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Update: Verifiability vs. Truth

By Hersch


On June 12, 2011, an editor named “North8000” had the temerity to propose that a core policy, Wikipedia:Verifiability, be changed in the following fashion: that the hallowed dictum,

“The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.”

…be changed to the following:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability.



To the uninitiated, this might seem like a minor change. However, the rejection of accountability, or to put it somewhat differently, the license to publish lies provided someone else did it first, is absolutely central to the practice of Wikipedia as a MMORPG.

The celebrated “verifiability, not truth” clause was added to the paragraph in question by ranking Wikipediot SlimVirgin in August of 2005. In the June 2011 debate, she modestly opines,

“The phrase ‘Verifiability, not truth’ is iconic as a representation of Wikipedia’s sourcing and neutrality standards.”

In April of 2008, Ms. Virgin went to the trouble of crafting an explanatory essay, entitled “Verifiability, not truth,” to order to underscore the point, and perhaps to answer her critics. In it, she wrote:

Unlike some encyclopedias, Wikipedia does not try to impose “the truth” on its readers, and does not ask that they trust something just because they read it in Wikipedia. We empower our readers. We don’t ask for their blind trust.

This functions as a sort of “caveat emptor“; in effect, if you believe some nonsense that you read in Wikipedia, it’s

…continue reading Update: Verifiability vs. Truth