looked at the Wikipedia article and decided it was similar to what the prosecutor said.

Re:Confused (4, Interesting)

TouchAndGo (1799300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415586)

Yeah, the wording is confusing.

"In her brief, the ex-wife said “the authority, alluded to by oppositor-appellant, the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders DSM-IV-TR,’ was taken from an Internet website commonly known as Wikipedia.”"

It makes it sound as though the DSM only exists in the fairytale land of Wikipedia. Unless he SAID "from this article about the DSM on wikipedia", in which case he's just a dumbass

Re:Confused (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415802)

Why isn't the ex-wife attending court (for an appeal of marriage annulment no less) in her briefs not the subject of the article?

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415906)

Maybe she prefers boxers.

Re:Confused (1)

codegen (103601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415610)

Because in appeal briefs you have to provide citations for your assertions. The prosecutor actually cited Wikipedia as the source.

Stupid... (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415440)

...One of the things duct tape cannot fix.

OTOH, you can find the DSM-IV here [psychnet-uk.com] , among other places online.

Re:Stupid... (2, Insightful)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415552)

Well, if you can't credibly use wikipedia to cite a well-known medical book such as the DSM-IV-TR, then what can you cite with wikipedia?

I know, I know, it's wikipedia, and you shouldn't be citing it, but c'mon! I know that politically motivated wiki pages shouldn't be cited because of bias, but what about stuff that is standard knowledge? If I cited wikipedia as my source for stating that copper's atomic number is 29, why is my source not credible?

Re:Stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415688)

Well, if you can't credibly use wikipedia to cite a well-known medical book such as the DSM-IV-TR, then what can you cite with wikipedia?

I know, I know, it's wikipedia, and you shouldn't be citing it, but c'mon! I know that politically motivated wiki pages shouldn't be cited because of bias, but what about stuff that is standard knowledge? If I cited wikipedia as my source for stating that copper's atomic number is 29, why is my source not credible?

Maybe because I can go in and edit to say the atomic number is 42, which will stay for an unknown period of time until someone edits it back?

Re:Stupid... (4, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415716)

If I cited wikipedia as my source for stating that copper's atomic number is 29, why is my source not credible?

You shouldn't need to cite that, it's common knowledge. It's in any elementary chemistry text book.

You don't cite Wikipedia because it's not a primary source. Wikipedia doesn't generate any new knowledge (note WP:NOR) so everything in Wikipedia comes from somewhere else. You should, therefore, quote the somewhere it came from.

Re:Stupid... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415844)

Essentially, I could go into the Wikipedia entry on the DSM-IV right now and change all references to "clinical disorders" to "Bonkers", and until someone noticed and fixed it, it would stay that way. Sure, there's plenty of reliable facts on Wikipedia and for stuff like "evidence in an argument on Slashdot" it's probably a perfectly valid source 90-95% of the time. For a court case it's pretty damn loose evidence. Follow the little "citation" links at the end to *actual* DSM-IV and cite that.

Re:Stupid... (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416006)

Yeah, I suppose I just envision a world where things are simpler. Citing sources for papers that I write is one of the most annoying things to me. An academically accredited site similar to wikipedia would be a godsend. Unfortunately, they tell me that modern technology is not useful when it comes to learning, and that if I want to learn, I have to carry around 30 lbs of books instead of just loading the ebooks on to my phone.

Re:Stupid... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415698)

Sure it can. You just have to know where to stick it. However, the cure kills the patient.

Re:Stupid... (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415718)

oh my.

Perhaps untrue in this case but not a bad policy (3, Interesting)

Borealis (84417) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415446)

If the only citation you can come up with is Wikipedia then either you aren't doing your job or the citation is suspect. I find no issue with the court's decision, I'd be more inclined to beat the prosecutor with a wet noodle for failing to find a more reliable source.

Re:Perhaps untrue in this case but not a bad polic (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416008)

I'd be more inclined to beat the prosecutor with a wet noodle

You Italians sure have weird and delicious forms of punishment.

This would be a correct ruling... (4, Insightful)

barfy (256323) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415448)

While the Wikipedia site is *likely* to be true. Likely to have been written by an expert and an authority on the subject. There is absolutely no guarantee of it's verity or authority.

For legal argument, the site would be an excellent place to start. It is easy to search, and the articles are written in quick scannable ways which would make research fast and quick. BUT, that research should *LEAD* to legally sound authority and more complete argument on any topic.

It would be horrible, horrible for the law to place Wikipedia on the pedestal of authority, and it would be bad for the public which wikipedia only exists because of its structure.

