Vernon Kay denies death claim following Wikipedia vandalism

LONDON - Vernon Kay, the TV presenter, has been forced to reassure friends and family he is alive and well after his Wikipedia entry was altered to say that he had died.

A hacker had changed Kay's page to say he'd drowned in a tragic yachting accident in Greece and that his funeral would be this Friday in Bolton.

At present, Wikipedia has suspended new or unregistered users from editing the page due to cyber vandalism. However, the page has been edited to include a reference to the incident.

Kay, who is best known as a TV presenter of shows such as 'Family Fortunes', 'Hit Me Baby One More Time', and 'Boys and Girls', learnt of the alteration after receiving calls from friends and family to check he was okay after reading the entry.

The incident exposes the potential drawbacks of Wikipedia, which allows users to edit and update entries without the author's permission.

Kay's is not the first major UK celebrity to be targeted by Wikipedia vandals, after Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole was famously slurred in the past.

In July, Google launched its own version of Wikipedia called Knol, which does not allow users to change or contribute entries without the author's permission.

In another point of difference from Wikipedia, which boasts 7m collectively edited articles in 200 languages, the new offering does not edit or endorse the information.

Knol readers are also able to notify Google if they find any content objectionable.

At the time of Knol's launch, Cedric DuPont, product manager for Knol, said: "We are deeply convinced that authorship -- knowing who wrote what -- helps readers trust the content."

The name of the service is a play on an individual unit of knowledge, and entries on the public website are called "knols".

The website was first announced at the beginning of December 2007 when Google began limited testing on the site.