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US Government Caught Manipulating Wikipedia

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  • by FalconZero (607567) * <FalconZero@GmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:38PM (#21672081)
    I know "US Government Caught Manipulating Wikipedia" is a cool title, but seriously, does anyone think the US government, the CIA or the Vatican would be stupid enough to get caught if they actually wanted to influence a wikipedia article?

    They'd probably at the very least get their 'operatives' to go home, get one of those free AOL CDs (etc), and do it from a public IP range.

    What's more likely is that this is someone who got bored at work (at the Vatican etc), and decided to put their personal opinions in. The nature of their work usually implies their beliefs are coincident with that of their employers.

    As for TFA, it states "One has to wonder how reliable an encyclopaedia is when it peddles government propaganda in an almost Orwellian manner"; Seems a bit like FUD to me. The whole point of wikipedia is that it is constantly peer reviewed. If things are incorrect, people will eventually correct them - I fail to see how that's Orwellian. If anything, changing pages in this manner actually brings MORE attention to the issue [wikipedia.org].
    • by Otter Escaping North (945051) <otter@escaping@north.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:44PM (#21672181) Journal

      I know "US Government Caught Manipulating Wikipedia" is a cool title, but seriously, does anyone think the US government, the CIA or the Vatican would be stupid enough to get caught if they actually wanted to influence a wikipedia article?

      This US government? Abso-fraking-lutely.

      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:57PM (#21673497)

        This US government? Abso-fraking-lutely.
        "Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

        Given the hundreds of millions required to be spent to gain the Whitehouse... We have the CEOs or other high ranking executive officers of various multi-nationals involved. I'm not convinced that incompetence is the explanation. For this or any of their other actions.
         
        • by iocat (572367) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:09PM (#21673661) Homepage Journal
          Anyone who thinks there's some monolithic "US Government" that acts as one and perpetrates conspiracies, or alters Wikipedia as a matter of policy, is a retard. A government is a collection of individuals, all pursuing wildly different agendas simultaneously.

          For instance, on the one hand, the CIA is supposedly torturing people. On the other hand, the CIA is leaking info that the CIA is torturing people. Retard conspiracy theorists probably make this work in their heads by fantaszing that by leaking about its own bad actions, the CIA is diverting attention from some other, worse thing, like a Bigfoot-Alien alliance. Normal people think some people in the CIA didn't approve of the torture and leaked word of it (possibly illegally, but that's another subject) to the press.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Colin Smith (2679)

            Anyone who thinks there's some monolithic "US Government" that acts as one and perpetrates conspiracies, or alters Wikipedia as a matter of policy, is a retard. A government is a collection of individuals, all pursuing wildly different agendas simultaneously.
            How naive. It doesn't take a monolithic government, or a conspiracy. It just takes a clique in positions of power with an agenda which doesn't match the stated one.
             
          • supposedly? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:37AM (#21680451)
            The CIA isn't "supposedly" torturing people. The CIA is doing things that were torture before we were doing them, or at least before we admitted we were doing them. When you're plainly, admittedly doing something, it doesn't become "supposedly" when the word torture comes up. We're doing it. It has been approved, legalized (thank you Woo!), and implemented--no "supposedly" there. The only uncertainty in this is that introduced by those who want to pretend that what's torture is a murky, uncertain question.

            If a pretty white woman were waterboarded by 2 black cops in Atlanta, and died during the "interrogation", and then they packed the body in ice and faked the death certificate to say "heart problems," there would be no question in anyone's mind, least of all of the Attorney General or Vice President, that this constituted torture.

            Our uncertainty as to what torture means is a sham--it's only torture because it's brown people who worship Allah and look sort of like towelheads. And everyone damn well knows that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I'm not convinced that incompetence is the explanation. For this or any of their other actions.

          As is your right. As for me, yes I subscribe to the quote you've posted (which I understand to be Hanlon's Razor), but I also feel my observations bear this out. I've looked at the goals nominated by the current US government, and the only thing I see them good at doing is spreading confusion and fog. This has, at times, suited their interests, and by turns it has not...yet the confusion persists, and nothing else.

          So, yes. Incompetence of the highest order. Delusions of Vader-ness, perhaps, but I t

    • by BUL2294 (1081735) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:46PM (#21672215)
      AOL still has enough money to give out free CDs???
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Stupid? It must have been one of Ted Steven's [wikipedia.org] congressional aides/pages.

      "Series of tubes!" SNORT! That sound's like a congressman's view of his page staff.

      Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits.
      -- Robert Louis Stevenson
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Except that 'constant peer review' means that if two people disagree on which facts are pertinent to an entry. The last person to get bored gets their version to stand.
      I've had this happen so very rarely edit.
      What is needed is a /. style moderation and karma system so that any peer can review it without having to change it and indicate to other which are the best entries and editors.
      • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:46PM (#21673329)

        What is needed is a /. style moderation and karma system so that any peer can review it without having to change it and indicate to other which are the best entries and editors.

        And like here, it will help for egregious defacement, but will only ensure that the surviving articles match any communinty groupthink that may exist. Still better than a game of "who's the bigger asshole", but not an ultimate solution

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Crag (18776)
          Good luck developing a collaboration tool which is not subject to the tyranny of the majority. And if you do develop one, good luck getting the majority to use it.
    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:51PM (#21672331) Homepage
      This is the same government that allows low-level employees to take home vast amounts of personal taxpayer information unencrypted on their laptops. The government is absolutely stupid enough to get caught.

