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Wiki-whitewashing your dirty laundry

The open-to-editing information website Wikipedia has been the victim of self-serving censorship by politicians, corporations, and even churches and other non-profit organizations, Robert Verkaik reports for the Independent Online:


The chance to rewrite history in flattering and uncritical terms has proved too much of a temptation for scores of multinational companies, political parties and well-known organisations across the world.

If a misdemeanour from a politician's colourful past becomes an inconvenient fact at election time then why not just strike it from the Wikipedia record? Or if a public company is embarking on a sensitive takeover why should its investors know of the target business's human rights abuses?

Now a website designed to monitor editorial changes made on Wikipedia has found thousands of self-serving edits and traced them to their original source. It has turned out to be hugely embarrassing for armies of political spin doctors and corproate revisionists who believed their censorial interventions had gone unnoticed.

Some of the guilty parties identified by the website, such as the Labour Party, the CIA, Republican Party and the Church of Scientology, are well-known for their obsession with PR. But others, such as the Anglican and Catholic churches or even the obscurely titled Perro de Presa Canario Dog Breeders Association of America, are new to the dark arts of spin.


Read the entire article at the link above. Apparently people still believe just because they do something "anonymously" on the web that it cannot be traced back to them. Wrong.

Now, there are some times when editing your own entry isn't nefarious - no one wants to see inaccurate information posted about them, especially if it's negative. Many of the changes noted by the new software are anything but such benign corrections, though - editing out "inconvenient truths," if you will.

Fortunately, the mere existence of this function (detecting who made changes) will tend to discourage some future abuses before they are attempted. Not all, though: there is never a shortage of those who don't think they'll be caught in whatever they're doing . . .


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Comments (12)

This is highly amusing. Op... (Below threshold)
kim:

This is highly amusing. Open source, you get what you pay for, and it's cheap at the price.
======================

Wikipedia is generally a go... (Below threshold)
Imhotep:

Wikipedia is generally a good STARTING point for general info on a subject, just don't be lazy and stop there...keep digging.

Some of the posters and bloggers on certain portions of this website know what I mean.

IU don't get it..N... (Below threshold)
lowmal:

IU don't get it..

None of this would seem much of a surprise..

I would have been surprised if it didn't occur..

Oops..Should have ... (Below threshold)
lowmal:

Oops..

Should have read "I don't get it.."

And this, ladies, gentlemen... (Below threshold)
C-C-G Author Profile Page:

And this, ladies, gentlemen, and trolls, is why Wiki is useless as a primary source.

I am sure the trolls will keep trying to use Wiki, tho... after careful editing so that it says what they want it to say.

Anyone see something missin... (Below threshold)
marc:

Anyone see something missing from this article on the Wiki-fiasco?

"Rudy Giuliani Tops Wikipedia Self-Serving Edits"

NEW YORK - Computers at the campaign headquarters of Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani were used to make fifteen changes to Mr. Giuliani's Wikipedia page last week, earning America's Mayor the Virgil Griffith award for the period ending August 18.
The alterations to Mr. Giuliani's Wikipedia page included
... upgrading his high school class ranking from 299 to 130 out of 378, revising his combined SAT score from 931 to 1,073, reducing the number of draft deferments he received during the Vietnam conflict from six to three, and deleting the account of his father's raping three prison guards and the warden's dog while doing time at Sing Sing.
Although the article contains a ludicrous denial by Giuliani's "people" no where does it state whether the changes to his page are accurate or not.

In his article, Robert Verk... (Below threshold)
Dodo David:

In his article, Robert Verkaik makes an assumption that other people are also making, that the edited Wikipedia articles were completely accurate and 100% factual in their original form. What if that assumption is wrong? What if those edited articles were flawed when first published? What if those articles contain opinion and speculation?

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia's article about itself: "Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start,and may contain false and debatable information. Indeed, many articles start their lives as partisan . . ."

And this, ladies, gentle... (Below threshold)
Brian:

And this, ladies, gentlemen, and trolls, is why Wiki is useless as a primary source.

It's "Wikipedia", not "Wiki". A wiki is the type of program it uses. There are thousands of wikis out there, of which Wikipedia is only one. Conservapedia is another.

I am sure the trolls will keep trying to use Wiki, tho... after careful editing so that it says what they want it to say.

Umm, hello! Did you miss all the reports about Fox News, the RNC, etc. also doing self-serving edits?

At least Jim recognizes that the story hits the right just as much as the left, and therefore he tries to diffuse that with this "it's not a big deal" post. I guess you weren't bright enough to pick up on that, and are instead just trying to perpetuate your political rancor.

Anyone see something mis... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Anyone see something missing from this article on the Wiki-fiasco?

Yeah, I see something missing. Your intelligence.

Do you believe what you read in The Onion, too?

Brian, FoxNews, et al</i... (Below threshold)
C-C-G Author Profile Page:

Brian, FoxNews, et al are not in the habit of using Wikipeda as a primary source.

Lefty blog and forum trolls ARE.

I'm not at all surprised that you'd deliberately ignore that fact. After all, you are a lefty blog troll yourself.

Brian, FoxNews, et al ar... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Brian, FoxNews, et al are not in the habit of using Wikipeda as a primary source.

Show us an example of a "lefty troll" who edited Wikipedia and then cited it.

Thought so.

Judging from marc's post, it seems it's the right who cites fake stories as news.

Many of the changes cited i... (Below threshold)
The Whistler:

Many of the changes cited in the article did not seem wrong to do.

If that's the best they can come up with there must not be much there.

Correcting an entry is not wrong.




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