As a writer I frequently use Wikipedia as a source of information – but I have come to double check Wiki’s facts with at least one other source if they are about a subject that is even slightly contentious or controversial. As any user of the online encyclopaedia knows Wikipedia is written by anyone – even anonymous contributors are tolerated. This means that the checks and balances on the entries are a bit haphazard, relying on volunteer editors. This means in turn that bias of one sort or another often creeps into the entries and to their editing. Taken the Wiki entry on the island of Ireland for example.

Geographically the island of Island is one of the “British Isles” (indeed Wikipedia’s own entry on the British Isles confirms that this is so). However Wikipedia’s entry on the island (as opposed to the state) of Ireland does not say that the island is one of the British Isles. From time to time contributors try to correct this both in the interests of accuracy and of the achievement of consistency between various Wiki entries. As soon as anyone does this a Wikipedia volunteer editor who pays particular attention to Ireland will almost immediately revert it back. Basically this is rather silly Irish nationalism at work (anything “British”, even a purely geographical descriptive use of the word, is to be snubbed) and very unencyclopaedic. If you want to see how this works give it a try – it is rather extraordinary!

My own view is that Wikipedia should only allow changes to entries from approved editors who can demonstrate a reason why they have specialist knowledge on a particular subject. They should also ferret out the entries where a particular fact is not allowed to be stated because of political or other prejudices or misplaced nationalism.

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