Re:This would be a correct ruling... (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415592)

In other words, a prosecutor should know that in court, if you need to cite the DSM-IV, you need to cite the DSM-IV, not a Wikipedia article citing the DSM-IV. I mean, it's not like somebody's life (or at least a significant portion of their future) is on the line or anything in a criminal trial.

You probably also need an appropriate expert witness to explain why the diagnosis in question would apply to the behavior in question.

Re:This would be a correct ruling... (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415748)

It's even simpler than that, Wikipedia is the site that anyone can edit. That means that it's entirely possible for the prosecutor to log into Wikipedia, change an article so that it supports his arguments, add fakes cites out to hard to verify material, then take his research from there. Why any educated lawyer would think that you could use Wikipedia for anything more than the most basic of a starting point for research is beyond me.

Re:This would be a correct ruling... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415766)

It is certainly NOT likely to have been written by an expert or authority in the subject (at least from the perspective of anyone other than the author). In the areas in which I have true knowledge of a field (PhD in the area) the wikipedia page reads like it was written by someone with little to no knowledge.

Re:This would be a correct ruling... (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415900)

I find the articles about my chosen field in which I have the most experience (HVAC/R)to be decent history lessons and decent explanations of what goes on, with no real use though. Not going to use wikipedia to fix you AC or furnace. And even if you follow their citations, you still are not going to find the information needed to fix them. And in my new field, wikipedia would be useless except for somewhat accurate, but not quite, definitions of terms, with no knowledge of how they are derived, used or even found. So if you are an addicted felon residing with a correctional facility, wikipedia ain't gonna get you clean or functioning.

Re:This would be a correct ruling... (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415832)

While the Wikipedia site is *likely* to be true. Likely to have been written by an expert and an authority on the subject. There is absolutely no guarantee of it's verity or authority.

It very much depends on the subject in question. In some cases you can be sure that the writings of "experts" and "authorities" are very likely to be untrue.

If it was printed? (1, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415464)

To exactly what about Wikipedia did the judge object? If the attorney had cited a print edition of Wikipedia, would his argument sudenly be more persuasive?

It seems to me that Wikipedia was just being more honest than most other sources in terms of its disclaimer.

Re:If it was printed? (2, Interesting)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415526)

If that print edition is vetted by experts, yes. Otherwise no. Citing an encyclopedia is a bad idea. Citing a project like Wikipedia that isn't exactly an encyclopedia is worse. Wikipedia is great for a lot of things and the articles that get enough eyes usually coalesce into something that's reasonably reliable, but it's not as good as traditional research and education.

See this for a bit of humour on the topic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaADQTeZRCY [youtube.com]

Re:If it was printed? (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415834)

Dr. Crispina Penequito, who testified that she had examined the couple and "concluded that both parties suffered from psychological incapacity." According to Penequito, the petitioner was suffering from an "anti-social reaction" under the classification of "sociopathic personalities" which is a type of "personality or character disorder." On the other hand, her ex-husband was diagnosed as suffering from an "inadequate personality," which falls under the "personality pattern disorder."

Citing a comic book would be more authoritative than this "expert witness".

Re:If it was printed? (4, Informative)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415672)

No, a print edition would not be better. In order to use evidence to impeach an expert, the evidence must be recognized as more reliable than the expert's own opinion. The only ways to demonstrate this are to have the court independently recognize the inherent authority of the source ("judicial notice", uncommon in this context), or for the expert himself to acknowledge the validity of the source, or to convince the court that your source is more reliable than the expert. No encyclopedia would ever meet these standards. Ever. To even consider that it might is ridiculous.

To quote from the source: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415686)

"The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. OMFG PENIS LOL!!!1 It is used in the United States and in varying degrees around the world, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers."
The Wikipedia hath spoken.

Re:If it was printed? (1)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415736)

The judge objected to the fact that information in Wikipedia articles can be changed at will by just about anyone and that the information comes with "no guarantee of validity".

The Wikipedia articles, with no guarantee of validity, was presented in an attempt to counter testimony of an expert witness which DOES come with a guarantee of validity, namely the expert status of the witness.

If the Wikipedia article used in the brief sited the DSM, then the lawyer should have used the DSM, which is a reference manual compiled and edited by a community of experts.

Re:If it was printed? (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415806)

No, a printed version wouldn't have been good enough. The judge wanted an expert witness. It wouldn't have sufficed if the attorney had checked the sources for the wikipedia article, either - this still wouldn't have made them an expert of the field. Even if the information is readily available it can take an expert to make sense of it or to put it into context. (E.g. to know that the book was already out of date.)

