Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

GMU Prof Teaches How To Falsify Wikipedia — and Get Caught

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the ray-charles-is-god-see-footnote dept.

The Internet 183

Hugh Pickens writes "Yoni Appelbaum reports in the Atlantic that as part of their coursework in a class that studies historical hoaxes, undergraduates at George Mason University successfully fooled Wikipedia's community of editors, launching a Wikipedia page detailing the exploits of a fictitious 19th-century serial killer named Joe Scafe. The students, enrolled in T. Mills Kelly's course, Lying About the Past, used newspaper databases to identify four actual women murdered in New York City from 1895 to 1897, along with victims of broadly similar crimes, and created Wikipedia articles for the victims, carefully following the rules of the site. But while a similar page created previously by Kelly's students went undetected for years, when students posted the story to Reddit, it took just twenty-six minutes for a redditor to call foul, noting the Wikipedia entries' recent vintage and others were quick to pile on, deconstructing the entire tale. Why did the hoaxes succeed in 2008 on Wikipedia and not in 2012 on Reddit? According to Appelbaum, the answer lies in the structure of the Internet's various communities. 'Wikipedia has a weak community, but centralizes the exchange of information. It has a small number of extremely active editors, but participation is declining, and most users feel little ownership of the content. And although everyone views the same information, edits take place on a separate page, and discussions of reliability on another, insulating ordinary users from any doubts that might be expressed,' writes Appelbaum. 'Reddit, by contrast, builds its strong community around the centralized exchange of information. Discussion isn't a separate activity but the sine qua non of the site. If there's a simple lesson in all of this, it's that hoaxes tend to thrive in communities which exhibit high levels of trust. But on the Internet, where identities are malleable and uncertain, we all might be well advised to err on the side of skepticism (PDF).""

cancel ×

183 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Noone read the articles (5, Informative)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026739)

The reason might be that noone read the Wikipedia articles. Once they have linked to them causing people to actually visit it, they were quickly debunked.

Re:Noone read the articles (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026773)

Exactly. If you create articles on obscure regional murder victims, then the chances are the articles won't be read.

If you then draw lots of attention to it, then you're more likely to get found out.

Re:Noone read the articles (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026821)

Yup. Trying to convince someone that there was an obscure serial killer who lived and died 100 years ago is a lot different than trying to convince people that, say, a leading national figure is Muslim. However, the latter can also work because it's helped along by the "big lie" effect.

Re:Noone read the articles (-1, Flamebait)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027119)

Yup. Trying to convince someone that there was an obscure serial killer who lived and died 100 years ago is a lot different than trying to convince people that, say, a leading national figure is Muslim.

You mean "is a lot different than trying to convince people that, say, a leading national figure follows a cult started by an obscure serial killer who lived and died 1000+ years ago".

Re:Noone read the articles (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027239)

He was referring to Mormonism.

Re:Noone read the articles (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027473)

I never heard anybody claimed Romney was a Muslim. Plenty have claimed that you're a fucking imbecile though.

Re:Noone read the articles (0)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027967)

I never heard anybody claimed Romney was a Muslim. Plenty have claimed that you're a fucking imbecile though.

I meant those "Obama is a Muslim" lot - not Romney

Re:Noone read the articles (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027447)

trying to convince people that, say, a leading national figure is Muslim. However, the latter can also work because it's helped along by the "big lie" effect.

That lie (like many lies) was helped by two things:
1. The trust that viewers/readers place in the personalities/authors that were talking about the issue.
2. Repetition. If you keep repeating a lie, it'll stick with some people, no matter how outlandish it is.

These hoaxers had no resevoir of trust already built up with the community they were trying to deceive
AND they had no real opportunity to repeat the lie in a way that would invade the common consciousness.

Re:Noone read the articles (1)

oiron (697563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027475)

Don't forget 3: It plays to a LOT of prejudices of the target audience - a black Democrat as president - the core audience for the lie was probably looking for anything that would justify it not being so...

