Wikipedia to Scientologists: Edit this, suckers

The world's most popular encyclopedia just banned an entire church from editing or adding to their own entries. But why stop there?

Memo to Tom Cruise: You're outta here, dude.

John Travolta? Take a hike, Barbarino. Kirstie Alley? Shut up and get your fat **** back on that exercycle.

Wikipedia and Scientology have tangled before, and Cringely was there with the play-by-play | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

The island of misfit geeks otherwise known as the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee has unceremoniously uninvited the Church of Scientology from contributing to "the peoples' almanac." Wikipedia is now the encyclopedia anyone can edit, except those who believe Xenu will one day return in his DC8 rocket ship to vanquish the church's enemies and free the Thetans.

The WAC is quoted in the UK's Telegraph:

"All IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates, broadly interpreted, are to be blocked as if they were open proxies"....Anyone who logs on with these IP addresses will be "prohibited from editing articles related to Scientology or Scientologists, broadly defined."

The reason? Oh, the usual -- a massive organized effort to make the CoS look good and/or counter the relentless public criticism that has shadowed the organization since the earliest days of the Net.

(What? You mean people are editing Wikipedia entries for their own nefarious ends? I am shocked, simply shocked. Wait a second while I spruce up my own entry with an account of that wild weekend last fall with Lindsay Lohan and the Cirque du Soleil acrobats. OK, I'm done now.)

To be fair, the whacky WAC also takes issue with the critics of Scientology, who've been having their own way with various entries. So far, though, they haven't banned 4chan or "Anonymous," though I bet they would if they could just figure out how.

Wikipedia has certainly banned individuals before, and once apparently put the kibosh on an entire mountain in Utah (per The Register). In terms of targeting abusers by their IP address, its accuracy is probably only slightly better than the RIAA's. But this is the first time Wikipedia decided to permanently oust an entire organization, and I suspect it won't be the last.

Wal-Mart, Exxon, Diebold, several U.S. Congressfolks, the Department of Justice, and the CIA have all been caught with their hands in the wiki jar, juicing their own entries. Sure, sometimes it's to correct inaccuracies, but most of the time it's to make themselves look better. Naughty, naughty, you soulless government and corporate entities. No more cookies for you.

I'm all for a more accurate Wikipedia, especially now that it appears to be the primary source for a few billion student papers each year. But determining what constitutes a neutral point of view for all of humanity? Good luck with that.

As the Wikipedia self-referentially notes:

Critics of Wikipedia accuse it of systemic bias and inconsistencies, and target its policy of favoring consensus over credentials in its editorial process. Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy are also an issue. Other criticisms are centered on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information, though scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived.

I removed the six footnotes from that blurb, but if you absolutely must know the sources you can find them here.

In their own way, the Wikipedians are as cultish and protective of their public image as the group they just banned. And if you don't believe that, ask AndroidCat, GoodDamon, FloNight, BravehartBear, and all the other Wiki high priests who weighed in on the seven-month arbitration hearing on whether to ban the L. Rons.

I also understand that in the Great Wiki-wakening, the almighty and surpreme Jimmy Walu will ride down from heaven in a carriage pulled by a team of perky supermodels to smite the sockpuppets, soapboxers, trolls, griefers, vandals, etc., and bestow a righteous and true edit upon the heads of the chosen. Then again, I think I read that on Wikipedia, so Lord knows if it's true.

Of course, if you don't like Wikipedia, there are a few dozen other encyclopedias catering to whatever belief systems you prefer. There's the Conservapedia for people who believe in conservative Christianity, the Citizendium for people who believe that expertise is spelled "Ph.D.,"  the CreationWiki for people who believe the Earth is just 6,000 years young, and the Unclyclopedia for people who don't believe in encyclopedias.

Your own personal truth, served up just the way you like it. Isn't that why Al Gore invented the Internet in the first place?

Should Wikipedia ban entire groups? If so, who should be next on their list? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me:

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