Hard to read summary, (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415482)

But that's entirely because Legalese is it's own language.

It's in your courts, it's in your schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415490)

Academia really hates wikipedia too, because they are forced to pay thousands of dollars for access to boring periodicals that modern youth today couldn't give two shits about viewing.

Re:It's in your courts, it's in your schools (2, Interesting)

Helios1182 (629010) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415582)

Most academics love Wikipedia because it provides an easy introduction to topics, and includes references to original source materials. That doesn't mean you can cite Wikipedia in a paper; just like you can't cite any other encyclopedia.

Did anyone else (0, Troll)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415510)

Try to find the story on wikipedia?

Re:Did anyone else (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415562)

Try to find the story on wikipedia?

No, but I look forward to reading the discussion on why it should/shouldn't be merged with their disclaimer!

I work at an international litigation consulting.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415530)

... firm and I've seen this done, uncontested

I'm not sure what's sadder, that someone I work with has done this, or that the other side doesn't even understand how bad it is...

Re:I work at an international litigation consultin (1)

thue (121682) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415894)

> I'm not sure what's sadder, that someone I work with has done this, or that the other side doesn't even understand how bad it is...

Perhaps if the fact taken from Wikipedia was unambiguously true? Just because you are in a court case doesn't mean you have to disagree on everything you can.

YOU FAIL IT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415540)

I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415636)

Are they saying, legally, that the DSM is faulty? Or are they saying that the DSM is faulty only when you get to it from Wikipedia? Or are they saying that the act of putting something on Wikipedia will make any source faulty?

I'm not saying that you should make it a habit of citing Wikipedia in court proceedings, but the entire outcome seems to boil down to "Oh. You mentioned Wikipedia. YOU LOSE."

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415826)

the entire outcome seems to boil down to "Oh. You mentioned Wikipedia. YOU LOSE."

Yes. As someone else said: where does this trail of evidence end? "You see, an Anonymous Coward poster on Slashdot suggested we Google search for this phrase which led us to Wikipedia where we discovered this fact which was cited from the DSM..." Oh, you mentioned any/all of that. YOU LOSE, after you're laughed out of court. Quit wasting the court's time and just tell them your source is the DSM.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415916)

They're saying that using a statement found in Wikipedia doesn't count as evidence, whether the statement was true or not.

There's nothing wrong with citing Wikipedia (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415662)

The "never cite Wikipedia" meme is very strong, but it's not really rational.

First, isn't the ultimate goal accuracy? Anything you cite could be wrong. Given the number of eyes looking at any given Wikipedia article, the Wikipedia article is probably less likely to be wrong than an arbitrary cited source.

Second, it's better to cite the Wikipedia article itself than the thing that the article itself cites. You don't lose any information by citing the article itself — anyone can look at the article and follow the citation. But you do gain information — the fact that the article is cited by Wikipedia. This increases the chance that the source is correct, even if only by a little bit. Mathematically, given a claim X and a paper by Professor Bob saying that X is true,

P ( X | Bob says X is true && Wikipedia says X is true) > P (X | Bob says X is true)

Thus, citing the Wikipedia article directly provides stronger support for your claim, even if only by a little bit.

Re:There's nothing wrong with citing Wikipedia (1)

allawalla (1030240) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415758)

It seems that one obvious issue with citing wikipedia is that it constantly changes. There is no guarantee that the article which you cite is the same article that someone will read at a later date.

Wikipedia has versioning. . . (2, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415850)

When a wiki page is changed, Wikipedia automatically generates a new 'version' of the page. You can cite a specific version of the page instead of the 'current'. Not sure many people know about that, but for any page, there is a 'history' link, and you can get a url from that page to access any specific version. As far as I know, that version link should remain valid and unchanged forever (or until Wikipedia shuts down, at least).

Re:Wikipedia has versioning. . . (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415964)

There is still no guarantee that the version of the article which you cite is more authoritative than the possibly-contradictory article that someone will read at a later date.

Re:There's nothing wrong with citing Wikipedia (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415860)

There's a complete change history available for every article on Wikipedia, and the ability to generate links to a specific version.

Re:There's nothing wrong with citing Wikipedia (1)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415978)

This is a problem when citing any online work. Most academic citation styles have you include a date when citing an online work.

Re:There's nothing wrong with citing Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415914)

Bob may have written the Wikipedia article. Just because he wrote, or was cited by, a Wikipedia article about it does not make is more true, even by a little. Now if two independent professors wrote articles, showing data supporting the claim at X is true, then yes, X is more likely to be true. Citing Wikipedia alone is a strong indicator that you have not done much to learn about a topic.

hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415664)

In the US legal system that would be textbook hearsay.

