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Wikipedia, trust and misinformation

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Wikipedia, trust and misinformation

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I’ve written a few pieces recently on attempts being made to understand how misinformation spreads through our social networks.  The degree of connectivity within a social network is clearly of fundamental importance to the speed of the spread of information through that network.

A piece of research from earlier this year found however that some of those nodes have incredible influence, so it makes sense to try and identify the influential nodes in any network, which is something that a project backed by the US Military are attempting to do on Twitter.

With trust in mind, it was interesting to read about a recent YouGov poll conducted by Wikipedia in conjunction with their recent Wikimedia conference here in London.  The survey, of around 2,000 British adults, found that Wikipedia was in fact more trusted by the population than any other news outlet.

The poll found that 64% of adults found Wikipedia entries trustworthy, which compared to 61% for BBC articles, 45% for broadsheet newspapers, and a pathetic 13% for tabloid newspapers.

“British people trust Wikipedia more than the news,” Wales told the conference, to cheers from the audience.

“The things that’s really impressive here is the BBC has an excellent reputation… and we’re trusted slightly more than the BBC. That’s a little scary. But it’s something we have accomplished,” he said.

Suffice to say, Wales was not sufficiently in awe of his product to suggest there were no flaws in it, yet nevertheless believed that by and large the site was one that people could turn to for reliable, solid information.

Wikipedia trailed behind the more traditional Encyclopaedia Britannica however, which came in 1st place as the most trustworthy source of information, with 83% of respondents believing in the content found there.  Wales saw that as a challenge for his own site to aspire to.

“I’m not going to rest until they trust us more than they ever trusted Encyclopaedia Britannica in the past,” Wales said.

No doubt Wales will be heartened by research conducted last year that showed how popular his site was for doctors seeking information on various conditions.

The study, called “Engaging patients through social media”, reveals that as many as 50% of all physicians regularly turn to Wikipedia for information, especially for quite specific conditions.  It also showed how frequently patients would turn to the site to look up details about a condition, with the top give most viewed over the past year being tuberculosis, Crohn’s disease, pneumonia, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

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