Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Government Censorship Politics

Wikipedia Entries 'Cleaned' By Political Staffers 720

Posted by Zonk
from the don't-they-have-better-things-to-do? dept.
worb writes "According to the Lowell Sun, U.S. Rep Marty Meehan's staff has been heavily editing his Wikipedia bio, among other things removing criticisms. In total, more than one thousand Wikipedia edits in various articles have been traced back to congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six months."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wikipedia Entries 'Cleaned' By Political Staffers

Comments Filter:
  • by worb (935866) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:19PM (#14594275)
    You can have a look at how some of them were revealed in the talk page for rep. Marty Meehan (D) [wikipedia.org]. There's even a big list of entries edited by a specific IP address, with the comment:

    "These edits range from benificial and informative to libelous and childish."

    • by abh (22332) <ahockley@gmail.com> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:23PM (#14594307) Homepage
      > "These edits range from benificial and informative to libelous and childish."

      That pretty much sums up Wikipedia
    • by vought (160908) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:58PM (#14594850)
      So, it looks like representatives from both parties are editing Wikipedia articles. Let's take a look at how the "liberal" media might treat this story.

      Slashdot Headline: "Wikipedia Entries 'Cleaned' By Political Staffers"

      CNN Headline: "Democratic Staffers edit World Wide Web Encyclopedia"

      Fox News Headline: "Democrats attempt to Rewrite History; Republicans clarify Wikipedia entries."

      MSNBC: "Tonight: Chris Matthews Examines the Democratic attempt to modify web databases."

      Contrast this to the "bipartisan" Abramaoff bribery scandal, where no money was given to Democrats and Abramoff's clients decreased their giving to Democrats at Abramoff's direction.

      *sigh* I know it's a hypothetical, but given the minimization of every single Republican scandal in the past several years, do you really think it's far off base?
  • Mudslinging (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BMIComp (87596) * on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:20PM (#14594281)
    This isn't as bad as some profane articles I found some congressional aides/staffers writing about each other... which was confirmed by their senate IP addresses...
  • by catwh0re (540371) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:20PM (#14594283)
    Wikipedia is open for potential abuses like these, but then again Wiki has always been a good reflection of society, and this is precisely what political agents do with the rest of society/PR outlets.
    • by MikeFM (12491) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:37PM (#14594718) Homepage Journal
      The interesting thing about a wiki is that while it can be changed it keeps a history so that you can see what was changed. That means you are free to recover what was removed and can actually back up your paranoid theories that someone is trying to bend the truth to the way they want it to be.

      What wiki really needs is a control structure like big open source projects have. All sections owned by somebody that has to verify edits and pass them up the chain to owners of bigger sections, etc until you reach the top and the project maintainer stamps the edit as okay. Anyone in charge along the way should be able to revert the changes but not get rid of the record of the changes they turned down. Also it'd be cool if alternate reversions could be viewed alongside each other and modded up and down by the community. Karma like Slashdot has would be good too so anonymous and new user's changes are automatically trusted less than experienced users. On Slashdot I have high karma so my posts start off at a higher level than someone logged into a dummy account and overall that seems to be a good system for weeding out a lot of the garbage. Maybe even do a sort of eBay thing where people that have filed an offical id with their account get an extra mod point too by default since you can easily track who is making what changes and ban them if they are abussive.

      They've been working on some of this stuff but it seems it has a ways to go before it works as well as the Linux kernel project or something like that. In general their code that wiki is based on could use some improvement with more flexibility added.
  • Always a risk... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by neocon (580579) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:22PM (#14594295) Homepage Journal
    Hasn't the risk of Wikipedia always been that stories were most likely to be updated by people who are interested in them -- and people who have an interest in them are likely to be the most interested of all?

    In short, this is another example of the old saw: ``Wikipedia is like a public toilet -- when you need it, you're sure glad it's there, but you never know who used it last.''

    • by CyricZ (887944) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:37PM (#14594390)
      But you do know who used it last, and what specifically they changed. It's extremely easy to compare different versions of the same article. You can even be shown exactly what text differs between the two, for instance.

      So rather than suggesting it's a flaw that anyone can change the most recent copy of the information, we need to realize that it's beneficial that we can see past edits, and who performed them.

