But it was more than an academic argument.
A life was at stake, believed New York Times excutives — and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Last November, NYT reporter David Rohde, his interpreter and their driver were kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan but, “that was pretty straightforward compared with keeping it off Wikipedia,”says the NYT, going on:
“Times executives believed that publicity would raise Mr. Rohde`s value to his captors as a bargaining chip and reduce his chance of survival. Persuading another publication or a broadcaster not to report the kidnapping usually meant just a phone call from one editor to another, said Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times.
But as the story points out, Wikipedia is in a, “vastly different world”. Supposedly by, and for, online communities, it says of itself »»»
Wikipedia is a free, web-based multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia’s 13 million articles (2.9 million in the English Wikipedia) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone who can access the Wikipedia website.
The operative word is “almost”.
“A dozen times, user-editors posted word of the kidnapping on Wikipedia`s page on Mr. Rohde, only to have it erased,” says the NYT, going on »»»
Several times the page was frozen, preventing further editing — a convoluted game of cat-and-mouse that clearly angered the people who were trying to spread the information of the kidnapping.
Even so, details of his capture cropped up time and again, however briefly, showing how difficult it is to keep anything off the Internet — even a sentence or two about a person who is not especially famous.
The sanitizing was a team effort, led by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, along with Wikipedia administrators and people at The Times.
“Most of the attempts to add the information, including the first and the last, came from three similar Internet protocol addresses that correspond to an Internet service provider in Florida, and Wikipedia administrators guessed that they were all the same user,” says the NYT, which has Wales stating:
We had no idea who it was. There was no way to reach out quietly and say `Dude, stop and think about this.`
Ultimately, Rohde and translator Tahir Ludin escaped from a Taliban compound in Pakistan, and Wales himself unfroze the page, says the NYT, adding:
“When the news broke Saturday, the user from Florida reposted the information, with a note to administrators that said: ‘Is that enough proof for you [expletives]? I was right. You were WRONG’.
What does the Wikipedia have to say?
Simply, “Rohde was kidnapped by the Taliban in November 2008, but managed to escape in June 2009 after seven months in captivity.”
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi
New York Times – Keeping News of Kidnapping Off Wikipedia, June 28, 2009
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