Online collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia announced a tightening of its editing rules on Wednesday aimed at preventing vandalism, as it becomes an increasingly important source of information.
The new guidelines will require that all edits to articles about living people be approved by authorised editors. The rules represent the most far-reaching changes ever undertaken by the user-written encyclopedia, which had previously allowed anyone to contribute articles or revise information on existing articles.
Founded in 2001, Wikipedia currently boasts more than 13 million articles, including three million in English, and is one of the top 10 sites on the web. But because of its open source nature it is often not considered an authoritative source, and has been hit by numerous high profile cases of vandalism.
The changes, called "flagged revisions", apply to the English version of the site and were announced on Wednesday on the Wikipedia blog.
Under the new policy, articles edited by new contributors will be reviewed by regular contributors, whose comments on the revisions will be posted with the article. Readers will have the option of seeing the article before the changes were made.
In a small percentage of cases, edited articles will have to be reviewed before they are posted, Wikipedia said. The rule will apply to articles at high risk of vandalism, such as biographies of controversial living people.
"It's a very thoughtful proposal that attempts to balance the desire for higher quality, and more systematic assessment thereof, with the immediacy of Wikipedia as it exists today, and was supported by a large majority of interested Wikipedia editors," Erik Moeller, deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in the blog.
More conservative review policies are in place in other versions of Wikipedia. For example, any edit on German Wikipedia by a new or unregistered user must be reviewed before it is visible to readers.
The new changes are expected to be fully implemented within two to three months, following testing.