It is a running joke in credible circles that Wikipedia is one of the worst online resources for obtaining truthful information about pretty much any topic. And a new study has confirmed that the popular user-generated “fauxpedia” website is completely overrun with misinformation, particularly in areas relating to health and medicine.
The study out of Campbell University in North Carolina found that up to 90 percent of the medical information posted on Wikipedia is false, and that people simply can’t rely on it for learning about health conditions and treatments. In virtually all major areas of health and disease, posted entries were found to contain factual errors that either failed to keep up with scientific developments or were flat out inaccurate.
“Researchers should not use [Wikipedia] as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals,” stated Robert Hasty, lead author of the study. “The best resource when looking for a diagnosis is to speak with your physician, who can take into account your medical history and other factors to determine the best course of treatment.”
At least 20,000 of Wikipedia’s more than 31 million entries deal with health-related issues, and the website typically shows up among the first few entries when conducting internet searches related to health. Because of this, many people view Wikipedia as a reliable source of information when, based on the facts, it simply is not.
“Wikipedia’s prominence has been made possible by its fundamental design as a collaborative database,” wrote the authors. “However, it is this very feature that has raised concern in the medical community regarding the reliability of the information it contains.”
Wikipedia actively censors holistic options, caters to drug companies and other special interests In theory, the collaborative aspect of Wikipedia’s design should allow for varying perspectives on health to be presented alongside respective sources that back them. After all, if people from all walks of life and educational backgrounds are truly allowed to contribute to the site’s content, then it should contain a full spectrum of information that the public can use to form an educated opinion.
But this is often not the case, especially when it comes to “alternative” or holistic medicine that bucks the status quo. Wikipedia has proven itself time and time again to be controlled by special interests, including drug companies that actively troll health-related entries to ensure that pharmaceuticals are cast in the most positive light while minimizing their potential side effects.
The same is true for the conditions outlined in the new study, which include things like high blood pressure and heart disease. Rather than present multiple options for treatment and prevention of these and other diseases, Wikipedia actively censors information that deviates from the conventional norm of drugs and surgery, ignoring the nutrition aspect, for instance.
“Drug companies have… been accused of editing Wikipedia to remove references to harmful side effects,” explains Mail Online. “In 2009, employees at AstraZeneca allegedly deleted a sentence claiming that a treatment for manic depression made teenagers ‘more likely to think about harming or killing themselves.'”
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has also lashed out against critics who question the site’s selective information offerings. Honest scientific discourse about unconventional approaches to healthy living are ignored or mocked by Wikipedia, and Wales has made it clear that he is not interested in allowing modern developments in medicine to be cited on the site.
“In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases,” stated Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, referring to the scientific “skeptics” who routinely abuse the site. “There is no credible mechanism [at Wikipedia] to approve versions of articles.”
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