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Friday, 09 February 2007 04:06

Anna Nicole Smith's death sends Wikipedia into overdrive

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News of the death of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith has led to a rush of activity at Wikipedia, with administrators at the anyone-can-edit encyclopedia on high alert to keep vandalism and libellous statements out of the entry for the recently deceased starlet.


News of Smith's collapse in a Hollywood hotel and subsequent death in hospital quickly flashed around news services around the world. While details such as the precise cause of death remain scant, that didn't stop enthusiastic volunteers at Wikipedia from quickly updating Smith's entry.

In the space of two hours, more than 300 edits were made to Smith's entry. As the news became more widespread, multiple edits were being made per minute.

Many were concerned with adding speculative details as to the cause and time of death, while others represented more basic vandalism. One contributor replaced the entire entry with the phrase "She's dead. F***ing dead. Get over it", though this was quickly reverted.

A template was eventually added to the top of the page, noting: "This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses." Wikipedia's protection policy -- often used on controversial articles -- was also invoked, making it impossible for anonymous editors to change the article.

Such enthusiasm to update the popular online encyclopedia is not uncommon. "I get all my news from a large online forum," one user commented on the discussion page for Smith's entry. "Whenever they say someone's dead, I rush to Wikipedia to edit their article . . . But I've always been too late. Why is it that scientific news takes so long to be made public, but when somebody dies everyone flocks to it? We're all just a bunch of necrophiles, aren't we?"

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