Re:Noone read the articles (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027583)

Yeah but they did the same to Clinton as well, as he's as white as a sheet. They just don't like Democrats. Period.

Re:Noone read the articles (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027725)

Don't forget 3: It plays to a LOT of prejudices of the target audience - a black Democrat as president - the core audience for the lie was probably looking for anything that would justify it not being so...

I'll be more blunt than you were. They call him a Muslim because i's the next best thing to calling him a Nigger, which they know they can't get away with.

Re:Noone read the articles (0)

BStroms (1875462) | more than 2 years ago | (#40028083)

Yeah, I won't say racism is completely dead, but I do think it's often blown way out of proportion and gone to as the default motivation for the dislike of any minority figure. We all know politics itself provides more than enough reason for vitriolic hate, lies, conspiracy theories, and the like. Identifying racism in such a situation is like listening carefully to figure out if anyone near you is tapping their foot when you're surrounded by jackhammers tearing up the road.

Obama's a Muslim who wasn't born in the US, wants to turn America into a socialist nation, and doesn't mind if Israel is wiped off the map. Bush was secretly behind 9-11 in order to get the support to invade Iraq for its oil. Bill Clinton was a rapist who sold out to the Chinese for campaign funds. I don't really see any noticeable difference in how they're treated by their opponents that would indicate racism was a significant factor.

Re:Noone read the articles (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026831)

People did read the Wikipedia articles, though - they were there as part of a broader campaign by the students to create a viral hoax about the past that would spread.

Re:Noone read the articles (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027107)

People did read the Wikipedia articles, though

[who?][weasel words][citation needed]

Re:Noone read the articles (4, Funny)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026905)

That Noone fellow is notoriously gullible and even if he suspected that an article was falsified he would be too selfish to tell anyone.

Re:Noone read the articles (2)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027139)

[citation needed]

Re:Noone read the articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027393)

[citation needed] != "I disagree with your comment.
KILL this meme already...

Re:Noone read the articles (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027491)

I agree, that's what -1 Overrated is for.

Re:Noone read the articles (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027713)

...from orbit, just to, you know...

Re:Noone read the articles (2)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027867)

It is true. I made a ridiculous looking wikipedia article back in 2006 while making a scavenger hunt for my girlfriend. For more than six years that article has sat there, even though it references fake people, fake companies and fake quotes. It has even been cleaned up a little by others over the years.

The worst it got is a 'this article may contain original research' tag. I'm sure if it had widespread exposure someone would realize it is completely fake. But articles on wikipedia just don't get exposure. They sit there until someone looks them up. And that person is rarely an expert.

the real difference between wikipedia and reddit.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026741)

is that people (possibly wrongly) believe what they read on wikipedia, but nobody believes fucking anything they read on reddit! the rest follows from there.

Re:the real difference between wikipedia and reddi (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026873)

This actually seems like a pretty plausible analysis. Reddit's culture of liars and attention whores is naturally going to make it a much worse venue for this kind of thing.

Re:the real difference between wikipedia and reddi (3, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027023)

is that people (possibly wrongly) believe what they read on wikipedia, but nobody believes fucking anything they read on reddit! the rest follows from there.

You make a good point. Next time I want to know what the atomic number of lithium is, I am going to check Reddit given their penchant for hard hitting fact finding.

Re:the real difference between wikipedia and reddi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027217)

r/askscience

Re:the real difference between wikipedia and reddi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027289)

Methinks you didn't actually read the comment you quoted.

Re:the real difference between wikipedia and reddi (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027525)

I don't believe anything I read on reddit or slashdot. Does that mean I'm suck in an infinite loop? Does that mean I'm suck in an infinite loop? Does that mean I'm suck in an infinite loop? Does that mean I'm suck in an infinite loop? Does that mean I'm suck in an infinit
stack overflow

Water is wet, etc (4, Insightful)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026747)

We've all rightly been suspicious of wikipedia since its inception. This isn't really news to anyone on slashdot. Sadly, the type of person who really needs to read this article (those who aren't very technologically proficient), will probably never see it.

