Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Wikipedia is not yet trusted for source of information?

Parents warned of Wikiporn risk

Parents have been warned not to let children use the website Wikipedia unsupervised after an entry on a popular children's book was edited to contain pornographic material.

Sexual and violent acts between characters were added last week to the online plot summary for Mrs Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH, which is recommended for students in years 5 to 9. The edited page for the book, on the list for the Premier's Reading Challenge, was visible for about an hour before it was changed to the original text.

A Sydney mother was shocked to discover the article, after researching the book for her son. NSW Parents Council executive officer of communications, Michelle FitzGerald, said "all parents" should be concerned. It is a concern to the council that the internet, if used inappropriately or not supervised, can lead children into areas where they really should not be.

Wikipedia's Australian representative, Brianna Laugher, said vandalism was an continuing problem for the site."Wikipedia, in general, is not designed for a primary school audience," she said. "I don't advise any children to use it before they have had the pitfalls explained to them."

A NSW Education Department spokesman said the school attended by the woman's son had not advised students to use Wikipedia as a research tool. "The department has filters to block inappropriate material on websites being accessed from school computers."

But website expert Mat Hardy, who is doing a PhD on the use of Wikipedia in education, said filters generally worked on a domain basis and would not block sites like Wikipedia. The website used a program called a "bot", which automatically detects certain triggers, such as profanity or major edits. "If [the edited article] was only up for an hour or so, that demonstrates how robust the system is, even though that is one of the most obscure articles," Mr Hardy said.

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