Wikipedia quoted at length in the Levelling Up White Paper

For most of us, our go-to source when doing a bit of background research is Wikipedia. Sometimes when we are looking for simple facts (like the election results in a particular year) the online crowd-sourced encyclopaedia is all we need. Sometimes it provides the starting point for more in-depth research, especially if we need to verify the sources.

Some years ago I was intrigued by an animation which showed the same Wikipedia page as it evolved over time. The number and frequency of changes was astonishing, which underlined the dynamic nature of knowledge, but also suggested that it should be used with some caution.

However it seems Wikipedia was enough for Government advisers who drew up the Levelling Up White Paper.

Tim Farron has been questioning Michael Gove (Minister for, among other things, Levelling Up) about the White Paper, mainly about the issues for people living in rural communities. But in the process he noticed that whole chunks of the White Paper were copied in full from the relevant Wikipedia entry.

According to The Independent

The white paper includes large sections of padding, with three pages devoted to the history of Jericho, Rome, and renaissance Europe.

But bits of this section appear to have been lifted directly from the popular internet encyclopaedia.

One off-beat part of the report reads: “Constantinople was the capital of the Roman/Byzantine Empire (330-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922)”.

The text is identical to the first line of the Wikipedia page for Constantinople, right down to formatting and punctuation.

Another section of the report includes a full-page timeline of the largest cities in the world since 7,000 BC which is identical to a table on Wikipedia’s “List of largest cities throughout history” page.

Tim said:

The Levelling Up White Paper read like something which had been cobbled together in a rush, with no mention of the rural communities which have been long forgotten by this Government. So it’s not at all surprising to see entire sections lifted from Wikipedia.

The Conservatives can’t even muster up the effort to properly invest in some of our most deprived regions, so anything beyond a copy and paste job would have been surpassing expectations.

But as ever, this Government can’t even meet the low bar they have set of themselves. Their hollow promises to families facing a cost of living crisis aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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5 Comments

  • Trevor Andrews 5th Feb '22 - 8:22am

    I am reading Tom Holland’s Millennium and there was no level playing ground back then. Also if you stole something or lied you were likely to get your hand or head chopped off.

    So are they bringing new rules based on these practices?

    Clearly they have no idea of the current situation and no real idea how to level things up today.

    If that is the best they can do for our citizens then we should be making a great play in the credibility of this document.

  • “a rush” !

    Do Government white papers usually contain random unrelated data lifted from the internet ?

    Is this saying that the people at the top of Government are not serious ?

  • Peter Chambers 6th Feb '22 - 5:04pm

    > plagiarism detection software
    When I did a course module a few years ago the lecturer made us all copy part of a page from Wikipedia and feed it into the ‘turnitin’ software tool. Just as a friendly exercise for the class to remind people about submitting original work and the value of attribution.
    It pops up the result on a split screen with the line matches in red and a score. Instant results, very impressive. You can get an automatic fail in under ten seconds.

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