Wikipedia is to introduce editors to approve changes to articles, ending the principle that they can be altered by anyone.

Wikipedia is a free, community-maintained site in more than 260 languages

The online encyclopaedia was founded on the principle the community could maintain and update it without much interference.

Until now, registered volunteers were able to make instant edits. Around 13 million articles have so far been created and maintained, in more than 260 languages.

But a spate of hoaxes has damaged its credibility and Wikipedia has decided experienced editors must approve changes before they are published.

The change is expected to affect all articles on living people, if a test period is judged a success.

Slowing down the speed of updates may discourage volunteers from maintaining pages or render the site less responsive to news events, such as deaths or announcements.

The pages of high-profile celebrities such as Michael Jackson have had changes blocked as they can attract so much fake information.

Wikipedia Vandalism

The site has fallen prey to several famous hoaxes.

* Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy, who died on Tuesday, was wrongly declared dead on Wikipedia in January.

* TV presenter Vernon Kay was forced to reassure friends after his profile said he died

* A Conservative staffer altered the page of a famous painting to disguise a mistake made about it by David Cameron.

* An American journalist was wrongly accused of being linked to the death of President Kennedy. The mistake went unnoticed for more than four months.

US Senator Edward Kennedy in Washington, DC

Some commentators believe this is just the start of more restrictions.

Eric Goldman from the Santa Clara University school of law said: "My hope is that Wikipedia still exists and is still considered a useful site. But it will be at that point a very tightly controlled site.

"It won't have that veneer of a site that anyone can contribute to. They haven't closed the drawbridge. People can still get in. But it keeps going up and up and up."

The Wikipedia Foundation has just received a series of grants - including $2m from a philanthropic fund set up by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar - to help expand its network of volunteers.

Wikipedia already highlights particular pages which may contain unverified information.
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