Wikipedia war emerges over details about Palin

Campaign sympathizers, detractors add and subtract biography details

Posted: Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Don't like the facts about Sarah Palin? Wait a few minutes.

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The Associated Press
The Associated Press

A massive editing and shouting war is being fought at Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that scored an unusual journalistic scoop by being the first to report her surprising selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

That news and various glowing details were added to her biography in the wee morning hours before Friday's announcement by someone who later acknowledged involvement with the campaign.

In the few days since, campaign sympathizers have been removing thousands of edits containing critical information as quickly as detractors are trying to revise what they call a "whitewashing" of Alaska's governor.

It's all supposedly in the interest of a "neutral point of view," which Wikipedia seeks to achieve in an encyclopedia that can be altered by anyone with access to the Internet.

It's hardly a fringe site - there were about 2.4 million page views of Palin's entry on Friday alone. The main page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Palin) appears to be a dry, if lengthy profile. But wait a bit and any mention of Troopergate or her teenager daughter's pregnancy might vanish, or a bizarre passage like "the hot governor of Alaska" or "before this, she was a man" may pop up.

Click on the "discussion" and "history" tabs at the top of the page and the nasty back-and-forth is exposed.

Palin's entry was relatively short and dry between its creation in 2005 and her elevation to the Republican ticket, with fairly mundane disputes about issues such as her stance on a road out of Juneau and listing polar bears as endangered.

But just before the nomination announcement, the page was revised about 30 times by the new user, "Young Trigg" - a name seemingly inspired by Palin's youngest son - detailing her "eye-popping integrity" and how she "would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school."

Within hours there were more than 1,000 additional edits from people disputing her stance on evolution or those who were trying to include her height.

As more weighty details have emerged, such as Palin's support of the "Bridge To Nowhere" before she was against it and Bristol Palin's pregnancy, the edits and length of her page have expanded exponentially.

Requests to lock the page from changes are frequent and editing has been temporarily restricted several times to limit vandalism. There's also a number of requests for action against individual users, such as one protesting "Kelly" for "continuing to edit out other photos in favor of sensational photos of Palin with every member of the military."

"Should I just give up on this article?" asked another exasperated contributor, who kept watching people "pulling big chunks of information out of this article."

Looking for a kinder, gentler reference to learn about Sarah Palin? Try the encyclopedia where kangaroos migrated from Northern Europe to Australia after Noah's ark.

Her entry at Conservapedia, promoted as an alternative to the "increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American" Wikipedia, is far shorter and less controversial. The edits are comparatively tame and minimal by a mostly friendly group of users, as evidenced by the first discussion comment: "Don't consider me sexist but... she at least looks a woman. Not like that Hillary who'd grow moustaches if she could."



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