Good ruling! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415674)

Great ruling!

Wikipedia is not an authoritative source. It's like entering a random room, where a collection of random people happen to be hanging around. Once in the room, you close the door and shout out a question. What is *blank*?

Then, you wait an hour or so for everyone in that room to reach a majority consensus. Would you use that to refute an expert in the field?

Further, would you use the output from that room, when it could change at any moment? That is, sure... you print out an article, and take it to court. You use it to refute.

What if the article changes since you printed? What if it conflicts with your printed copy? You've claimed Wikipedia is authoritative, so naturally the newer copy must be better, yes? After all, since Wikipedia was 'correct' on the printed copy, it must also be 'correct' for the newer copy!

Now you've lost a court case!

Or how about this. Wikipedia is accepted as fact for that court case. A year goes by. That article has changed dramatically. Now, you can appeal? How did that article change? Did 100 of your friends take control of that article, for that purpose?

I'm sorry, but Wikipedia is not a stable, reliable source of good information. All that can be said in Wikipedia's favour, is that it is a good START to gather information from. It has footnotes, and it is something to start with.

Frankly, if you visit a Wikipedia page, and start using that knowledge as valid information without verifying it externally, you're nuts!

The prosecutor should have stayed at a HIE... (0, Offtopic)

terraformer (617565) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415678)

He should have stayed at a holiday inn express...

More importantly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415694)

More importantly, the breaking news ticker at the top filled me in that MILF not naming peace panel until gov’t team is complete [inquirer.net] . It's good to know they've started involving MILFs in the peace process, I just wish the government would finish completing the team so they can get to work.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. . . (3, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415726)

So, I'm confused. Did they cite wikipedia, or did they cite the 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders DSM-IV-TR?' Because, to me, the latter sounds like it's an actual scientific publication from some sort of Industry Association of mental health professionals? I mean, if you go to Wiki, and Wiki cites an actual recognized publication, and you then cite that publication, does it make it any less valid just because you discovered that publication through Wikipedia?

I just did some quick Google searching, and it appears that is a publication of the American Psychiatric Association. Is there some question as to the credibility of the APA when it comes to mental health problems?

Why challenge Wikipedia? (2, Funny)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415770)

I wouldn't have challenged the reference to Wikipedia at all.

I'd have edited the artical to add the phrase, "Defendant did nothing illegal.", then showed the entry to the judge and asked for a dismissal with prejudice.

Oh...I'd also add "neener, neener, neener Mr. Prosecutor." to it as well.

Wikipedia and a Grain of Salt ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33415962)

Wikipedia is about as completely accurate as the local weatherman, statistically speaking. Good place to start research, but the absolute wrong place to give a definative cite for. I have flunked students for giving Wikipedia references in their research papers.

Intent to avoid "authority" (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#33415980)

Well, that is after all the intent of Wikipedia, isn't it? Eliminating the idea of there being one "truth" apart from the opinion of the masses?

While this might have some noble intent, you can't very well be surprised when those in authority reject the entire concept. The idea that people might actually take a crowdsourced knowledgebase and present it as "truth" in matters of law is laughable because this use is diametrically opposed to the intent of the founders and maintainers of Wikipedia. The very idea that there might be an "expert" in the world that knows more or has a firmer grasp of anything compared to the knowledge of the great unwashed masses is abhorrent to the concept of Wikipedia.

What this means is that Wikipedia is "The People's Encyclopedia", created by "the people" for "the people." Fine, as long as its use is confined to "the people" it is probably suitable. But it does mean that using it as a reference in school, at law, science, government or any place where people actually believe in the concept of "truth" apart from the knowledge of crowds is forbidden.

Sorry, you can't have it both ways. Law and government are very interested in "truth" as a concept and it is presupposed that there are in fact experts that know what this truth is. Wikipedia is built on the idea that there is no one truth at all and that all truths are equal. Hence the continual editing of articles because over time what is considered to be the truth changes with the whim of the crowd.

Something screwy (1)

rpresser (610529) | more than 4 years ago | (#33416056)

There's something screwy about this. The DSM-IV(TR) is *not* Wikipedia. Did the prosecutor actually cite Wikipedia instead of citing the DSM-IV(TR)?

If this was a US case, I'd try to find the court documents (from the original case and from the appeal) on PACER. But TFA is from "The Philippine Daily Inquirer" -- this isn't even a US case???

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