      Indeed, if we see a trend of certain information being edited out of articles about Republicans, it could be quite safe to assume the information that was removed is completely valid, and is being removed because it is the unfortunate truth. The same would go for the Democrats, or basically any other group, for instance. At least, however, we can see what was changed, and what it was changed from. That's just as beneficial as the information itself.

      • You have time to dig through page histories and whatnot? I'd rather just go consult a source I already trust.

        That said, I do use Wikipedia quite a bit... but only because I have the time to waste.
        • by CyricZ (887944) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:44PM (#14594434)
          Who ever said that getting the whole picture was easy or quick? It's your whole attitude of consulting some other "trusted" source, rather than investigating the matter on your own, which leads to people being easily manipulated.

          Unfortunately, that happened to many Americans during the run-up to the ongoing war in Iraq. Most Americans didn't investigate the claims made by politicians and the media, and thus were ignorant to the fact that they were being seriously mislead.

          • Only if you weren't paying attention, or had a short memory. Listening only to the official sources of news, I knew that the war was a scam. They, essentially, out and out said it was. They had announced the war before the election...I didn't take them seriously (my fault, I suppose, but I wasn't supporting them anyway...so I didn't see any cause to investigate). More problematic are the stories where the news is laundered by the "official sources" before anyone else ever sees it. This was brought home
          • careful there! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by r00t (33219) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:29PM (#14595001) Journal
            Some of us saw the bullshit for what it was, then thought...

            Well, at least it'll get the sheep to support the war.

            The real justification for that war is far too complex for the average person, never mind a 5-second sound bite.

            I don't think the explanation would fit in a few Slashdot posts either, even assuming you are smart enough to follow it. I'll give you a few hints though. It has to do with very long-term world strategy and stability. It has to do with much more than oil or terrorism.

            • Re:careful there! (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Jherico (39763) <bdavis@s[ ]tandreas.org ['ain' in gap]> on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:19AM (#14596604) Homepage
              The real justification for that war is far too complex for the average person, never mind a 5-second sound bite.
              Supposing that the people in charge know better than us and can be allowed to lie to justify a war that is really being fought for different reasons is tyranny.

              Just because you think the supposed real reason for the war is valid doesn't mean it it, even if you think most other people don't have the capacity to understand. Hell, that attitude is part of the problem.

              You know, I assumed the war wasn't about WMD's too. I figured the administration had an ulterior motive. I think that's ascribing far too much talent to the administration. Even if you give them credit for having a shadowy master plan, you still have to admit the possiblity that they're fucking it up.

          • Who ever said that getting the whole picture was easy or quick? It's your whole attitude of consulting some other "trusted" source, rather than investigating the matter on your own, which leads to people being easily manipulated.

            Unfortunately people dont have infinite time to fully research all subjects. The attitude that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia is obviously leading to people being manipulated and mislead. The solution is another system that can be trusted, because it's necessary.
      • by neocon (580579) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:51PM (#14594466) Homepage Journal
        But you do know who used it last, and what specifically they changed. It's extremely easy to compare different versions of the same article. You can even be shown exactly what text differs between the two, for instance.

        Seeing that it was used before you doesn't tell you anything useful about who the person was who did the editing (unless their nick or IP is one you recognize as someone you know outside of Wikipedia).

        In real life, when we see a bunch of conflicting claims about something, we look at those speaking, and ask questions such as:

        • Is the speaker likely to have knowledge of the matter they are discussing?
        • Is the speaker someone whom we generally trust to be of sound mind?
        • Does the speaker have a vested interest in our believing one thing or another?

        In Wikipedia (as in Slashdot -- but no one is claiming Slashdot's comment section is a valuable source of unbiased reference information) this information is not available. Instead, we get a bunch of conflicting quasi-anonymous edits, and no information to help us decide which are more valid.

        • by YGingras (605709) <ygingras@ygingras.net> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:19PM (#14594947) Homepage
          Seeing that it was used before you doesn't tell you anything useful about who the person was who did the editing (unless their nick or IP is one you recognize as someone you know outside of Wikipedia).

          use "dig -x" my friend:

          $ dig -x 143.231.249.141

          ; <<>> DiG 9.3.1 <<>> -x 143.231.249.141
          ;; global options: printcmd
          ;; Got answer:
          ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 48380
          ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 2

          ;; QUESTION SECTION:
          ;141.249.231.143.in-addr.arpa. IN PTR

          ;; ANSWER SECTION:
          141.249.231.143.in-addr.arpa. 3600 IN PTR housegate10.house.gov.

