Article written by Laetitia Ponde Nkot
In July 2022 an academic study reported that senior judges depended on Wikipedia articles and that this had immense consequences on judicial reasoning.
Usage of the Wikipedia online source by senior judges may indicate the spreading of wrong information, bringing about inadequate judgements.
Researchers stated this had so far had serious repercussions on society. Results from top US and Irish universities, published in January 2023, said: ‘Wikipedia and other frequently-accessed sources of user-generated content have profound effects on important social outcomes. Greater attention should therefore be paid to ensuring that they contain the highest quality of information.’
Even though the research was planned on decisions of the Irish Supreme Court, identical outcomes appeared to be pertinent to the UK and US courts.
Researchers thought that only High Court judges or their staff, rather than the Courts of Appeal or Supreme Courts make use of Wikipedia articles for their investigations. They suggest the activity burden on High Court judges as a possible explanation of the contrast.
Measures are ahead being undertaken in other sectors to address the question. For example the London-based National Institute for Health Research has elected a named ‘Wikimedian-in-Residence’, whose job was to ‘disseminate medical research and increase the accuracy of medical content on Wikipedia’.
Scholars have advised legislators to pursue more such actions, involving appointed experts to filtrate false information, or refer to researchers to confirm important claims and return to primary sources.
But, they warned that it was uncertain, yes or no this system would function as it had shown to be inefficacious in the academic community.
They put forward that upcoming research should examine court legal filings, for instance, ‘to establish how much effect comes through lawyers’, and by ‘doing careful causal analysis of the effect of media on judicial decision-making’.