Law student combats misinformation by transforming Wikipedia article

Whether in school or from your favorite true crime podcast, you’ve probably learned about the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits U.S. law enforcement officers from carrying out searches and seizures without warrants, and the related exclusionary rule, which states that if obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights, evidence collected cannot be used in a court of law. But have you heard of the “good-faith exception”, a critical limitation to this exclusionary rule?

Under the good-faith exception, evidence collected without valid warrants can be used in court if the officers were relying on the validity of the warrant in “good faith”.

Before Northeastern University School of Law student Charles Choi added nearly 3,500 words and 78 references to the good-faith exception article on Wikipedia, it provided very little explanation of what Choi knew to be a noteworthy legal exemption with real-life implications for ordinary people.

Charles Choi headshot
Charles Choi
Image courtesy Charles Choi, all rights reserved.

“I was somewhat surprised to see that the ‘good-faith exception’ article was labeled as Low-importance on WikiProject Law and was previously a stub, as it is a U.S. constitutional law doctrine that has been addressed many times by the Supreme Court and is an important consideration for criminal proceedings,” said Choi. “While I knew that I couldn’t discuss every single detail about the concept, I felt that I could flesh out the article with the current status of the doctrine with a description of the more important court cases.”

This significant lack of content on the legal topic is a prime example of how missing information can lead to misinformation among readers. Missing information in an article can often distort the context, leading readers to fill in the gaps with their own assumptions or guesswork. These assumptions might align with existing biases or preconceptions, further solidifying their false beliefs. Simply put, the incomplete article leaves room for interpretation that can diverge significantly from reality.

To fill in the gaps in the good-faith exception Wikipedia article, Choi first researched the related exclusionary rule. 

“The rationale that the courts have used to apply the exclusionary rule (deterring police misconduct) turned out to be critical for how the exception itself developed,” explained Choi. “I felt that returning to this rationale throughout the article was important for the readers who are doing their own legal analysis, as the rationale is just as important as the particular facts and outcomes of the court cases to predict how the courts will decide in future cases.”

Choi also explored his article’s Talk page to discover areas to research and expand, including case law and the interpretations of the doctrine by individual U.S. states. 

Underscoring the research and digital literacy skills refined during the process, Choi noted the connections between writing for Wikipedia and his career goals in intellectual property law.

“A lot of effort was put into synthesizing multiple primary and secondary sources and condensing down this large pool of information into a concise, non-technical overview that is appropriate for Wikipedia,” said Choi. “I feel that this directly translates to an important skill of legal professionals to be able to effectively explain concepts to their clients.” 

For Choi, the experience of writing for Wikipedia was gratifying and increased his respect for the volunteer editors and contributors.

“I am a huge fan of Wikipedia and it is inevitably one of the first websites that I go to learn about all aspects in my life,” said Choi.  “I love Wikipedia for its no-nonsense style of writing and the abundance of information that answers all but the most obscure questions.”

No stranger to academic assignments, Choi also holds a PhD in molecular biology and bachelor’s in chemical engineering. Reflecting on his Wikipedia assignment, he underscored the positive learning outcomes and vast audience for the work.

“A traditional law school assignment would be something like a 15-page paper with the same level of accompanying research and analysis,” noted Choi. “While a Wikipedia article would likely not go as in-depth as a paper, I feel that as the same analysis and citation needs to be done, the educational benefit is equally accomplished. The fact that the article will be read by more people beyond the professor makes it even more rewarding.”

Wiki Education thanks the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation for their support of important student work like Choi’s to enhance accuracy of information and promote digital citizenship on Wikipedia. 

Interested in incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into your course? Visit to learn more about the free assignment templates and resources that Wiki Education offers to instructors in the United States and Canada.


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