Can Wikipedia influence court decisions?

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Does Wikipedia influence court decisions? That’s the question asked by Neil Thompson, a researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory (CSAIL), in a study. The findings of the scientists are clear, and it seems that the online encyclopedia could play a role in the choice of courts because judges are more likely to cite a legal case cited on the platform.

Do judges trust Wikipedia too much?

Specifically, this research was conducted in Ireland where the authors created 154 new files on Supreme Court cases. These were written by law students under the direction of a professor. They relied on relevant legal documents, but expressed conclusions that were biased.

It appeared that these articles were very well referenced on the main search engines, and in particular Google, by appearing on the first page when the business in question was searched for.

And precisely, they could see that the presence of a Wikipedia article increases by more than 20% the citations of a case by an Irish court. Moreover, this was all the more marked for the lower courts, where the judges have more cases to deal with. It also appeared that the latter often took on their own the arguments of the Wikipedia file without taking the trouble to forge their own reasoning.

This observation poses a real problem. One can indeed imagine that one of the parties decides to add a Wikipedia article to try to influence a judicial decision. Moreover, MIT researchers have offered some suggestions to avoid this type of manipulation.

According to them, Wikipedia could try to recruit legal professionals to supervise and certify the quality of the pages. That said, the encyclopedia is mainly based on volunteers, and it is not said that it has this type of people on hand. Scientists also advise increasing free legal content on authoritative sites. Some platforms have already been launched for this purpose, particularly in the United States.

Keep a critical eye on Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a remarkable encyclopedia that has become indispensable to many of us. However, you have to be aware of its limits and the possible manipulations that can take place there. We recently told you about the incredible story of this Chinese contributor. She has written more than 200 articles in three years, and all of them have remained online despite being purely fictional content.

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