          ;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
          231.143.in-addr.arpa. 86400 IN NS mercury.house.gov.
          231.143.in-addr.arpa. 86400 IN NS chyron.house.gov.

          ;; ADDITIONAL SECTION:
          mercury.house.gov. 86395 IN A 143.231.1.67
          chyron.house.gov. 86395 IN A 143.228.129.38

          ;; Query time: 128 msec
          ;; SERVER: 192.168.0.1#53(192.168.0.1)
          ;; WHEN: Sun Jan 29 17:16:55 2006
          ;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 184
        • by aeoo (568706) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:39PM (#14595037) Journal

                  * Is the speaker likely to have knowledge of the matter they are discussing?
                  * Is the speaker someone whom we generally trust to be of sound mind?
                  * Does the speaker have a vested interest in our believing one thing or another?

          As I see it, there is no point in this kind of evaluation of the speaker's personality. Good information should stand in its own two feet, and it should be easily verifiable. If it's not easily verifiable, then we should take it as a matter of taste.

          If the information is of the kind that would cause you to significantly alter your opinion based on who was saying it, then you should reject such information in the first place, even, and especially, if it is said by a character that is pleasant to you.
      • by lawpoop (604919) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:57PM (#14594509) Homepage Journal
        To me, the problem is that wikipedia is presented in "traditional mode" where the user assumes that the current article to be the best of the best, like traditional encyclopedias.

        I think wikipedia would be better understood, and therefore a better tool, if it were presented as multiple concurrent articles, instead of the latest winner of a revision war posing as a proper encyclopedia entry.

        Some physics entry might have one branch, whereas a controversial subject like abortion would have multiple branches.

        The trick is to present the branches to the user so that they understand immediately that there is contention. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to think that Wikipedia should be questionable, since it does *look* like a traditional encyclopedia.

        Yes, I am aware that there are mistakes in traditional encyclopedias. However, you are certainly not going to find flames and 0-day trolls in Brittanica. Wikipedia's current interface does a poor job of helping non-technical users understand this.
  • not just him.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jarwulf (530523) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:23PM (#14594302)
    they've been busy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:143.231.249.141 [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:not just him.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shadyman (939863) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:30PM (#14594346) Homepage
      Busy, but banned :) "This IP has been blocked It belongs to Information Systems, U.S. House of Representatives Has vandalised many times." Looks like some pretty serious stuff they're trying to get away with, if you take a look at the list
      • Re:not just him.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by netsharc (195805) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:48PM (#14594453)
        What a funny reflection of the world (or at least the US) today; politicians meddle with something that belongs to the public, making it worse, using it to their own advantage, and the public has to kick them out.

        If only that can work for the real senate and government and not just the senate's IP address.
        • Re:not just him.... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:47PM (#14594777)
          "What a funny reflection of the world (or at least the US) today; politicians meddle with something that belongs to the public, making it worse, using it to their own advantage, and the public has to kick them out."
          We hold these Truths to be self-evident... (t)hat whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
    • by CyricZ (887944) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:31PM (#14594354)
      As flawed as the Wikipedia system might be, at least it is known to all what sort of errors are being made.

      Anyone with an ounce of intelligence could use the list you posted a link to to their advantage. Chances are that if Republicans are adding material to an article, such information is likely a lie. Likewise, if they're removing information, it is probably truthful information they wish to hide from the public. Likewise for the Democrats.

  • unfortunately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:23PM (#14594305) Journal
    this is what you have to accept with a democratic ideal like Wikipedia. Much like a real democracy, you might not like what you see, but you have to live with it. Wikipedia is a similar process, except that individuals get a WHOLE LOT more say in the process. And if you bring in guards, who will guard the guards? (and don't say meta-guards, PLEASE!) If this bothers you, do some research, edit the article yourself and play the editing war with that politician's staff.
    • Re:unfortunately (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:33PM (#14594367) Homepage Journal
      No, Wikipedia is more like anarchy, where any one person can shout over anyone else, overwhelming the majority with rhetoric. Any one person can modify any entry on Wikipedia. It has its pros and its cons. Unfortunately this sort of thing where politicians (Scumbag politicians of BOTH extremes) use Wikipedia to mislead voters who might want to research voting records and positions on issues. The ultimate result of this will be that the greatest stregth of Wikipedia - peer editing - will be lost forever, just because a few assholes abuse it for their own personal gain.

