After seeing a bunch of news articles about Virgil Griffith’s (name intentionally split to help Virgil in his “quest to become the #1 hit on google for query ‘virgil’”) WikiScanner, I decided to go up and give it a try for myself.
This thing is amazing! While I’ve always known about the content management features of Wikipedia, having deployed the MediaWiki software a few times, Virgil’s tool really makes it easy to see who’s doing what to the Internet’s largest compendium of community authored content.
While alot of the commentary has focused on the bad actors involved and their presumptive institutional affiliations (derived from their connections through some very secure private networks), it occurred to me that another way of looking at this is that Wikipedia may well be one of the most prominent “honeypots” for liars on the Internet. Although most of those who contribute to the site have good intentions, and the non-controversial content is generally trustworthy, many of the more sensational entries seem to have attracted quite a number of people who don’t seem to have any qualms about breaking the Ninth Commandment.
So in addition to being a readily accessible source of valuable educational information on all sorts of topics, Wikipedia can now also serve as a sort of moral barometer for the staff at various government and private organizations. A double public service that deserves the support of all those who value the truth.