For years, teachers and college professors have discouraged students from using Wikipedia as a research source because of the public editing allowed by the Website. If anyone can post on the site, it’s fair to doubt the accuracy of the information.
At the same time as teachers discredited Wikipedia, comedians like Stephen Colbert and Daniel Tosh encouraged their fans to edit Wikipedia to reflect false information. Colbert and Tosh used the Website’s publicly editable content to get laughs.
But while Colbert and Tosh encouraged mostly harmless – albeit hilarious – changes to Wikipedia, other falsehoods on the site have been far more serious.
In a recent online article, Complex counted down the craziest lies in Wikipedia history. (Let’s call them WikiLies for our purposes here.)
Here are the categories into which most of the WikiLies listed by Complex fall:
Haters have used Wikipedia to embarrass the rich and famous, from Drake to the Dutch royal family.
Shaming Rival Athletes
It seems that fans of all sports, from hockey to golf, sometimes take those games too seriously. While some sports fans posted innocent fibs about players from other teams, several athlete-related WikiLies have grown very mean-spirited. Complex describes one hacker who wrote that pro soccer player Ritchie De Laet would “shoot himself” if he ever played for his new team. Repeat after me, guys: It’s only a game.
One of the most popular categories of WikiLie is the fake celebrity death. This includes the reported passings of people like Vernon Kray as well as more popular celebs like Sinbad and Miley Cyrus. Premature reports of Rick Ross’s death take the No. 2 spot on Complex’s list of WikiLies.
Hackers have infiltrated Wikipedia to label actor Gary Oldman as a giraffe and write that the Greek philosopher Plato was a Hawaiian weatherman and surfer. These jokes are stupid but ultimately harmless.
Five of Complex’s top six WikiLies concern political figures. The bogus entries for Sarah Palin and Tony Blair especially confirm what many people have known for a long time: In politics, there are very few rules.
Judging by this history of incorrect Wikipedia entries, it seems fair that teachers require their students to steer clear of the site. After all, you never know when you might be reading a WikiLie.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: This lesson will teach students how to choose reputable sources for research and properly cite them within a paper. Students will understand that acceptable research sources are written by experts in their fields. This lesson will help students develop such skills as research methodology and citation format.