Displaced business owner hijacks Tustin’s Wikipedia page to vent “Since 2009, Tustin has changed and is no longer a ‘Business Friendly’ community,” the introduction pronounced

Tustin, California

If, earlier this week, you clicked on Tustin’s Wikipedia page to research the city’s demographics or history, you may have found yourself either confused or amused.

“Since 2009, Tustin has changed and is no longer a ‘Business Friendly’ community,” the introduction pronounced.

The bio went on to list examples indicating Tustin’s “bad business climate” – mainly, the City Council’s recent vote to rezone a 7-acre piece of property from industrial to residential.

By Thursday morning, not long after city officials were approached for a comment, the Wikipedia entry had returned to its usual tone – dryly stating geographical location, population statistics and such.

“We don’t monitor Wikipedia every day,” said City Manager Jeff Parker. “But if someone brings something to our attention, we check to make sure things are accurate. Wikipedia is supposed to be as factual as possible – not opinion-based.”

So whodunnit? All clues hinted at one of the disgruntled tenants forced to leave the soon-to-be-leveled industrial complex, wedged between Old Town and the I-5. In September, about 30 businesses there received notice that their month-to-month leases would not be renewed by their landlord, who wanted to sell the property.

A 140-unit condominium complex is scheduled to break ground on the lot next spring.

Perhaps the project’s most vocal critic is Lyann Courant, co-owner of Advantage Manufacturing, which makes swimming pool pumps. Under a tight deadline, she and her husband moved their equipment and 23 employees to Santa Ana last week.

Asked if she knew anything about the Wikipedia hack, Courant responded, “I wouldn’t say it was ‘hacked’ exactly. Anyone can post on Wikipedia.”

Quite right, said the nonprofit’s spokeswoman Samantha Lien.

“By its very nature, Wikipedia will always be a work in progress,” she said. “It’s a living encyclopedia that can be updated in real time.”

Courant eventually acknowledged that she was the one who wrote the anti-Tustin rant.

“I’ve been screaming from the social media rooftops as loudly as I can,” she said. “Social media and the web in general give the average person an opportunity to share their side of the story in a way that was never possible before.”

Founded in 2001, now ubiquitous Wikipedia enjoys an almost all-knowing reputation – as though its words come from experts on the subject – despite myriad college professors warning students against using it as a primary source.

“That is the problem – people perceive Wikipedia as absolutely factual,” Parker said.

Yet anyone with a computer can easily insert information – as well as opinions and even fake news – simply by hitting the “edit” button.

That feature keeps Wikipedia ever-current, unlike a dusty set of World Books. But it also makes the site vulnerable to unvetted material, despite the site’s policy encouraging neutral and well-cited articles.

A University of California, Santa Cruz, study in 2010 estimated that about 7 percent of all edits to Wikipedia articles constitute “vandalism.”

Usually, it’s readers themselves who make the corrections, Lien said, adding, “The more eyes on a page, the more reliable and balanced its information.”

Needless to say, Tustin does not attract the traffic that a contentious news event or famous celebrity might.

Courant offers no apology for “enhancing” Wikipedia’s Tustin page.

“Yeah,” she said, “it was a little satisfying.”

Contact the writer: sgoulding@scng.com

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/wikipedia-738578-tustin-city.html