Judges in Ireland are much more likely to cite earlier judgments where there is an article on Wikipedia. A research group found this out in a first such analysis and once again made it clear how great the influence of the free online encyclopedia has become.
Wikipedia therefore influences not only which judgments were cited by the courts examined, but also the text used. This applies above all to lower courts, the higher the instance, the less influence, explains the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The work highlights an important policy issue, says study leader Neil Thompson.
Wikipedia provides visibility
As the team explains, experts for the inquiry have written over 150 articles on decisions by the Supreme Court of Ireland. The randomly selected half was then posted on Wikipedia, the other half was not. Judges, legal advisors and lawyers were then only able to view the texts that could be accessed online. The Wikipedia article was then actually decisive: Cases for which there was such a source were cited 20 percent more often. That was statistically significant and the effect was even more pronounced when the articles supported the judge’s line of argument.
The actors in the justice system are only human, the research group concludes. Especially in lower instances, the workload is probably so high that Wikipedia is often used. Her work clearly shows the influence of easily accessible, user-created online content on the application of the law. So you have to make sure that the content viewed in this way is correct, the team writes. The fact that Wikipedia is frequently accessed in courts would be a much more problematic finding if the information found there were not correct. The research work was published in “The Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence”. The Irish judiciary was selected as a research object, among other things, because there are comparatively few Wikipedia articles on the country’s highest court judgments.
To home page