He Ram! Mahatma Gandhi faces vandalism on Wikipedia

New York, June 19 (IANS) Mahatma Gandhi is in the company of God, Michael Jackson, William Shakespeare and Tony Blair - as well as comfort women and sex - in Wikipedia's list of semi-protected topics that have been repeatedly targeted in 'edit wars' or attacked by vandals on the popular online encyclopaedia.

While Wikipedia, launched in 2002, prides itself in its democratic set-up - anybody can contribute on any topic - new measures have been necessitated to whet the write-ups as certain subjects are targeted with personal opinions rather than facts, mischievous comments and even bad jokes.

The open database has revised its anyone-can-edit policy and put a select list of topics under two levels of protection, though most of them are only temporarily protected.

There is a small list of 'protected articles' that cannot be edited. Currently, this list includes:

Controversies related to the 2004 US election, Cuba, Islamophobia, Messianic Judaism and Islam, anti-Semitism, China's human rights and military budget, Kosovo, Elitism, George W. Bush, and Christina Aguilera.

Another category, of 'semi-protected articles' can be edited only by those users who are registered with the site for at least four days.

The list of subjects in this category include:

Mahatma Gandhi, Tony Blair, Michael Jackson, God, Shakespeare, John Wayne, Ku Klux Klan, Christianity, 9/11, Anarchism, Sex, Food, comfort women, and PlayStation 3.

Thus, at the top of the web page on Mahatma Gandhi, rich in details with photographs and hyperlinks for further information, comes the message:

'Due to vandalism, or to discourage banned editors, editing of this article by new or unregistered users is currently disabled.'

The four-day waiting period is meant to deter vandals and the entry is reset to the open mode once the assaults are over. An entry on Bill Gates was semi-protected for a few days in January but anyone can edit it now.

On the other hand, some articles, like the one on Bush, remain under protection indefinitely.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales noted that protection is usually temporary. 'Protection is a tool for quality control,' he told the New York Times.

He termed vandalism to the encyclopaedia 'a minimal problem, a dull roar in the background'.

Alison Wheeler, an editor and chief executive of Wikimedia Britain, said the restriction was a necessary tool for quality control.

'We've had an increase in the level of vandalism on (Blair's) entry. It's mostly quite offensive stuff, such as someone adding in as fact that Tony Blair is a liar. Others are simply stupid - mildly amusing, perhaps - such as that Tony Blair spilt popcorn down his pyjamas last night,' Wheeler told the London Observer.

She said more people seemed to be vandalising Blair's entry since a restriction was recently placed on the page on Bush.

Wikipedia is now the Web's third-most-popular news and information source, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

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