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Wikipedia to vet anonymous edits by year's end

'Flagged revisions' to protect high-profile entries

The English-language Wikipedia should have a system in place by December to vet anonymous edits for certain high-profile entries, according to the online encyclopedia's founder.

The system, called 'flagged revisions', would allow anonymous users to make changes to certain pages. However, the edits must be approved before going live, said Jimmy Wales. The system is already in place for the German version of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, which is run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, said in January that it would test the flagged revisions system on the English pages. That followed a couple of notable incidents where the biographies of US senators Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd had been wrongly changed to say both men had died.

Other Wikipedia entries have also been subject to frequent vandalism. In response, Wikipedia locked the entries and required those who wanted to edit to be logged in. New registrants had to wait four days before they could submit changes, which then had to be approved.

With flagged revisions, anonymous people can make edits, but they still have to be approved. Wales said Wikipedia doesn't want to alienate new users. "We hate cutting off those not logged-in people," Wales said in an interview.

Ideally, new edits will be swiftly reviewed, Wales said. In some cases in Germany, a revision may take just a few minutes to be reviewed, he said.

Although the system has been called more restrictive, Wales contends that's inaccurate. Flagged revisions will also "allow us to open up pages that have been locked for years", he said.


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