Proofreading Your Life

by Brendan James

Moynihan braves a glance at his Wikipedia page and confronts some conspicuous errors:

I won’t bore you by cataloguing all the mistakes in my entry (I found about a dozen), but the results weren’t terribly impressive. I’m unsure how long it remained on the page, but according to Wikipedia’s edit log, my biography once claimed that I had a “vagina” and—pardon the language—“love the cock.” The only people who can refute the first point are, I hope, biased in my favor and wouldn’t be trusted by Wikipedia as “reliable sources.” The second point, also difficult to disprove, seems irrelevant to the job of polemicist.

But the damages can go beyond anatomical inaccuracy:

Wikipedia is often the first stop for inquiring minds and so one must vigilantly monitor one’s own entry. Just ask Taner Akçam, a Turkish historian domiciled in the United States, who in 2007 was briefly detained (PDF) by Canadian immigration officers on suspicion of being a terrorist. When he protested that he was an academic, the diligent border agents showed him a printout of his Wikipedia page, which had been defaced by his political enemies. Upon returning to the United States, Akçam was stopped by agents of the Department of Homeland Security who also inquired about his Wiki-reported terrorist connections.