      With that said: I always try to vote against incumbents.
    • Re:unfortunately (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scrameustache (459504)
      Much like a real democracy, you might not like what you see, but you have to live with it.

      And here I thought the point of democracy was just the opposite.
      • Re:unfortunately (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shmlco (594907)
        Democracy is often termed the tyranny of the majority. If you don't like what you see, then you can change it... provided the majority of the people don't disagree with you. In which case you're SOL.
  • by heinousjay (683506) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:23PM (#14594306) Journal
    Coming up after the break, we'll have the weather, and Tom will present his special report, "Are All Politicians Scumbags?" The answer may surprise you. But first, is your computer rotting your brain? You may be dead and not even know it yet.

    --------- (I apologize if this is too high concept. I sick, and my head is floaty. It feels right, but right now I have terrible judgement.)
  • It can be edited by everybody. Including the "Congressional staffers". Why is it "censorship"?
    • > It can be edited by everybody. Including the "Congressional staffers". Why is it "censorship"?

      Because THEY weren't supposed to edit it, it was for US to bloviate. Yea right. The typical slashdot/DailyKos types think they own the Internet and

      The Internet is changing a lot but don't expect the old power structure to simply vanish overnite. If Wikipedia is going to stick to their claim of being open they have to expect people to remove the more nasty bits from their entries.
  • Would you? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bomarrow1 (903375) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .1worramob.> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:30PM (#14594340) Homepage
    Well. I'm not suprised. But really if you found a page about yourself in the wikipedia full of critisisms you would think about changing them. Really with a world where comments can be changed they probably will be.

    Although having people doing this for seems a bit of misuse of resourses.

    Could you honsitly say you wouldn't be tempted to change things critisising about you if you could.

    With the power to change things to the way one would want them one would.
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:30PM (#14594343)
    From the Wikipedia entry:
    In January 2006, Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, admitted to authorizing a replacement article on Meehan published on Wikipedia, with an approved and sanitized staff-written biography [1] [2]. This ran afoul of internal Wikipedia guidelines [3], and government ethics' rules on the use of employee time.
    The simple thing to do: fire Matt Vogel. If the Representative simply turns a blind eye to this sort of activity, then it is indicative of how he feels about ethical questions and what he thinks about the place of informed public debate in a republican form of government.

    With Members of Congress like this about information on themselves, is it any wonder nobody there disclosed information on the warrantless wiretaps?
  • Whatever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tufriast (824996) * on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:31PM (#14594351)
    I give up, really I do. But it was only a matter of time before political machines corrupted Wikipedia I guess. How long before it starts being less true than is true? Good idea, ruined by humanity once again.
    • Re:Whatever (Score:3, Funny)

      by lxs (131946)
      Good idea, ruined by humanity once again.

      There you go again confusing politicians with human beings...
  • Sensitivities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bokmann (323771) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:34PM (#14594374) Homepage

    I realize some information is a lot more sensitive than others, but exactly, then, WHO is supposed to edit this information? Isn't this the point of the whole wikipedia excercise? I mean, it is hardly a headline when musicians edit entries about musical intruments, even when a violinist edits an entry adding a comment about the 'harsh tone' of brass instruments. The brass players need to come in and correct their own entries.

    By the same model, politicians are probably going to be the ones editing the entries about politics. If a politician doesn't like his own entry, he should get in there and fix it (or tell his staffers to). If entries become too volitile, they will trigger other wikipedia policies.

    Frankly, I think the 'meta moderation' of these entries is interesting political infotmation itself. I think the article itself should have some header or hilighting ranking its volatility - I would be more likely to 'trust' stable entries.

    • Re:Sensitivities (Score:3, Informative)

      by thue (121682)
      but exactly, then, WHO is supposed to edit this information

      Wikipedia policy clearly says that you are not supposed to edit articles about yourself, see Wikipedia:Autobiography [wikipedia.org]. While correcting factual stuff like a birth date is ok, adding praise or deleting true but unfortunate facts about yourself (such as this one from the IP from the new article? [wikipedia.org]) is a definite no-go.

