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Can't rely on Wikipedia for information? A new initiative may help verify entries with book previews

Internet Archive hopes that it will make verification of facts on Wikipedia easier.

, ET Bureau|
Nov 12, 2019, 05.57 PM IST
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Agencies
Wikipedia has been accused of not doing enough to curb misinformation, but things are about to change.
Wikipedia has been accused of not doing enough to curb misinformation, but things are about to change.
Wikipedia has been accused of not doing enough to curb misinformation, but things are about to change. A new initiative from the Internet Archive will facilitate easier and faster fact checking by linking citations on Wiki pages to digitized previews of books, articles and research papers being referenced.

By providing scanned copies of books from which the information is being referenced, the Internet Archive hopes that it will make verification of facts on Wikipedia easier. Citations of books were hitherto impossible to check unless one possessed a physical or digital copy of the book cited.

This is a tough ask for college students and journalists working against the clock to churn out copy. The initiative seeks to curb the misuse of Wikipedia by making it easier for users to attribute facts to legitimate sources, thereby negating the efforts of miscreants to distort facts.

However, the collective has a herculean task on its hands as Wikipedia pages have millions of citations, and the Internet Archive has only been able to link a small fraction of these to the relevant books. As of now, around 130,000 citations have been mapped to 50,000 books.

The success of the initiative also rests on Wikipedia authors adhering to the correct format and specifying the exact page number. Most books have ISBN numbers, and these are useful in mapping citations to their original sources, but this method has seen mixed results, especially when older books were referenced.

Aside from the arduous task of matching the information cited with the relevant books, the Internet Archive has made headway in digitizing books that weren’t available in the public domain. According to a report in the newsmagazine Wired, the organization has already cobbled together a digital library of over 3.8 million titles, and that it is scanning over 1,000 books a day to augment its collection.

It further states that the Internet Archive aims to add 4 million more books to its online repository in the near future. Book citations are just strategy employed by the Internet Archive to sanitize Wikipedia of fake news and misinformation. It has begun scraping the webpages of the online encyclopedia to replace citations whose back links are broken.

These have been restored and some citations, linked to pages archived in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The InternetArchiveBot has rectified links to 6 million broken citations across Wikipedia since the beginning of October.

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