Co-founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has called for a system to check contributor’s credentials following the event last month when a well-respected contributor and administrator to the site lied about his qualifications.
Wales wants to bring back a proposal he made two years ago for accrediting contributors who claim to have advanced degrees. Details of the system are still being finalized but include requiring professors, for example, to give a link to their faculty page at the college or university where they work. It could also require them to provide an email address so they can be contacted to confirm their identity. Other suggestions include faxing copies of degrees to the Wikipedia office. Wales’ proposal is expected to be put into practice next week.
The change to Wikipedia’s system comes as a result of a contributor and administrator called Essjay who falsely claimed to be a professor in Catholic law. He was asked to resign his position within the community. On Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia user page he said, “EssJay has apologized to me, and I have accepted his apology on a personal level. Despite my personal forgiveness, I hope that he will accept my resignation request, because forgiveness or not, these positions are not appropriate for him now.”