Re:Water is wet, etc (1)

lsamaha (2034456) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027495)

To be fair, the Atlantic will add 400k subscribers and 500k online monthly readers to the slashdot reader tally.

Re:Water is wet, etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027809)

Wikipedia is only as good as we make it. Why should "garbage in, garbage out" be a surprise?

hoax, begone! (4, Funny)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026751)

Further proof that we need the government to assure all of our online identities and stop those that would deceive us!
Truth-telling, I have found, is the key to responsible citizenship. The thousands of criminals I have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: Every single one was a liar. J. Edgar Hoover

Re:hoax, begone! (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027043)

That statement could also be true if it was written as:

Truth-telling, I have found, is the key to responsible citizenship. The thousands of politiciansI have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: Every single one was a liar.

I'm quite sure Hoover wasn't a 100% honest individual himself.

Then again, although all criminals are not politicians, we all know all politicians are criminals. I'd much rather keep what little anonymity I have on the net and decided myself whom to believe rather than trust the criminals that make laws to ensure the people I'm talk to are being honest.

Re:hoax, begone! (3, Funny)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027085)

Yes, because Hoover was a beacon of morality...

Re:hoax, begone! (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027691)

Further proof that we need the government to assure all of our online identities and stop those that would deceive us!

Truth-telling, I have found, is the key to responsible citizenship. The thousands of criminals I have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: Every single one was a liar.
J. Edgar Hoover

Would it be inappropriate to say "It takes one to know one?"

Re:hoax, begone! (1)

Wandering Voice (2267950) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027901)

I don't think it'd be at all inappropriate. After all 'Power attracts the corrupt'.

Mirror Mirror on the wall who's the greatest liar of all.

...participation is declining, (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026755)

There is certainly now a disinclination to do anything to improve Wikipedia, largely brought on by the obsessives who make up the "extremely active editors". You can barely mention the most obvious facts without being accused either of advertising or original research. The casual multitudes that made the site what it is just get put off.

"it's on the Internet so it must be true" sarcasm (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026781)

I really find this annoying because to me it shows a fallacy of thinking.

Why should you *not* show skepticism of other types of writing? Just because it's printed by some corporate major publisher is not a guarantee that the material is correct. You're putting a lot of faith in "professional" editors that also might not be fact checking or promoting a bias (Ann Coulter's publisher comes to mind here).

You should be skeptical of writing on the internet, but should be just skeptical of everything else. Everyone is human, everyone has bias, everyone has an agenda, everyone screws up.

Re:"it's on the Internet so it must be true" sarca (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027071)

Wish I could mod you to infinity. Britannica for generations portrayed itself as objective because it hired subject matter experts to write its articles. But anyone in any given field knows that there is no one "objective" individual capable of writing a truly neutral article. People should have a healthy skepticism of *any* source, no matter how authoritative they portray themselves as.

Re:"it's on the Internet so it must be true" sarca (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027287)

That's why science operates using peer-review. For a traditional encyclopedia that means that they should have multiple subject matter experts who check each others' work.

For wikipedia, it means that when conflicting edits arise, they should be resolved based on the presence and quality of references presented, with peer-reviewed scientific sources being ideal.

Re:"it's on the Internet so it must be true" sarca (3, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027361)

...and right now Wikipedia "peer review" amounts to a pissing match between jerk editors. It's past its peak unless this gets fixed.

This experiment is pointless (5, Insightful)

mattiaza (2567891) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026807)

I have to agree with Jimmy Wales on this - this is experiment is just as "insightful" as demonstrating to people that you can get away with vandalism.

Yes, it's not that difficult to troll Wikipedia. Just as it's not that difficult to scam old people, dump your trash in the forest, or scratch cars in a parking lot. You would most likely get away with it, but it does not mean that there is a huge security risk in parking lots that the world needs to be made aware of.

