Plagiarism Scandal Strikes Wikipedia

Dennis Faas's picture

With the advent of the Internet, plagiarism has become a disease that teachers, web administrators, and editors alike have been trying to eradicate.

Latest in the fight against plagiarism is a case regarding Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is written and edited entirely by its users. Recently, a critic of the site has accused Wikipedia of containing several biographical articles that seem to have word-for-word passages stolen from other websites.

The critic, Daniel Brandt, found the suspected plagiarism examples by using a program that he created to run a few sentences from approximately 12,000 of Wikipedia's 1.5 million articles using Google's search engine.

After removing some legitimized matches (for instance those on the public domain), Brandt revealed to Wikipedia 142 possibly plagiarized articles.

Due to Brandt's finding, the online encyclopedia's administrators have been driven to remove some of the articles, depending on the outcome of a review. (Source:

Wikipedia, which is one of the Web's most recently growing hot properties, allows anyone to contribute to the encyclopedia by writing, editing and deleting -- without regard to level of expertise. The site depends on its users to find inconsistencies such as factual errors and plagiarism problems in the site's content.

Although Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales disregards Brandt's findings as exaggerated, he also admitted that plagiarized passages do sometimes accidentally slide under the radar.

Even though issues surrounding copyright infringement and plagiarism may be commonplace with sites that have user-generated content, Brandt made note that Wikipedia must be held to higher standards:

"They present it as an encyclopedia...they go around claiming it's almost as good as Britannica. They are trying to be mainstream respectable." (Source:

Wales agreed with Brandt that Wikipedia should be held to higher standards and added that whenever plagiarism by a certain author is brought to Wikipedia's attention, the site's administrators review all postings made by that same author.

As for Brandt's 142 supposed plagiarized articles: Wikipedia's editors are currently taking a look at all 142 articles. So far, some have been cleared because it was found that the supposed "plagiarized" sections came from the public domain. (Source:

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