The New York Times reports that edits by new users to biographical entries on Wikipedia will be held back from publication until a more experienced editor approves them.
This seems something of a no-brainer to me. When I talk to students about Wikipedia I always point out that the main risks come with biographies, because of the obvious personal element involved (I also point them to the discussion pages behind each entry, and the ability to look at the history of edits and who made them).
It’s more likely that someone will have a beef with a former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville than they will with the atmosphere of Jupiter.
Likewise, when someone dies, people know they can have fun with the media by inserting a little myth that they can guess will be repeated as fact by journalists under a deadline. (Recently Popbitch’s Camilla Wright, whose readers helped debunk inflated Michael Jackson sales figures, argued in a Press Gazette column that web journalists don’t seem to be as vulnerable to this as print journalists).
And it’s worth pointing out that the much-quoted study by Nature which compared Wikipedia’s accuracy with Britannica only looked at science articles.
So it’s a no-brainer on the accuracy front. But for Wikipedia it still raises that community issue: if a new contributor doesn’t see their edit go live immediately, how does that affect their involvement? How does creating a 2-tier system affect the community? Why not instead try adding a disclaimer to the top of all biographies urging caution because “this is about a person”?
It will be interesting to see what happens. In the meantime, I’m off to read about the atmosphere of Jupiter before someone hoaxes it.