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Wikipedia to tighten editorial rules

The founder of the free-for-all Web encyclopedia says vandalism could put its credibility on the line.

Wikipedia, the Web encyclopedia written and edited by Internet users from all over the world, plans to impose stricter editorial rules to prevent vandalism of its content, founder Jimmy Wales was quoted as saying Friday.

In an interview with German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, Wales, who launched Wikipedia with partner Larry Sanger in 2001, said it needed to find a balance between protecting information from abuse and providing open access to improve entries.

"There may soon be so-called stable contents. In this case, we'd freeze the pages whose quality is undisputed," he said.

Citing a recent example of vandalism, Wales recalled how following the election of the new Pope Benedict in April, a user substituted the pontiff's photo on the Wikipedia site with that of the evil emperor from the "Star Wars" film series.

"The picture was only on the page for a minute. But whoever opens the article at this moment will get annoyed--and therefore doubt our credibility," he told the paper.

Restricting access to entries that are particularly susceptible to unwanted attention could be one way of preventing this, he said.

Wales has been at a meeting of those behind the successful free encyclopedia in Frankfurt, which lasts until Monday.

He said that setting up a form of "commission" might be one way of deciding which entries could be "frozen" in perpetuity.

Since its inception, Wikipedia has attracted millions of users from around the world and published more than 1 million articles in over 105 languages, according to its Web Site.

Breaking news on big stories frequently makes its way into Wikipedia entries hours or even minutes after being reported.