Wikipedia canon law "expert" outed as a 24-year-old dropout

A member of online encyclopedia Wikipedia's team of experts, who used Catholicism for Dummies as a source for some of his contributions, has been outed as a 24-year-old college dropout and not a religion professor with a canon law degree.

The Age reports that Wikipedia has been plunged into controversy over the revelations about one of the most prolific contributors and editors of the site.

The editor, whose online name is Essjay, had been recruited by Wikipedia to work on the site's arbitration committee, a team of expert administrators charged with vetting content on the "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit".

But no one, apparently, vetted the credentials whose real name is Ryan Jordan.

Jordan, who used texts such as Catholicism for Dummies to correct articles on the penitential rite and transubstantiation, was unmasked after an article in the The New Yorker magazine described him as a "professor of religion with a PhD in theology and a degree in canon law" and noted he was serving his "second term as chair of the mediation committee", which rules on disputes over information posted on the site.

But last week Essjay, who had also been briefly employed by Wikia, a for-profit spinoff from Wikipedia, was forced to resign after a Wikipedia critic told The New Yorker that his biographical information was fake.

"He holds no advanced degrees," the magazine said. "At the time of publication, neither we nor Wikipedia knew Essjay's real name."

In a statement on Wikipedia, the website's co-founder, Jimmy Wales, said he had asked Essjay to "resign immediately".

Wikipedia 'expert' admits: I made it up (The Age, 7/3/07)
Wikipedia: Rogue editor EssJay resigns in shame (IT Wire, 8/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Essjay controversy (Wikipedia)
Criticism of Wikipedia (Wikipedia)
New Yorker
Catholicism for Dummies

8 Mar 2007

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