Fake in the Law Judge caught using Wikipedia article
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Fake-in-the-Law: Judge caught using Wikipedia article

randomized controlled trial showedthat articles from Wikipedia are often used by judges as arguments for court decisions. In addition, court decisions in new cases in such cases often include a retelling of articles from Wikipedia and serve as a basis for new decisions based on case law. Nobody checks the sources of articles. Almost every forgery can become legally binding.

    Image Credit: Alex Shipps/MIT CSAIL

Image Credit: Alex Shipps/MIT CSAIL

A team of researchers led by Neil Thompson, a researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (CSAIL), conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the extent to which Wikipedia articles might influence judges’ decisions. Judges in Ireland became ignorant subjects that no one had warned them about.

Law students have written over 150 articles on various Irish Supreme Court decisions. Half of the randomly selected articles were published on Wikipedia’s pages, and half – the control group – were published on other resources. The scientists then analyzed the citation frequency of published cases on Wikipedia and others. It turned out that articles from Wikipedia were cited 20% more often by judges and used as arguments for court decisions than articles from the control group.

“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized field experiment examining the influence of legal sources on judges’ behavior. And since randomized experiments are the gold standard for this type of research, we know that the effect we’re seeing is causality, not just correlation. Thompson, lead author of the study, said. – The fact that we wrote all these cases, but only those who won the notorious “coin toss” got into Wikipedia [случайный выбор]allows us to show that Wikipedia influences both what judges cite and how they write their decisions.”

The use of Wikipedia is mainly perpetrated by judges and lower-level officials, which can be explained by the overwork of these officials. Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals borrowed less information from Wikipedia, but this does not reduce the problem of trust in decisions made on it.

In addition, researchers performed a linguistic analysis of the decision texts in cases cited by Wikipedia. It turns out that such solutions are crammed with paraphrased texts from “fake” articles.

Scientists state that anyone can edit Wikipedia articles and it poses a serious threat if left unchecked. This could undermine the legal basis of developed countries.

About the author

Robbie Elmers

Robbie Elmers is a staff writer for Tech News Space, covering software, applications and services.

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