      FYI, Wikipedia does not have a policy banning musicians from editing articles about musical instruments; musicians are knowledgeable and t
  • by Starker_Kull (896770) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:40PM (#14594409)
    ...when directly interested parties are involved. This is the problem with Wikipedia. In a jury trial, great pains are taken to assure that the juries consist only of people without any personal interest or attachment to the outcome; this seems to be an inherently time-consuming and expensive process.

                Up until recently, Wikipedia has relied on the fact that it was relatively unknown outside the geek population, and so the odds were that highly agendized individuals were not drawn to it as a priority. This, unfortunately, has changed with Wikipedia's popularity.

                This is what makes /., Wiki, and all the other attempts at what ruleset allows a productive, participatory, democratic system that results in the best knowledge interesting - nobody has hit upon the right answer yet, but we are learning and getting better by watching what does and doesn't work. If only we could apply this to something like voting! Unfortunately, WAY too many overinterested parties are already assuring that almost any change to the voting system that gets implemented will make it worse from the voter's point of view.
  • This is a good thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bgarrett (6193) <(garrett) (at) (memesis.org)> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:42PM (#14594419) Homepage
    Many people say things like "well, people shouldn't be allowed to put crap like this on Wikipedia. We should do something about it". What nobody has done is advance a clear picture of how this can be done, aside from "put a cabal in charge", which raises the question of "who keeps the cabal from putting crap in?"

    Wikipedia accepts that problems will arise, and it has mechanisms in place (like the edit history) to mitigate the effects. When a slashdot story goes up saying "House staffers screw around with articles", that's a victory for the Wikipedia system.
    • When a slashdot story goes up saying "House staffers screw around with articles", that's a victory for the Wikipedia system.

      The typical Congressman represents about 650,000 voters. Congressional Apportionment. [nationalatlas.gov]

      It ix fair to suggest that he has little to fear from a posting to Slashdot.

  • by fiddlesticks (457600) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:42PM (#14594421) Homepage
    Read down, from the beginning of the talk for that IP. It's like a sad soap opera. Noone there knows anything about how they're being observed/tracked, or IP addresses, or wikipedia, or NPOV, or, really, anything.
  • by ortcutt (711694) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:46PM (#14594447)
    About half of the pages look like press releases. On the other hand, a lot of the pages acquire a lot of unsubstantiated rumor mongering, and I don't have a problem with the Rep's staffs keeping an eye on people making false or unsubstantiated claims on the site.
  • by symbolic (11752) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:47PM (#14594449)
    What's so awesome about wikipedia is that even after editing, the original information is still available. That being the case, part of one's research (especially when dealing with people of the political persuasion), should include past versions. At least this way, those seeking information can get the whole story, regardless of any sanitizing efforts by those in office.
  • by Aqws (932918) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:47PM (#14594450) Journal
    Here is the talkpage of the article. [wikipedia.org]

    I usually check the discusion of a wikipedia article to check if it biased. Usually there is a group of editors dedicated to the subject who pay a lot of attention to the article, along with vandals and stray people who just felt like adding some of their knowledge. Pretty interesting to have people with opposing views edit an article. I am not saying they are all like this, just the good ones. When they disagree enough a flag will go up. When there isn't an opposing view there is a problem, no one would question what goes in.

    Something interesting, the wikipedia article on google is way more critical of google than the microsoft article is of microsoft.
  • "Wikigate" scandal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anti-Trend (857000) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @03:49PM (#14594462) Homepage Journal
    What really gets me is that they're apparently as dumb as they are immoral. They weren't even bright enough to use a proxy to mask their IP address, leaving their greasy fingerprints all over wikipedia for the world to see. Aside from this, I wonder how many other astroturfing operations have gone completely unnoticed by the public.
  • by malsdavis (542216) * on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:00PM (#14594523)
    From the article:

    "For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned."

    It must be great being the US government in this day and age, any question which they do not want to answer they simply cite "For security reasons ...I cannot tell you that". I'm just waiting to see George Bush in February state that he cannot tell people the US budget (or deficit to be accurate) "for security reasons".