Society is based on the fact that most of the time, most people are not assholes, and therefore we don't need a policeman following everyone at all times. People don't troll or vandalise because they see it as the wrong thing to do - and the small risk of getting caught, and humiliated or punished is sufficient to discourage the less ethical ones.

Re:This experiment is pointless (5, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027533)

Society worked in the most part 100 years ago because everyone knew that (a) everyone was watching and (b) people cared about their environment. So if someone yelled "Stop thief!" a lot of people in the area would pay attention and grab the thief.

The Kitty Genovese case was the announcement to the world of that sort of community involvement had ended. It had been coming for a while, but that was really the big thing that people could point to. You might not remember this, but it was where a young woman was screaming she was being stabbed for something like a half an hour before finally succumbing to her wounds. Nobody came to help or even called the police.

Today it is clear that nobody cares. They have their own lives to live and if someone wants to dump trash in a public part, so what? If one person is killing another, people walk by thinking "glad is not me" without a thought that it easily could be. In some ways it is true that most of the time most people aren't assholes. But the tendancy towards unthinkingly unkind behavior is increased when people are sure nobody is watching - hence while many will not shoplift almost everyone will pirate stuff in the privacy of their home rather than pay.

The Internet isn't helping out much here, as people hide behind pseudo-identities and handles. This means the co-worker you are trusting at work may be the asshat that is screwing with your daughter's head on the Internet. You just don't know and if done properly will never know. And the co-worker may be a great buddy in public where people can see but on the Internet feels immune and invulnerable.

Since the 1960s we have seen a great lessening of social involvement. People don't care what their neighbors are doing as long as they don't bother them with it. People will walk by panhandlers on the street - which is a good thing - but also just walk by someone injured. Women are taught from birth that if someone wants to help them they probably have an agenda that isn't good. While in 1920 Officer Friendly was the neighborhood cop today we know that cops are there to sodomize powerless people with broomsticks and do whatever it takes to get their quota of tickets, and again, nobody is watching, nobody cares and nobody is going to do anything.

The risk of getting caught is almost non-existent today. If you chase down the statistics you find that major crimes - like armed robbery - have at best a 10-20% chance of resulting in jail time. Murder is a little better, rape is a little worse. The odds are definitely in favor of the criminal and they know it. Now, on the street it works out because after 5 to 10 such crimes they certainly do end up getting caught, convicted and jailed just because the percentages work that way. But it really sucks to be told that your rapist will certainly go free this time but will be caught eventually.

Do not believe for a second that "society" is watching your back today. Your community doesn't care and isn't interested in your problems or difficulties. You might have a few friends that do, but not the community at large. And because of this each one of us is less safe and less secure. No, I don't have the answer to this because I'd say it is the result of population, immigration and just population density itself. But it is not 1950 and June Cleaver isn't interested in what your children are doing any more.

Re:This experiment is pointless (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027571)

Good point... I always wonder why people don't put graffiti on cars when they happily vandalize any public thing stuck to the ground (buildings, signs)... I can only assume it must be because even graffers have some respect for other people's belongings.

Re:This experiment is pointless (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027795)

Yes, it's not that difficult to troll Wikipedia.

Which is exactly the point of the exercise. From the earliest days, Wikipedia bragged about how hard it was going to be to troll Wikipedia. How bad articles and bad edits would be detected and corrected within hours, if not minutes. How the structure and community of Wikipedia was robust and resilient.
 
However, as it has turned out, this is not the case. And most of the replies so far are doing everything they can to avoid discussing this elephant in the room.

Re:This experiment is pointless (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40028147)

Wikipedia manages to avoid bad edits by reverting the vast majority of them, immediately, regardless of their content. I've seen spelling corrections reverted. I abandoned Wikipedia to its editor cult years ago.

An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026819)

That ought to really impress any prospective employers.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (3, Funny)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026855)

That's something Scott Thompson can actually put on his resume now.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026895)

He can't say he took the class though, or can he? Maybe he just audited the class or did it as an independent study.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

broseidon (2537346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026929)

Recursive lying... I like it.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (2)

khr (708262) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026949)

That's something Scott Thompson can actually put on his resume now.

