The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have been dubbed by some to be "Wiki Revolutions" because "just as people can self-organize to contribute to Wikipedia...they can participate in social change and coalesce into revolutionary movements as never before." Now, it seems that wikis may not only be behind toppling governments, but also stripping plagiarizing government officials of their educational titles.
This week, German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has said he would remove the "Dr" from his name while a plagiarism investigation of his PhD took place. Where did this investigation originate? Wikia, the for-profit wiki project started by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
According to a Wikia spokesperson, the whole thing "started with Guttenplag, the Wikia site that users set up to record instances of plagiarism in the doctoral thesis of German Defense Minister Guttenberg." Apparently, the site grew rapidly to more than 1,130 pages of content and 1.5 million pageviews per day, forcing Guttenberg to respond publicly.
Global political leaders are used to worrying about wikis -- from the 'Controversy' sections of their Wikpedia biographies to the still-ominous Wikileaks (which incidentally is not a wiki, considering it is closed and non-collaborative).
But now they have a bit more to be concerned about -- having their academic qualifications publicly discredited by the new "plagiarism wikis" we've seen popping up on the Wikia platform.
The newest incarnation of the "Wiki Revolution" doesn't stop there. Apparently, Muammar al-Gaddafi's son has become the next target, with users questioning whether or not his thesis is authentic or plagiarized.
The empowering effects of the Internet have started to rear their head beyond badmouthing brands. Where else might we see the power of the people manifest into real world effects? Will investigative journalism be, in some ways, replaced by a crowdsourced, wiki-based future where the general population takes on these sorts of questions?
Wikia says that this "could very well be the start of a global trend" and that it will be keeping an eye out for further developments, noting that its platform supports multiple languages and could spread to more regions.