Government computers linked to Wikipedia edits
Published Thursday, August 16, 2007 6:22PM EDT
What do the Canadian government, Church of Scientology and Disney have in common? They're all accused of turning Wikipedia entries into self-promotion.
Anyone who edits the massive online encyclopedia can do so anonymously, identified only by their computer's Internet Protocol address.
But WikiScanner, a new online tool developed by California Institute of Technology graduate student Virgil Griffith, traces those IP numbers to computers linked with specific organizations.
He said on his website he hopes "to create minor public relations disasters for companies and organizations I dislike."
The free tool can be found here, although service may be down depending on traffic.
According to The Globe and Mail, more than 11,000 edits have come from computers inside Canada's federal government offices.
Some of the changes added positive or negative comments about specific parliamentarians, including Conservative MP Jason Kenney and Liberal MP Dan McTeague.
The newspaper also found the following edits:
- A user linked to a government office in Ottawa continually defaced the entry on homosexuality between July 2005 and July 2006, replacing it with sentences like "Homosexuality is evil" and "Homosexuality is wrong according to the Bible." The same IP address was also linked to changing an entry about the TV game show "Deal or No Deal."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's entry was edited 10 times by government computers, from August 2005 to August 2006.
- Changes to an entry on Maher Arar were made using a government computer on Feb. 27 2007. The computer was traced to Public Works and Government Services.
Outside of the Canadian government, several organizations and companies have been accused of twisting various Wikipedia entries. Computers linked to the Church of Scientology have deleted criticism about the religion, while a user linked to Disney has removed criticism about digital copy-right protection.
A list of interesting edits is being compiled here, a website connected to Wired News.
With files from The Associated Press