And he can borrow from the Slashdot headline, "-- and Get Caught"

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (-1, Troll)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026857)

It depends what you're prospective employer is doing. For instance, it would be very useful when applying to work for the Mitt Romney campaign.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027231)

It depends what you're prospective employer is doing. For instance, it would be very useful when applying to work for any political campaign

Fixed that for you.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (2)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027889)

Obama has been truthful with us.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026887)

Well, they can always go work for political campaigns.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027041)

The title alone indicates to me that it's a liberal studies course, intended to heighten awareness of how trusted sources can be deceived. Getting an 'A' in a class with such a provocative title opens the door to interviews, where the student can demonstrate that they know and understand more than just the minimum qualifications for their degree.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027211)

Getting an A+ is only achievable if you state that you never took the course.

Re:An A+ in "Lying About The Past" on your resume (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027857)

If your future employer is going to be the Republican Party, the RIAA, the MPAA or Congress, it will!

my experience (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026829)

My experience vandalising Wikipedia - and I do it every so often because it amuses me and because I think Wikipedia is one of the most harmful things the Internet has ever produced - is that Wikipedia is a power struggle game by the impotent.

So the number one rule for letting a vandalisation get through is to never openly disagree with "owners" of an article, i.e. those who make hundreds of edits to push their strong opinions. For example, you're not even going to get facts about Israel's atrocious behaviour in the Israel article, let alone bullshit. (However, it you write subtle bullshit which supports the position of the article owners, you're on to a winner.)

The second rule is to avoid the lazy syophants. Such toadying slimeballs observe all recent changes everywhere for nonsense edits simply to bump up their contribution count, so you need to make sure that no change you make is obviously nonsense.

The third rule is to appeal to stupidity. People who contribute to Wikipedia are neither very smart nor do they feel very secure, so you want to make an edit which is wrong but which makes them feel bad for doubting whether it's correct. If the statement you make is obviously irrelevant, or points to a mainstream source (e.g. mainstream news site) then it is easy to check, will be checked, and will be removed. If it cites a primary reference written for Adults, particularly if it isn't a guaranteed click away, you're much more likely to get away with the edit.

The fourth rule is to eschew braggadocio. Mentioning an obvious troll - your own or otherwise - on any public forum will guarantee that the troll is fixed. As the Stasi well knew, every community has its willing informants.

Re:my experience (5, Insightful)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026907)

Even if all of your complaints about Wikipedians are true, I still say screw you for being a vandal.

Re:my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026941)

People like you are the reason Vichy France survived so long.

Re:my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027129)

Immoral order is not better than disorder. In fact, it is usually worse, except to those who prefer security over liberty.

Re:my experience (2)

oiron (697563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027277)

What's so immoral about it? And what's the "liberty" you enjoy by vandalizing Wikipedia articles?

My posting this is very obviously feeding a self-confessed troll, but I just can't leave this unchallenged...

Re:my experience (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026959)

I modded you up because it is interesting what you write, but don't get this wrong: This is not an endorsement, you are simply an asshole messing with other people's time and common goods.

Re:my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027051)

Wikipedia is an Objectivist masterpiece: create a cult of personality and enjoy thousands of free or nearly-free labourers from whom you can profit. It is as far from any expression of common good as you can get. Now Wales has gone full nasty and consults for the UK Conservative gonverment, the significant troupe of contributors who regard themselves as "socialists" producing a work owned by the people are beyond hope.

The passionate anger which always results from any criticism of the foundations of Wikipedia just serves to confirm its adherents' tenuous grasp of reality.

Re:my experience (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027427)

My experience vandalising Wikipedia - and I do it every so often because it amuses me and because I think Wikipedia is one of the most harmful things the Internet has ever produced

You are a waste of oxygen. Wikipedia is one of the best resources in the world, and, frankly if you lived to be 1000, you would never produce anything with even one millionth of the value.

And your solution to wikipedia being bad is to try to make it worse to satisfy your own ego?

