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Wikipedia war breaks out after Palin’s Revere comments

    FILE - In this June 2, 2011, file photo former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, holding a booklet depicting Paul Revere, speaks briefly with the media as she tours Boston's North End neighborhood. On Fox News Sunday Palin insisted Sunday, June 5, 2011 in Washington that history was on her side when she claimed that Paul Revere's famous Massachusetts ride was intended to warn both British soldiers and his fellow colonists. At right is Palin's daughter Piper. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

JUNEAU, Alaska >> Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s ride has triggered a tug of war over the Wikipedia entry on that historic event.

Dozens of changes were made to the Revere page on the Internet site Sunday and Monday after Palin claimed Revere’s famous ride was intended to warn both his fellow colonists and British soldiers. The page features a padlock, which Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh said can provide a cooling-off period when there are numerous attempts to edit a site. 

Actually the site has been “semi” protected since November due to what one online editor and contributor, Jeff Schneider, called excessive vandalism.  Students sometimes alter pages featuring historical people or events, he said. That protection guards against edits from unregistered users, as well as edits from unconfirmed accounts or those that aren’t at least four days old with at least 10 edits.

A chat area connected to the page included sections headlined “Sarah Palin’s army needs to go away,” although Walsh said it’s difficult to tell with any certainty whether those seeking to add Palin’s statements are her supporters.

While Wikipedia allows people to add information or make changes to pages, an army of dedicated users worldwide seeks to ensure the information is accurate. This is especially true for articles related to significant historical facts or people, with volunteer editors striving to keep out information that’s not proven, well established or coming from a neutral point of view, Walsh said.

“This isn’t a place where you bring new research,” Walsh said.

Schneider said the flurry over the Revere article is very common. “When an item is in the news, it brings in the masses,” he said in an email. 

But Palin interview videos weren’t considered “reliable sources” for updates to the site, Schneider said, adding that he was the first to “remove someone adding historic information based on Palin’s interview.”

Palin defended her position on Fox News Sunday, insisting she hadn’t bungled her American history.

“Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there. That, hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have,” she added. “He did warn the British.” 

Days earlier, during a bus tour of the East Coast, Palin said Revere warned the British “by ringing those bells, and makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.” 

While colonists were British subjects when Revere made his ride, historical accounts indicate secrecy was critical as Revere sought to carry out his mission to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were coming to arrest them.


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