A German politician, Katrina Schubert, has filed charges against the German Wikipedia site over use of Nazi symbols. Whilst Nazi symbols are allowed for educational and artistic purposes in Germany, they are otherwise illegal. Whilst the politician has been criticised for failing to grasp the “self-regulating mechanisms that work in Wikipedia”, it is far better to question these mechanisms than blindly trust in the so-called wisdom of the crowd. In my experience too often the web 2.0 crowd includes a disproportionately large group of, for want of a better term, geek-survivalists.
When the geek-survivalists provide wikipedia with the specifications on every computer there has ever been, it can be useful. However, every single episode of Star Trek is sad, every gun there has ever been is concerning, and every intricate detail of an evil regime can be ghoulish. Whilst we can accept the pathetic excessive details of the Star Trek pages, and may even put up with the love affair with guns, if wikipedia does find itself straying into the realms of ghoulish fasination with an evil regime then it needs to be brought to account.
Whilst Schubert’s colleague’s criticism that “Right-wing extremism on the World Wide Web cannot be tackled via national criminal proceedings”, it is nonetheless a good place to start and encourage a wider debate.