  • by Jamesday (794888) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:13PM (#14594608)
    The system seems to be working: PR inappropriately inserted gets news headline exposing it and more attention directed at the subject being concealed.
  • funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by simontek2 (523795) <SimonTek AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:20PM (#14594643) Homepage Journal
    Its kind of funny, if you look up the admin's page, one of the people who is putting temp bans on the IP is a 15yr old. Its nice to see that the house has been stopped by him. And they say youths can't do anything right.
  • by mynameismonkey (658515) <jaz.slashdot@NOsPam.jaz.co.uk> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @04:37PM (#14594717) Homepage
    All .gov addresses should be banned from editing in Wikipedia. The US Government has no mandate to update public Web sites, and should be banned by their internal IT staff. Gov computers are banned from accessing such things as Gmail, game sites, bulletin boards and many other things deemed inappropriate use of government resources, in an effort to ensure that government property is only being used to conduct government work. As such, Wikipedia would be doing us all a favour by banning any gov addresses from editing, thereby reminding government employees that they should stop editing wikis and get back to spending our hard-earned money running the country.
  • by InternetVoting (809563) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:03PM (#14594873) Homepage
    After seeing the article running in The Lowell Sun, I was the one who combed through the entire history of wikipedia contributions [wikipedia.org]. I was surprised to see that there were hundreds (pretty close to 1000 entries).

    Though I was pleased to see that there were a fair amount of edits updating dates and facts to be current (everyone switching from the 108th to the 109th Congress), I was shocked to see that there was a large propaganda and misinformation campaign as well.

    Some were personal attacks saying things like "He is generally not a good person," and childish things like adding Scott Mclellan (Bush's press secretary) to the entry for Douche; other were of a much more serious nature. The entry for Ralph Neas (Director of a the liberal People for the American Way) was edited to say he was a Socialist, and the more subtle but equally effective changing the description of MoveOn (a progressive political organization) to be categorized as "left-wing."

    Many Congressional offices were removing any negative inormation or simply replacing the entire article with their official House bio. Emily Lawrimore (Communications Director Congressman Joe Wilson, emily.lawrimore@mail.house.gov) posted, [wikipedia.org] on the discussion page for her boss "I work for Congressman Joe Wilson (listed as Addison Graves Wilson). Could you update his bio with information from the following official bio too?"

    Some political officials like Congressman Jim Ramstad (R-MN 3rd) just wanted to remove any references to the word "liberal". The articles for Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ 2nd), and Rick Renzi (R-AZ 1st) were completely erased and replaced with official House biographies.

    Getting even worse Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA 11th) and Governor Bob Taft (R-OH) removed references to their ties with Jack Abramoff (who in a recent Washington scandal pled guilty to three felony counts, conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion). Congressman Mark Green (R-WI 8th) removed any mention of his ties with the recently indicted Tom DeLay and generally removed any unflattering or scandal related information. A full list of the effected articles is available [wikipedia.org].

    The possible most egregious entry was editing [wikipedia.org] the article "2003 Invasion of Iraq." Erasing legitimate information, adding knowingly false information and generally purporting that there were links between Iraq and al Qaeda.

    This appears to be a somewhat serious problem as this is one IP address of who knows how many. See the discussion page [wikipedia.org] for this IP address at Wikipedia to see some of the known staffers who have been editing articles.
    • by AndroidCat (229562) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:35PM (#14595022) Homepage
      Emily Lawrimore (Communications Director Congressman Joe Wilson, emily.lawrimore@mail.house.gov) posted, on the discussion page for her boss "I work for Congressman Joe Wilson (listed as Addison Graves Wilson). Could you update his bio with information from the following official bio too?"
      Rather than (a) vandalizing the page, or (b) spending all her time making changes, she created the Talk page, posted what she thought should be included, and left it to the people already watching and editing the page to make the changes--which they seem to be doing according to the page history. Smooth, efficient, effective. Nicely done Emily!
  • A few examples (Score:5, Informative)

