Wikipedia Has No Credibility! But Judges Forget That For a Moment

Wikipedia Has No Credibility! But Judges Forget That For a Moment

Wikipedia is not credible. But Judges, temporarily forget this and become reliant on specific Wikipedia articles.

The Irish Supreme Court found in favor of a woman who filed a claim for damages against a landowner in 1997 after she slipped while admiring the sunset and fell over a cliff, breaking multiple bones. The decision is succinctly summarised in the Wikipedia article Geraldine-Weir-Rodgers vs SF Trust. It has since been cited in several other legal decisions in Ireland. But no amateur legal scholar wrote that entry. It was created as a component of an experiment to see how the crowdsourced encyencyclopediald affects court decisions. It turns out that changes made to Wikipedia pages can affect some judicial decisions.

More than 150 new Wikipedia articles covering decisions by the Irish Supreme Court were created by a group of researchers from Maynooth University in Ireland, MIT, and Cornell University. They then randomly selected half of these articles to be added to the site as part of a controlled experiment. Similar to the US or UK legal systems, the Irish judicial system is hierarchical, with decisions made in higher courts affecting those made in lower courts. At the start of the experiment, there were also not many Wikipedia articles about Irish Supreme Court rulings. The researchers discovered that published Wikipedia entries enhanced the number of citations to a particular court decision by 20%. Citations were most frequently used when they strengthened a judge’s position in a ruling. Additionally, they compared the language used by judges in their rulings using computational techniques. They discovered patterns that indicated judges may have lifted text from the Wikipedia pages they had read. Associate professor at Maynooth University Brian Flanagan adds, “You have judges deciding what’s going to happen to people—very important things—and we want them to utilize competence when they do that. In the worst-case scenario, he claims, an article’s editor might even be interested in a case. The creator of Wikipedia entries is essentially unknown, he continues. The study’s co-author Neil Thompson previously examined how Wikipedia edits affect citations in academic journal articles. Thompson is a research scientist in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He finds it alarming that alterations of dubious provenance can influence expert knowledge and important judgments. As you gain more specific expertise, having a profound understanding of anything becomes increasingly vital, according to Thompson. Because the rest of the internet has turned into such a massive information garbage fire, Wikipedia may no longer be derided for the veracity of its content. The website is nevertheless prone to astonishing fabrications, as in the instance of the woman who wrote false articles about Russian history on the Chinese-language edition of the website for years without being identified, which was just made public. With 6.5 million entries that are updated at a rate of nearly two edits per second and ranking as the seventh-most visited website on the planet, Wikipedia content also maintains an astounding degree of influence. Mills Kelly, a history professor at George Mason University who gained attention for encouraging his students to modify Wikipedia articles to teach them about historical hoaxes, calls the exercise “a very intriguing experiment.” The work, according to Kelly, shows how harmful the “evidence fallacy” is, which holds that just because a hypothesis or notion is supported by more evidence, it does not always mean that it is more likely to be correct. He continues by saying that, although it is not clear from the research report, it would be very interesting to know if the legal Wikipedia pages had an impact on a decision.

According to the study’s researchers, the legal profession may need to make some effort to regulate the quality of entries posted to Wikipedia because judges and other legal experts are likely to continue utilizing the site. A lecturer at Maynooth University and one of the study’s authors, Edana Richardson, says that edit-a-thons, which bring together professionals to boost the caliber of Wikipedia content, would be helpful. The majority of the legal decisions that featured Wikipedia-influenced citations were made in the lower courts, which the researchers believe illustrates how overworked the judges are. The researchers also discovered evidence that the use of Wikipedia reflects an already overburdened system.

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