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article imagePalin's gaffe leads to debate on history, Internet censorship Special

By Graeme McNaughton     Jun 7, 2011 in Politics
While debate rages on as to who's right and who's wrong on the story of Paul Revere, the editing of his Wikipedia page to match what Sarah Palin said has brought up more than just history lessons.
While many are still deriding Palin for her version of American history, some have come to her side, saying she actually wasn't all too far off.
Brendan McConville, a professor of history at Boston University, told the Boston Herald:
"Revere was stopped by the British, he did say to them, ‘Look, there is a mobilization going on that you’ll be confronting,’ and the British are aware as they’re marching down the countryside, they hear church bells ringing — she was right about that — and warning shots being fired. That’s accurate.”
However, McConville says that Palin's statement doesn't necessarily reflect scholarship, saying that she was "lucky in her comments."
Joel Miller, author of "The Revolutionary Paul Revere," wrote a blog post for the National Review on the subject:
"As the author of a book about Revere’s life, when I heard this, I groaned. From Revere’s own account, it’s clear that he didn’t fire a shot, he didn’t ring a bell, and he didn’t intend to warn the British of anything (unless you count the townsfolk as British, which they technically were for a little while longer)."
As previously reported on Digital Journal, people suspected of being Palin's supporters have taken to Wikipedia to edit the Paul Revere page in order to match the former governor's story.
Jeff Schneider, who has been editing pages on Wikipedia since 2007, first saw the edits to support Palin's version of events on the day her interview on Fox News.
"It was Sunday morning soon after I woke up and was drinking coffee," says Schneider to Digital Journal. "A new editor couldn't edit the page because it was semi-protected. However, this user posted on the talk page that there was incorrect information being added to the article, and was attributed to Sarah Palin. I immediately realized this was wrong and removed it.
"It was one editor initially adding the strange content. This editor tried to add it back. A hodgepodge of other editors soon descended on the article, and I stepped away."
The page had previously been semi-protected, where edits could only be made by registered members. Schneider says this came after other edits had been made, which he said "was done from young students studying him in class."
However, some see this as more than just a simple editing of a Wikipedia page.
Andy Schlafly is the founder of Conservapedia, which describes itself as 'a conservative, family-friendly Wiki encyclopedia.' Speaking to Digital Journal, Schlafly said that he sees this as censorship on the part of Wikipedia:
"That episode illustrates how Wikipedia does limit conservative information, which is the very opposite of what Wikipedia claimed to be: an encyclopedia anyone can edit. As a general principle, truth is not easily found amid Internet bullying and censorship. Evidently Sarah Palin defenders cannot add to the Paul Revere entry, and that shows how far Wikipedia has departed from its goals.
"For many of us who once edited on Wikipedia, including myself, its censorship of edits that illustrate a conservative point has gone on far too long there. Unless Wikipedia can right its course, which seems unlikely, it will continue to be a silly playground for biased liberal misinformation."
Schneider, on the other hand, says that Wikipedia maintains a neutral position, citing the site's Five Pillars:
"The practice of using reliable sources to present a neutral point of view has to be followed. Of course, many issues are not that simple and are going to bring heated arguments, but it has to start with reliable sources. Editors should always just be reflecting sources. Research should always come before content."
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