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Wikipedia tightens rules after false entry about assassinations

Editor called suspect in Kennedy killings

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, is tightening submission rules after a prominent journalist complained an article falsely implicated him in the Kennedy assassinations.

Wikipedia will now require users to register before they can create articles, said Jimmy Wales, founder of the website. People who modify articles will still be able to do so without registering.

John Seigenthaler, a onetime assistant to Robert Kennedy, wrote in USA Today that a Wikipedia biography of him claimed he was suspected in the assassinations of the attorney general and his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Wikipedia, a prime example of the collective knowledge-pooling the Internet enables, has 850,000 articles in English plus entries in at least eight other languages. Since its launch in 2001, it has grown into a storehouse of information on topics ranging from medieval art to nanotechnology. The volume is possible because the site relies on volunteers, including many experts in their fields, who submit entries and edit previously submitted articles.

Wales said he hopes the registration requirement will limit the number of articles being created. While it would not prevent people from posting false information, the new process will make it easier, said Wales, for the site's 600 active volunteers to review and remove factual errors, defaming statements, and other material that runs afoul of Wikipedia policy. Visitors will still be able to edit content already posted without registering.

Seigenthaler, USA Today's founding editorial director, said Wikipedia's biography was changed to remove the false accusations. But Seigenthaler said an entry yesterday still got some facts wrong, apparently because volunteers confused him with his son.

For 132 days, Seigenthaler said, the biography falsely claimed that ''for a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved" in the assassinations. ''The marketplace of ideas ultimately will take care of the problem," Seigenthaler said. ''In the meantime, what happens to people like me?"

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