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Wikipedia co-founder to launch rival social media site

LONDON - Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, is launching a social media encyclopaedia that will attempt to balance the original's democratic principles, allowing anyone to add content, but with much greater editorial control.

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Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), which will go live in the next few days, will initially be made available to a limited number of content editors and members of the public who apply. It will become available to the masses by the end of the year.

Wikipedia, which hosts about 1.4m entries on subjects ranging from the advent of Western philosophy to the Wonderbra, allows any internet user to write and edit its content. This has led to criticism of its lack of factual reliability and impartiality. Sanger became frustrated by its refusal to bring in more authoritative control and left after its first year.

Sanger's Citizendium will attempt to iron out these issues while maintaining the openness that underpins Wikipedia. Users of Citizendium will still be able to submit articles for publication. However, the site will also employ editors to authorise articles and a group of peacekeepers to ensure balance between any warring factions.

The addition of editors it is hoped will solve some of the quality and legal issues that have arisen in dealing with user-generated content.

"We believe a fork is necessary, and justified, both to allow regular people a place to work under the direction of experts, and in which personal accountability -- including the use of real names -- is expected. In short, we want to create a responsible community and a good global citizen," a statement on the Citizendium site said.

Sanger told the Financial Times: "The latest articles don't represent a consensus view -- they tend to become what the most persistent 'posters' say."

Volunteers will be able to become editors of the Citizendium encyclopaedia, but will have to demonstrate what Sanger described as "minimum levels of qualification based on real-world measures".

The venture has financial backed by an unidentified foundation and a web hosting company is providing its services for free.

Wikipedia launched in 2001.

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