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Is Wikipedia A Reliable Legal Authority? (2018 Update)

Associates Mind – Keith Lee: ” Back in 2014, a Twitter exchange with Judge Dillard prompted an article on AboveTheLaw discussing the reliability of Wikipedia as a resource. Last year, I updated my research here, Is Wikipedia A Reliable Legal Authority? (2017 Update). It’s 2018, so let’s see how some recent opinions cite (or reject) Wikipedia as an authority…Is Wikipedia A Reliable Legal Authority? It depends…but it’s increasingly becoming difficult to say that it isn’t. Far too many courts rely on it what is now going on hundreds of opinions. Courts can’t keep saying “Wikipedia is bad! Don’t use it!” Then cite it themselves in an opinion a few months later. At this point, every Circuit has multiple judicial opinions that cite Wikipedia as a reliable source for general knowledge. But then courts within the same Circuit will be dismissive of Wikipedia as a source of general information. There is no definitive answer. Judges seem to make determinations about Wikipedia’s reliability on a case-by-case basis. Your best bet is to know your Court. It will only take you a quick search to determine if a Court has relied on Wikipedia as an authority in the past…”

  • See also Chronicle of Higher Education – Some Colleges Cautiously Embrace Wikipedia – LiAnna Davis remembers when people didn’t want to talk to her at academic conferences: “I had this woman one time who held her folder up over her head and was like, ‘Don’t let my department chair see me talking to you guys, but I’m so glad you’re here.’” Davis works for Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that was once considered anathema to the academic mission. She’s director of programs for its higher-education-focused nonprofit arm, Wiki Education. Academics have traditionally distrusted Wikipedia, citing the inaccuracies that arise from its communally edited design and lamenting students’ tendency to sometimes plagiarize assignments from it. Now, Davis said, higher education and Wikipedia don’t seem like such strange bedfellows. At conferences these days, “everyone’s like, ‘Oh, Wikipedia, of course you guys are here.’” “I think it’s a recognition that Wikipedia is embedded within the fabric of learning now,” she said. One initiative Davis oversees at Wiki Education aims to forge stronger bonds between Wikipedia and higher education. The Visiting Scholars program, which began in 2015, pairs academics at colleges with experienced Wikipedia editors. Institutions provide the editors with access to academic journals, research databases, and digital collections, which the editors use to write and expand Wikipedia articles on topics of mutual interest. A dozen institutions, including Rutgers University, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh, are participating. But while feedback from the participating institutions has been positive, Davis said, some are still skeptical of Wikipedia’s presence in academe…”

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