Congress Slapped With 10-Day Ban on Editing Wikipedia Entries

Stephen Quillen

With approval ratings at staggering lows, Congress has even managed to aggravate Wikipedia. For 10 days, edits will no longer be permitted from a particular IP address from within the U.S. Congress building. The ban comes amid a flurry of edits from that source, including ones that dubbed the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld an "alien wizard" and attributing wild conspiracies to the Cuban government. However, the United States government is not alone in its tampering. The Guardian reports: In early July, [journalist Tim] Scott created Parliament Edits, a Twitter account tracking anyone making edits to Wikipedia from a parliamentary computer. Scott's creation followed in the footsteps of numerous news stories of embarrassing edits to Wikipedia coming from within the House of Commons. Someone added information about MP Mark Pritchard's divorce; someone excised a "controversy" section from Andy Burnham's page entirely; and someone cleared references to Lord Razzil's shareholdings in an African mining company. There have been at least 5,900 edits from parliamentary IPs in the past decade. Scott also released the code to the Parliament Edits bot, allowing similar accounts to be set up for other nation's legislatures. Those led to their own stories: In mid-July, the Russian clone, RuGovEdits, discovered that someone inside the Russian government was editing the Wikipedia pages referring to the attack on MH17, changing the text to accuse Ukrainian soldiers of downing the Malaysian Airlines plane. In the U.S., recent edits appear less nefarious, and users can traverse the block by creating an account. Still, Congress is not pleased with Wikipedia's censure. In fact, one defector, writing from a Congressional IP address, denounced the decision on Wikipedia: Out of over 9000 staffers in the House," the user wrote, "should we really be banning this whole IP range based on the actions of two or three?" Perhaps not, but then again, Congress should be well acquainted with unjust rulings.

Stephen Quillenis a Summer 2014 intern at In These Times.
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