Wanker.

Re:my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027681)

^^ this is what happens when you insult someone's religion

Re:my experience (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027719)

this is what happens when you insult someone's religion

No, he wasn't insulting wikipedia, he's going out of his way to valdalize it.

Re:my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40028015)

^^ this is what happens when I roll my eyes at someone's self-importance

not exceptionally impressive (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026837)

If you're willing to openly flout research ethics, it's not very hard to produce disinformation in many different venues, most of which rely to a greater or lesser extent on trust.

Here are some other things you can do:

1. Create an authoritative-looking website on an .edu domain with false information about historical events. Odds are, bits of it will eventually start to percolate into the literature and academic talks, especially if you're well-regarded in the area, and the false information is relatively obscure.

2. Insert false historical facts slightly off the main article thesis into peer-reviewed articles. For example, write an engineering paper for an IEEE journal, and then insert a historical footnote with made-up biographical information. This will typically get a weak level of peer review, because IEEE journals will be primarily reviewing your technical contributions, not your historical footnote. Later, "launder" this false information into a more prominent position: write a more historical article, which cites the previous footnote as a source, thereby upgrading it. Now the peer-reviewed literature has confirmed your false information. Now you can really get it enmeshed in Wikipedia: write a Wikipedia article that cites your paper.

3. If you're invited to contribute an article or two to a specialist encyclopedia, one of those "Biographical Dictionary of [Field]" type things, insert false information into it. These carry some authoritative weight, but facts in them are rarely checked in detail, because the work of putting the encyclopedia together at all usually strains resources as it is, so authors have to be trusted.

If anything, I would say that Wikipedia is somewhat more resilient than many of these avenues are. The trick is that its resilience is somewhat eyeball-weighted: if you insert fabricated information into a widely read article such as [[George W. Bush]] or [[Byzantine Empire]], it will be noticed much sooner than if you insert it into a very obscure article that isn't linked anywhere, where nobody is even going to see it until some bored editor hits "Random Article" enough times.

Re:not exceptionally impressive (4, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026879)

There's another way this can happen, though:
1. Insert false information into Wikipedia without attribution on a subject that is likely to be of public interest.
2. Wait for a harried news reporter to pick up on the false information and use it in their article without attribution.
3. Go back and answer the [[citation needed]] with a link back to the news reporter's article.

Re:not exceptionally impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026983)

Oblig. XKCD

http://xkcd.com/978/

Ownership (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026853)

most users feel little ownership of the content.

This is probably because the admins are very quick to remind editors that they are the real owners, with a revert.

Fucking insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027155)

Subject says it all.

Re:Fucking insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027615)

here here
those editors are quick with reverts.

Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (4, Interesting)

craznar (710808) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026875)

That is the reason Reddit picked up on it.

Just over a year ago, I posted (by request) some truths - was quickly lynched by several thousand users, branded a liar and a troll and forced out of the community.

Reddit users had just redefined the truth in their own image.

The dangers of community driven information - be it reddit or wikipedia.

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027047)

Just over a year ago, I posted (by request) some truths - was quickly lynched by several thousand users, branded a liar and a troll and forced out of the community.

What were the truths?

--
BMO

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (1)

Sinister Stairs (25573) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027601)

Just over a year ago, I posted (by request) some truths - was quickly lynched by several thousand users, branded a liar and a troll and forced out of the community.

What were the truths?

I hold them to be self-evident.

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027059)

I see something similar in other communities. When you cry "Wolf!" for every sheep that you see, sometimes you ends up really hitting where sheep are wolves disguised.

Works, but the error rate tends to be... little greater than 95%. And still have the problem of discovering when the subject correctly pointed out that the sheep was a wolf

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027151)

That's Reddit for you, it's extremely good at being a mob. Provided your opinion agrees with the mob, you'll get along juuuust fine.

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027205)

and these truths were?

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (2)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027243)

When someone starts talking about "truth" before (or without bothering) going into details, generally they are trying to blow smoke up my nether regions. If this is where you started from, IMHO they were quite right to be suspicous.

