Irish student's Wikipedia hoax dupes newspapers

An Irish student's fake quote on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia has been used in newspapers around the world
An Irish student's fake quote on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia has been used in newspaper obituaries around the world, the Irish Times reported.

An Irish student's fake quote on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia has been used in newspaper obituaries around the world, the Irish Times reported.

The quote was attributed to French composer Maurice Jarre who died in March.

Shane Fitzgerald, 22, a final-year student studying sociology and economics at University College Dublin, told the he placed the quote on the website as an experiment when doing research on globalisation.

He quoted Oscar-winning composer Jarre as saying, "One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life.

"When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear."

The quote was posted on Wikipedia shortly after Jarre's death and later appeared in obituaries in major British, Indian and Australian newspapers.

Fitzgerald told the newspaper he picked Wikipedia because it was something a lot of journalists look at and it can be edited by anyone.

While he was wary about the ethical implications of using someone's death as a social experiment, he had carefully generated the quote so as not to distort or taint Jarre's life, he said.

Fitzgerald said he was shocked by the result of his experiment.

"I didn't expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers? I was very surprised about," he said.

He said the hoax remained undiscovered for weeks until he e-mailed the newspapers that had been deceived to tell them that they had published an inaccurate quote.

The Irish Times said that despite some newspapers removing the quote from their websites or carrying a correction and the fact that it had been dropped by , it remained intact on dozens of blogs, websites and newspapers.

(c) 2009 AFP

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User comments

May 07, 2009
Pffft you should see the amount of madness I've put up on wikipee, sex scandals in the last place you'd expect and for two full years cunning was a virtue.

May 07, 2009
All I can say is this guy is a jerk. Thousands of people donate their time to try to bring something good into this world and idiots like this undermine the whole thing.

May 07, 2009
Someone once accused me of vandalism because I pointed out that Condoliza Rice was not a "hooker" at Stanford as her bio claimed and advized people to watch the page for vandalism. I gave up on the concept of Wikipedia partially because of the vandalism but mainly for the far left political bias. It has its uses - especially on topics than no one cares about politically - but it should be treated like a genius grand parent with dementia. [i.e. It's a good place for starting info but get a real source to back everything up.]

May 07, 2009
Nice experiment. If nothing else, contrary to what one of the commenters blamed on him, this brings credit to how big of an established information source wikipedia has become.

On the other hand it also shows how easy mainstream media poisoning has become.

May 07, 2009
Of course "everything" has a "far left political bias"[sic] specially if you don't understand what any of those words mean.
Right wing = ignorance, lies and stupidity.

May 07, 2009
You forgot one thing:

Right wing = Spend a lot of tax $ and claim your not.

May 08, 2009
Yeah, right wing = eating babies. Down with Bush!

Seriously though, Wikipedia's accuracy seems to be inversely correlated with the how controversial the subject is. So for political stuff I read it as an editorial but for scientific and historical stuff I take it mostly at face value. If something sounds odd of course I'll check the reference.

May 08, 2009
Yes lovely experiment take something nice and useful say a city water plant and put poison in it just to see how wide spread drinking water drink water from the plant instead of other sources. So how often do people want to keep drinking from the city water plant if you keep doing bone headed stuff.

Wiki has enough problems with people who believe their opinion constitutes fact, primarily the left and the right who don't seem to realize the are opposite sides on the same turd sniveling the other end stinks

May 08, 2009
I do a lot of anti-vandalism work on Wikipedia.

A majority of vandals have the attitude: "Yeah, try and stop me." But the next largest group have somehow convinced themselves that they are doing an "experiment". Bullshit. An experiment is testing a hypothesis, not testing Wikipedia's defenses. These people are just liars who don't expect to be taken to account for falsifying information. It's "Cops and Robbers" time, and they are enjoying their momentary role as criminals. Sure, often little harm is done. But multiply that times 10,000 a day, and suddenly there are news reports about how unreliable Wikipedia is.

They aren't innocent, they are junior criminals.

There are exceptions, for example, one particular Wiki editor I could name who seems to me to be suffering from a diagnosable personality disorder. Or people who genuinely think it's just good fun. But a university student should know better.

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