Submissions/May it please the court

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

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Title of the submission
May it please the court: Wikipedia as a reference in the courts
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Kat Walsh
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Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)
Wikipedia has been cited by lawyers and courts in several places for a variety of purposes: sometimes as support for information regarded as "general knowledge", but sometimes in places where a more authoritative source should have been used instead. Judges' reactions have ranged from unquestioning acceptance to harsh criticism. An information science researcher, Morgan Stoddard, found in a 2009 paper that one third of citations to Wikipedia in US judicial opinions were on issues central to the case. In the remainder, it has been used as background, or for tangential issues.

The traditional debate over the reliability of Wikipedia takes on new importance when applied to matters of law--what happens when it is used as a reference in binding decisions affecting matters of civil rights, business practices, or criminal judgments? This presentation will show where Wikipedia has been used in courts in the US and elsewhere, highlighting stories that have made the news, explain the legal context of the citations, and talk about where it is and isn't a good source where it has been cited.

Some examples: Wikipedia was highlighted in the media recently for being used in a US immigration decision, Badasa v. Mukasey. Wikipedia was used as background on the document called a "laissez-passer" and whether it could serve to establish a proof of identity; after Badasa was denied entry and the case went to appeal, the three-judge panel criticised the use of Wikipedia--though not the substance of the information cited. (Much of the reporting on the issue missed the point, bashing Wikipedia rather than the judgment of the citing attorney.) Just a few months ago, a Kentucky lawyer was called out for lifting parts of his brief wholesale from the Wikipedia source. (The judge's remarks seemed to indicate more concern about the issue of plagiarising the section, passing it off as his own, than the reliability of the material.) There are literally thousands of citations to Wikipedia in court documents; this presentation is intended to discuss the ones which have made the most impact and raise the most interesting issues.

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
People & Community
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  1. odder 21:46, 12 June 2011 (UTC)[reply]
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