What is Wikipedia?
In 1996 Jimmy Wales wanted to establish Bomis Inc. After that he founded Nupedia, a free online encyclopedia in 2000. Larry Sanger was made the editor-in-chief. But not many articles were hosted since 2001. So there comes an idea to Larry Sanger that it should be made an open-source encyclopedia based on wiki software. Wiki software means that it is collaborative in nature. It was relaunched as an independent website after a few days later as Wikipedia. Then Nupedia was deleted and articles from that were put into Wikipedia. Now Wikipedia became a free internet-based encyclopedia. It works as an open-source management style. It is seen as the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.
In the first year, it expanded to some 20,000 articles in 18 languages, such as French, German, Polish, Dutch, Hebrew, Chinese, etc. but by 2006 the English-language version of Wikipedia had more than one million articles. Currently, English Wikipedia alone has over 65,48,132 articles of any length. Users use Wikipedia as a platform to generate content and we consume it. Wikipedia is only an intermediary to generate content.
Model of Functioning
It is a multilingual free online encyclopedia written and maintained by a group of volunteers, through open collaboration and a wiki-based editing system. All Wikipedia’s encyclopedic content is user generated.
What is open source software?
- It is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance. Although some sources are restricted in nature that is only for a few users. Its features include
- Its philosophy is based on Intellectual freedom.
- Core principles are transparency, collaboration, delivery, inclusion, and community.
- It may not always be reliable.
The major criticism of Wikipedia
- Most of the individuals that perform tasks for Wikipedia are not employees of Wikimedia. They are just part-time workers and they do it voluntarily.
- They gain designation and exercise attendant rights through a community review process.
- They are not given or removed from a particular designation by the Wikimedia Foundation per se, but is it not a paid job.
Who is accountable?
- The Wikimedia Foundation lawfully controls the servers on Which Wikipedia’s content is hosted.
- Wikimedia Foundation also exercises control over the “system administrators” of Wikipedia, as they have the power to block the user to reverse back any unlawful activity that has been taken on Wikipedia’s page.
- Wikipedia classifies users depending on the edit rights that they have
(a) Full protection
- Users that have been given full edit rights can make modifications.
b) Semi protection
- Cannot be edited by unregistered users.
c) Pending changes
- Changes made will not be reflected on the page until the changes are accepted by an editor with its rights.
- Temporary or permanent protection to pages.
- Edit rights are widespread there has been an instance of content disputes and edit warring.
- This could also lead to edit warring.
- Administrators can provide temporary or permanent protection to a page to prevent edits.
Does the Wikimedia Foundation be held responsible for the content that Wikipedia hosts?
- There is no settled position for this task.
- It only works as an intermediary like Twitter and Facebook. It provided a platform for content generation but does not have the responsibility for the content.
- Intermediaries are afforded immunity.
Precedents set by earlier challenges
- There have been ruling that the Wikimedia Foundation does not own the content.
- Does not have legal responsibility for it.
- Should Wikimedia be held responsible?
- It contributes, monitors, or deletes content for legal compliance. Therefore, it can be held responsible for illegal content being hosted on Wikipedia as they have system administrators.
- It has edit rights and protected pages.
- Certain protections to be accorded to particular pages depends on the vulnerabilities of the page.
- Goal-increase reliability and also to prevent vandalism and disruptive edits.
- Information that is patently false and untrue, and is written or published in any form, with the intent to mislead or harass a person, entity, or agency for financial gain or to cause any injury to any person should not be allowed to be written as content.
- Once the Wikimedia foundation has actual knowledge of such content being hosted on its platform, it would be held responsible for the same.
- IT Rules, 2021 should define actual knowledge that can be applicable to Wikimedia.