Wikipedia, after a period of protracted debate, has made the decision to ban any site edits originating from IP addresses associated with the Church of Scientology.
The final vote by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee was 10-to-0 in favor of a ban, with one member abstaining. The committee examined whether members of the Church of Scientology and their opponents had been riddling entries with “bad faith assumptions, personal attacks, edit wars, soapboxing, and other disruptions,” and found that users on Scientology IPs had been openly editing Scientology-related articles.
In addition, it also found that pro-Scientologist editors had been directing the changes through a handful of different IPs, making it difficult to verify individual users.
Such activity would, obviously, put Wikipedia’s public face as an unbiased provider of information at risk, and the committee acted accordingly.
“The worst casualties have been biographies of living people,” the committee wrote in a posting on Wikipedia, “where attempts have been repeatedly made to slant the article either towards or against the subject, depending on the point of view of the contributing editor.
“However,” the committee added, “this problem is not limited to biographies and many Scientology articles fail to reflect a neutral point of view and instead are either disparaging or complimentary.”
In that spirit, the ruling blocks Scientology IPs “as if they were open proxies.” Wikipedia, however, is leaving the door open for certain individuals to request exemptions.
Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikipedia Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal that “the arbitration committee wants to send the message that Wikipedians have to be neutral on all accounts and all fronts.” He emphasized that the banning of IPs was traditionally a last-ditch step by the site.
The banning of the Church of Scientology from Wikipedia represents the first time that the site has blocked a major organization from editing to the site. In the past, minor controversies have erupted as companies, and even U.S. congresspeople, have edited their entries to put themselves in a more positive light.