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Colbert's Wikipedia prank backfires
It seemed like a subject born for satirist Stephen Colbert -- an online encyclopedia that lets anyone edit entries. The champion of "truthiness" couldn't resist making fun of a website where facts, it seems, are endlessly malleable. But after making fun of Wikipedia on Monday night's "Colbert Report," Colbert learned some hard truths about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism. Here's how the segment started, according to Newsvine:

"In the segment, Colbert logs on to the Wikipedia article about his show to find out whether he usually refers to Oregon as 'California's Canada or Washington's Mexico.' Upon learning that he has referred to Oregon as both, he demonstrates how easy it is to disregard both references and put in a completely new one (Oregon is Idaho's Portugal), declaring it 'the opinion I've always held, you can look it up.'"

Colbert then called on users to go to the site and falsify the entry on elephants. But Wikipedia's volunteer administrators were among those watching Colbert, and they responded swiftly to correct the entry, block further mischievous editing, and ban user StephenColbert from the website.

In this battle of truth vs. truthiness, truth ended up with the upper hand.
Posted by Oliver Ryan 10:35 AM 11 Comments comment | Add a Comment

It is amazing that this story was published. When Colbert completely humiliated the president in front of his face, the media was pretty much silent.
Posted By Ben, Boulder, CO : 12:42 PM  

I am a huge fan og Stephen Colbert but he is a fool for attempting to ruin such a great website
Posted By craig, sayville NY' : 12:51 PM  

Um, its a joke. Don't you get it? The Colbert Report isn't actually a news show! And nothing said on it is newsworthy! Further, it isn't news that reality is whatever people collectively say it is. BTW, there is no such thing as Truth--or truthiness. There is only opinion--educated and otherwise.
Posted By Joe, Berkeley CA : 2:38 PM  

I don't see how Stephen Colbert's plan backfired, his goal was to bring attention to the fact that Wikipedia can't be trusted as a reliable source of information and he acheived his goal. The media missed the point totally, just as it did with the coverage of his act at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Posted By Ted - Ames Iowa : 3:14 PM  

Wikipedia entries are always incorrect one way or another because they are written and approved by a (relatively) small number of people who have a certain bias or agenda on the subject.
It should never be regarded as a true encyclopedia.

It shouldn't really matter if Colberts prank worked or not, there are far greater inaccuracies on Wikipedia regarding far more serious subjects.
Posted By Robert, Amsterdam, Holland : 4:44 PM  

And the worst part about it is that it casts a doubt about information found on the web in that some stuff may actually be false!
Posted By Jim W, Eden Prairie, MN : 4:46 PM  

It appears to me that Stephen Colbert is the one who won --- he proved his point when Wikipedia had to take extraordinary steps to avoid any "truthiness" from appearing on the website. Anyone else could do the same and the only reason Wikiness did anything about it was because Colbert made a point of airing the problem to the public.
Posted By Laurel Ballou, Everett, WA : 4:52 PM  

You clearly missed the point of the piece. The fact that he so strongly promotes the ideas of truthiness and in this case, wikiality, are really meant to illustrate the absurdity of the way certain people think and act. The truth is that people do vandalize certain articles on wikipedia. It was such a problem that they had to ban all IP addresses on capitol hill to prevent political figures from deleting negative information in their own entries. Of course making the announcement on TV to change the entry for elephants will result in the moderators restricting access to edit that entry. His "prank" as you call it would have backfired only if nobody had bothered to change the entry. His agenda is comedy, and his is the funniest show on television.
Posted By Todd, New York, NY : 4:56 PM  

Just shows you how much free time people have on their hands. Wikipedia is a great site! I've found anything on there, its fabulous for research for students as well. I'm glad Wikipedia was fast and slick.
Posted By NJ : 8:50 AM  

I saw the show and thought it was hilarious. I don't understand why Thomas and Ryan reported that it "backfired." Indeed, it went perfectly -- and Colbert scored a marvelous point!!! Your writers are a little touchy. I wonder why?
Posted By Mary, Boston, MA : 1:53 PM  

Sure -- but while you're guarding the elephants, nobody is watching the meerkats, etc.
Posted By Steve, Los Gatos , CA : 5:53 PM  

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