I'm not saying you're wrong...just in really really bad company [google.com] at the moment.

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (1)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027255)

link? subreddit? username? anything to support your claim? moderators who banned you? Actions you took after it?

Re:Reddit User don't even believe the truth... (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40028073)

>asked for proof or even just an assertion.
>crickets.wav

Trollboy.

--
BMO

FIFY. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026915)

> But on the Internet, where identities are malleable and uncertain, we all might be well advised to err on the side of skepticism.

My personal take:

But on the world, where identities are malleable and uncertain, we all might be well advised to err on the side of skepticism.

You can't even be sure about famous dead people having said something; one must rely on certain folks, widely acknowledged as trustworthy, to be able to gather a meaningful set of facts. In the end, such people act more or less like certification authorities -- with much the same problems the latter have.

Would someone malicious post as anonymous? Maybe, but I'm betting not, exactly because the masses believe identity is authenticity... and have no effective way of keeping control on said identities (yes, I'm even talking about any nation).

So beware.

Now, which lesson to learn from this? Maybe change the way Wikipedia works, possibly with Reddit as an example. As a Reddit occasional reader, I can attest it works better than /., at least.

Pffft (1)

broseidon (2537346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40026917)

/.ers would have debunked it in 15 minutes. Just sayin'.

Re:Pffft (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026993)

You must be new here. It would have been 15 minutes and 300+ comments before any of us even went and read the article.

Re:Pffft (1)

broseidon (2537346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027045)

You must be new here. It would have been 15 minutes and 300+ comments before any of us even went and read the article.

I like you, sir. Thanks for the laugh this morning. You're 100% right, and half of those comments would have read "RTFA" :)

Course isn't on faking Wikipedia, but history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40026927)

Wikipedia was only the medium in this case, and it was Reddit that caught it, not Wikipedia's crack team of editors, cough. This course is important, because what people treat as history is often false, and how it gets that way is import. Sure, this is extreme, but how many people were thinking about what history was false before they heard about this course?

As was mentioned before (1)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027103)

This can happen anywhere. I certainly remember learning about the Tasaday in elementary school.

MSM does not want Wiki in the cogs (2)

Conspire (102879) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027147)

I find it completely ironic how the MSN throws Wikipedia under the bus. I was recently called by a major MSM print magazine to verify some facts in a story, some of the facts they were asking to verify were clearly laid out in a Wiki page that I myself had edited. Now after referring the editor to the Wiki page they said "we don't accept Wikipedia as a verification", and my response was "I already confirmed to you that the Wikipedia entry is factually correct", they then asked me to verify the facts listing them in the email as opposed to referring them to the Wikipedia site. So, I kindly did a screenshot and put it in the email saying "this is correct".

Now the irony is, I pointed out how the framing of the other facts that they were questioning, was in fact misleading. I also pointed out that they had not included very important facts, which I did list out, which would correct the misleading framing of the story and make it clear in the reader's eyes. Not only did they NOT include the facts that I pointed out in the printed version, but they grossly exaggerated the position and framing that they chose. I guess that sells more magazines.

The MSM industry is broken, corrupt, for sale, and in the hands of corporate giants looking to frame whatever story they want to spin. It is in their best interest that Wikipedia is relegated to a source than can never be used, and whose credibility is diminished to zero in the eyes of the public masses.

Is a fake article about a fake mass murderer 100 years ago a sign of lack of credibility? Or is framing a story around living people that demean them in order to create an "interesting story" that will sell magazines and swing public view toward a desired consensus a sign of lack of credibility? The MSM has zero scruples, and I wonder if there a grant around this research professor? Would be very interesting to know if there was a grant, and who paid for it.

Re:MSM does not want Wiki in the cogs (3, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027307)

SO a company was trying to not use Wikipedia, talk to an actually expert to avoid Wikipedia mistakes, and you were a dick about it.

