Crowd-Sourced Information Online: Helpful or Harmful?
There’s been quite a bit of discussion about the reliability of online information that is compiled by individual users (think Wikipedia). Others scrutinize sites that allow users to share/upload files, music and videos freely. But who can really define whether these sites are doing right or wrong?
The Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) is an effort to regulate all content online. It has been creating buzz because, if passed, the Act “…makes the streaming of unauthorized content a felony,” reported MSNBC.com.
The reactions to this proposed law are definitely being heard. Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare are just a few of the online sites that are threatening to “…take a ‘nuclear option’ and ‘go simultaneously dark’ in protest of the bill,” MSNBC.com published earlier this week.
There are those who support the bill and would like to see unauthorized content removed from all websites. Others rely on shared information from internet users on a daily basis. How about if you’re a student writing a research paper – can you cite Wikipedia as a credible resource for your information? Educational institutions and their professors/instructors have a wide range of policies for students using these crowd-sourced encyclopedias as a reliable source in coursework. Since users can change the content, who’s to say that what you’re reading on those sites is factual?
Try asking followers of The Colbert Report with Steven Colbert on Comedy Central. In 2006 he encouraged viewers to change the Wikipedia entries on elephants to state that their population had tripled in the last six months. So what happened? Roughly 20 Wikipedia articles on elephants were vandalized by numerous users stating exactly what Colbert had suggested – until Wikipedia administrators caught wind of what had actually happened, locked the pages and blocked Colbert from the site. According to Colbert, a made up thing or idea becomes true reality if enough people agree with you. He coined it as “wikiality,” and he was proving it.
Does SOPA silent free speech? Or does it help regulate false information on the infinite Internet?
Published on: January 6, 2012