Over at Concurring Opinions, Dan Solove writes about Cass Sunstein's op-ed in the Washington Post. Dan finds the following statistic provided by Sunstein to be "quite amazing":
"In the past year, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that 'anyone can edit,' has been cited four times as often as the Encyclopedia Britannica in judicial opinions, and the number is rapidly growing."
This statistic is accurate (well, maybe he should have said nearly four times as often). Lexis shows the following hits:
"encyclopedia britannica" and date(geq (2/23/06) and leq (2/23/07)) = 21 Hits
wikipedia and date(geq (2/23/06) and leq (2/23/07)) = 81 Hits
Sunstein declares that "Wikipedia has become the most influential encyclopedia in the world, consulted by judges as well as those who cannot afford to buy books." While citation counts are often useful and I have used them in my own research, this provides a forum to recognize their limitations. For example, in Gashi v. U.S. AG, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 423, the hit comes from footnote one which states: "Wikipedia is a free internet encyclopedia that is collaboratively written by its readers and can be edited by anyone." Is this the type of citation that shows wikipedia has "influence"? For the most part, however, most of the citations to wikipedia arise from the court providing a citation for factual information.