The consensus among most academics is simple: Wikipedia is not always an accurate source. In fact, the first line of the Wikipedia page dedicated to the academic use of the site reads:
“Wikipedia is not considered a credible source.”
Even the founder of Wikipedia points to the pitfalls of the site he created, so there are some guidelines which meant to ensure the information on the site is as accurate as possible.
One such guideline involves “conflict of interest” issues, which states:
“Do not edit Wikipedia in your own interests or in the interests of your external relationships.”
It seems that Edward Patrick Alva, cinematographer on the campus rape film “The Hunting Ground,” may have neglected to read that particular page.
According to Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner, Alva has been quietly editing a Wikipedia page on the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations for months in an apparent attempt to force the page to conform to the film and hide any possible inaccuracies. Schow writes:
“Alva created his Wikipedia account just two weeks after Florida State University President John Thrasher first called out the filmmakers for their inaccurate and unfair portrayal of the school and its handling of the rape accusation against former star quarterback Jameis Winston.
The film doesn’t mention the holes in Erica Kinsman’s accusation against Winston and in fact allows her to tell a story that contradicts physical evidence.
It wasn’t until September 18, six months after creating his user profile, that Alva acknowledged he had been editing Wikipedia pages related to ‘The Hunting Ground.'”
Winston was investigated on the same rape claim three separate times, and no official charges were ever filed. Some victims advocates believe that was the result of the school closing ranks and obstructing the investigations to protect the star quarterback — this is what’s argued in the film. Others see it as proof that the rape allegation was false to begin with.
But when Alva ignored conflict of interest and edited the Wikipedia page, he actually created two problems. First, he may have been writing in false information. And second, if the victims’ advocates who believed Winston was guilty are correct, Alva compromised their credibility.Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Florida State University president isn’t the only official objecting to this film for its inaccuracies. The Editorial Board of the Sun Sentinel has openly criticized CNN for airing an advocacy film under auspices of a ‘documentary.’
The Sun Sentinel also reports that:
The presidents of other universities also have reportedly refused to participate in the panel, too. And 19 Harvard law professors wrote a critical letter about the film’s distortions of a case on that campus.
Just one year ago, Rolling Stone magazine ran a campus rape story which it claimed occurred at the University of Virginia. Within days, that story was proven to be built on falsehood after falsehood. The story was retracted, the managing editor left, and the publication now faces at least three defamation lawsuits.
Perhaps Alva and CNN should look to the Rolling Stone debacle as a case in what goes wrong when you create the narrative instead of just report the news.