    by Brushen (938011) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:06PM (#14594882)
    I am a Wikipedia editor and am personally going through all edits that have come through the U.S. Congress IP range. It's mildly entertaining, like a made-for-TV horror comedy, as I look through these. The government is spreading propaganda into Wikipedia. There are edits that seem to be useful, and true, but there is a majority of vandalism that disturbs me. Edits range from articles to articles like the ones on the Superfriends and the Pope, to inserting the name of the White House press secretary in odd places [wikipedia.org], and what appears to be an extremely puerile form of libel against certain senators [wikipedia.org].
  • by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:20PM (#14594951) Journal
    Wikipedia needs moderation. Perhaps Slashdot-like moderation. I am all for having a freely edited encyclopedia; I am even all for contributions being shown immediately without editorial oversight, but it's just downright ridiculous that their Anonymous Cowards have just as much power as their excelent-karma'ed, long-time contributors/editors.
  • by rgoldste (213339) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:34PM (#14595017)
    This is exactly what philosopher Harry Fankfurt fretted about in his short book "On Bullshit." The problem with political discourse today is not that we have liars, it's that we have bullshitters--people that don't care about the truth at all. You can see that dangerous thinking with Meehan's chief of staff admitting that he had no objection to deleting facts for PR purposes; Vogel essentially valued Meehan's image over the truth.

    Wikipedia is a project that presumes that all parties care about the truth. Sure, people will disagree about the implications of and inferences from the facts, and that can lead to back-and-forth editing. That's good, because multiple editors are more likely to arrive, via peer-review, at a neutral point of view. But editing out known facts is recklessly disregarding the truth, and that goes against the spirit of Wikipedia. Again, the point of allowing anyone to edit is not to allow revisionist history, but to allow neutral interpretation of facts.

    PR should never conflict with the truth. You can spin facts, explain them away, downplay them--that's acceptable PR. But you have to acknowledge them. I'm even willing to say that lying about them is better than pretending they don't exist: at least the liar acknowledges there is an objective truth and has the same understanding of facts as the rest of us, even if he chooses to manipulate the game. Vogel didn't even care to acknowledge the facts and that makes his actions quite dangerous to public discourse.
  • by xihr (556141) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @05:41PM (#14595052) Homepage
    That's what happens when anyone can edit anything. At least they didn't edit his article to try to implicate him in the Kennedy assassination.
  • So it's POV or NPOV? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by towsonu2003 (928663) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @06:33PM (#14595274)
    Anything I ever do in wikipedia gets a POV or NPOV attack from someone with opposite views. So to me, this is not news. Everyone has its own facts about what's going on (even about optical vs old school mice). POV/NPOV flames are the reason why wikipedia can't go beyond being a quick-check-reference-point.
  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @06:38PM (#14595304)
    That illustrates the problem with any cooperative system in which the entire world's population is explicitly trusted.

    The unfortunate truth is that there always has been and always will be a percentage of the worlds population who are assholes. It's just a fact that anything given to the world, no matter how good, will be ruined by these assholes unless measures are taken to protect it.
  • And on Slashdot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @06:40PM (#14595323) Homepage Journal
    When certain viewpoints get consistenly modded down is that part of a conspiracy or just a few folks in the herd acting on their own? Hard to tell sometimes. Metamoderate regularly and a pattern starts to emerge. But each side can be equally oppresive against the other. No one really wants to hear anyone else's opinion no matter how well reasoned their argument is.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcrNO@SPAMmac.com> on Sunday January 29, 2006 @07:00PM (#14595406) Journal
    The moonies, rajneeshis, and the scientologits also put some serious effort into whitewashing the entries on their cults and leaders. They usually win, since they can assign a full-time zombie to each page, just about.

    The quacks who push "Therapeutic Touch", "Psychic Surgery", and Chiropractic aren't quite as diligent, but you still need to take those entries with a grain of salt, too.

    -jcr
  • by DigDuality (918867) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @07:19PM (#14595490)
    My TAX dollars are going to political staffers to mess up a wiki system that is supposed to be as unbiased as possible due to a check and balance. A source of information that should be at the very least, semi-credible. If he wants to spread lies and cover his ass, that's fine. Don't go F**king up wikipedia with my tax dollars. It's a waste of time #1, and it's a slap in the face to plenty of citizens who have worked their asses off to build that site. Anyone that edits a wiki with malicious intent, whether childish or politically motivated, needs the crap slapped out of them.
  • by jonwil (467024) on Sunday January 29, 2006 @08:12PM (#14595687)
    The "Powers That Be" are reverting the entries back to what they should be and blocking the IPs of those who are carrying out the action.

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.

Working...