Well done.

self-creating (1)

Nineteen-Delta (1892866) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027273)

Now that there is a news story about the hoax, it will merit a Wikipedia entry about itself. - Neat!

It isn't that difficult to fool Wikipedia. (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027389)

It isn't that difficult to fool Wikipedia, this is the same people that says Windows NT [wikipedia.org] wasn't designed for the Internet, except this [groklaw.net] says different.

Re:It isn't that difficult to fool Wikipedia. (1)

oiron (697563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027451)

Apparently you think it's not that difficult to fool Slashdot either; that PDF's a bunch of mails about reviewing Enterprise Java Beans and whether they should help Sun or not. Not a word about security or the Internet, or for that matter, Windows NT in there!

But anyway, thanks for playing...

T. Mills Kelly's course, Lying About the Past (3, Funny)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027543)

George Mason University curriculum:

"Lying About the Past" - a course for ex-Enron accountants, prerequisite for finding another job

"Lying About the Future" - strongly recommended for a successful career in politics

"Lying about the Present" - a required course for MBA majors

Even Prestigious Journals can be Scammed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027559)

There have been any number of cases where scientists have falsified data that has become the basis of further research. Some of it going undetected for decades. But the example on wikipedia is one where normal skepticism would not be very rational.The topic was chosen NOT to be treated with skepticism. If your sole goal is to get away with lying, its pretty easy to find something where no one is likely to call you on it.

That said, I think the point that Wikipedia hides much of the discussion about the topic from the typical user is well taken. Its a weakness of its "authoritative" style that it needs to resolve disputes rather than leaving that up to reader. But that is also one of its strengths. If you really want an in depth understanding, you need to go beyond reading an encyclopedia. That was true even in the days of print. You can find some real howlers in old Encyclopedia Brittanica's.

Wikis are a noble idea... (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#40027649)

...I just don't trust the content anymore. If I'm trying to figure out if the actress I just saw on TV is the daughter of Raquel Welsh, yeah, but anything where there's some vested interest in hiding or distorting the truth (politics), I've learned to stay far away from it. I like learning new things and simply don't have the time to be auditing as much as I'm learning.

Wikipedia = weak trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027669)

The problem with Wikipedia is that they want things to be NPOV and want to use credible sources for if it should be included in the Wiki at all. The content linked to (often newspaper websites) have a high amount of amnesia as articles are moved to archives behind paywalls, and it violates copyright to keep copies of the articles in the wiki.

Something needs to change, and I'd rather the attitude of the super-nerds running the system change to be more inclusive of content and stop telling new people to the site to "fuck off, you didn't edit the page correctly" or "nobody gives a shit about X" . It's not worth time to contribute to a site that will erase your work and tell you off in 30 seconds after you spent several hours researching, formatting, etc an article.

Bitter I may sound, but I'm coming from the angle of running a site with millions of readers, that went from promoting wikipedia when it was new, to telling people to not even go there in 2008. TVTropes pretty much replaced Wikipedia for the kind of content that people were being pissed on by Wikipedia editors. However TVTropes is mostly run by geek minorities (eg LGBT, Furries, etc) and take things to extremes when trying to fit things under a trope label. At least they take "word of god" as a credable source, unlike Wikipedia, which WP considers sock puppeting.

BS detectors are a major element of Reddit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40027767)

There's also the fact that the Reddit community tends to be extremely skeptical and call bullshit on pretty much anything.

It's like trying to pull a Candid Camera stunt on Alan Funt.

Yeah, I'm old, get over it.

Real Course? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40028069)

This is an interesting exercise, and surely points out for the deft among us just how malleable online "reality" can be, especially in the hands of an organized conspiracy.

That said, is this a real course? I mean, really? As in, a college course, whereby one receives credit to be put toward receiving a degree from said college? Why are we teaching people to be despicable liars? Shouldn't we be encouraging people to act in exactly the opposite way?

Is it possible to cheat in this class? (1)

RandCraw (1047302) | more than 2 years ago | (#40028111)

Or do you get extra credit for "Lying about your past"?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?