      The government is vast and composed almost entirely of low-paid operatives. I have no problem believing they could try something like this and get caught. I have a hard time believing in the government as shadowy cabal that is capable of concealing vast conspiracies for years or decades at a time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FalconZero (607567) *
        I agree that shadowy cabals are unlikely, however you don't need a shadowy cabal to conceal a secret. It would be as simple as whichever department wanted to make such changes doing it from home instead of the office. I would assume that anyone with enough skill to edit a wikipedia page would also know what IPs are and that they're traceable.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Leftist Troll (825839)
          I would assume that anyone with enough skill to edit a wikipedia page would also know what IPs are and that they're traceable.

          I think that's an extremely poor assumption to make.

          I don't imagine your average bureaucrat has any concept of what an IP address is.
        • by aminorex (141494) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:11PM (#21674833) Homepage Journal
          Shadowy cabals are unlikely? Come on. Wake up. What do you think a political party is? What is Skull and Bones? What is the CIA? What is a state secret? Shadowy cabals fill the freaking news every freaking day. What is a board of directors? Why don't they publish their minutes? Because they are a shadowy freaking cabal, Norman. Even if they're not commiting any criminal conspiracies, they are a cabal by definition, and operating in secrecy makes you shadowy. Criminey. Take one cluestick and call me in the morning.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        As in: Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from evil. And you simply don't need a shadowy cabal to be incompetent. Any low level government incom^H^H^H^H^Hemployee can be left to his own devices and the government will quite naturally come to resemble an evil cabal. It's just your average garden variety emergent property.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Indeeed, I thought the title should read "Government caught with their pants down"
        Unfortunately, Bill Clinton ensured that this phrase would never carry shock value ever again.
        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Huh, I would have thought that the Kennedy brothers would have prevented that phrase from ever carrying shock value again, so don't give up hope.
      • by kabocox (199019)
        This is the same government that allows low-level employees to take home vast amounts of personal taxpayer information unencrypted on their laptops. The government is absolutely stupid enough to get caught.

        The government is vast and composed almost entirely of low-paid operatives. I have no problem believing they could try something like this and get caught. I have a hard time believing in the government as shadowy cabal that is capable of concealing vast conspiracies for years or decades at a time.


        Heck, al
      • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:26PM (#21673013)

        The government is absolutely stupid enough to get caught.
        Get caught doing what? Editing "the encyclopedia anyone can edit"? There is a "rule" aginst this?
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      I know "US Government Caught Manipulating Wikipedia" is a cool title, but seriously, does anyone think the US government, the CIA or the Vatican would be stupid enough to get caught if they actually wanted to influence a wikipedia article?

      More importantly, do any of them feel that threatened by Wikipedia that they have to try and manipulate it? Are they expecting Wikipedia to foment revolution or call into question their very existence? And do they realize that pages tend to be archived all over the place, so that even if they do manipulate entries, the original entries are no doubt floating around somewhere?

    • but seriously, does anyone think the US government, the CIA or the Vatican would be stupid enough to get caught if they actually wanted to influence a wikipedia article

      Yes. You've seen too many movies.
       
      No, there's no need for sources, you'll have to take my word for it.
       
      (because I say so.)
    • by erroneus (253617)
      You are seriously over-estimating their ability to understand technology. How many "classified documents" have been released with redaction that could be removed or circumvented? PLENTY! And on topics that are more damning than the one mentioned in the article.
    • Congresscritter says "jump," an intern doesn't ask "how high."

      neither will one or two members of the permanent staff, for that matter.
    • by paranode (671698)
      The alarmist bent is high with this one. First of all, Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia designed to be edited by people. If you don't want that to happen come up with a different model...
      More to the point, someone with a "House of Representatives IP Address" does not represent the US Government in its entirety and could be anyone from the lowliest page of a pro-war Republican up to the House party leader. At this point it's just speculation and looking at the changes they are far from subversive.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mfnickster (182520)

      The whole point of wikipedia is that it is constantly peer reviewed. If things are incorrect, people will eventually correct them - I fail to see how that's Orwellian.

      Easy! The previous entry said "The U.S. has never been at war with Iraq."

      The current entry says "The U.S. has always been at war with Iraq."

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:39PM (#21672097)
    Wait. Hold the phone.

    You mean individuals within the government can edit "the encyclopedia anyone can edit", too?

    *Pause for stunned silence*

    Or do we only let people not affiliated with governments edit Wikipedia? Or perhaps only from home?

    Or perhaps we'd prefer that governments edit Wikipedia from unattributable IP addresses...?

    Or could it be that a person with a "House of Representatives IP address" is actually acting of his or her own will, making what they feel are appropriate changes to a Wikipedia article, which can be vetted, reversed, modified, and discussed, as can any change on Wikipedia?

    How does one person with a House IP equate to "US Government Caught Manipulating Wikipedia"? The biggest surprise about this story is that it didn't read "Posted by kdawson". Seriously, is this the kind of politically-charged meaningless garbage that passes for front-page material on slashdot now?

    Oh, wait, I guess I must speaking for the government now, and not myself. Perhaps this post is even propaganda...after all, anyone who works for "the government" can't possibly have their own views and beliefs, some of which might even differ from others [weeklystandard.com]. Oh, it's the Weekly Standard, so it doesn't count? This whole article is couched in assertions such as it being "bizarre" to make a connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.Except that such a connection was explored in various ways for a decade, long before Bush was in office.

    John McWethy, national security correspondent for ABC News, reported the story on August 25, 1998:

    Before the pharmaceutical plant was reduced to rubble by American cruise missiles, the CIA was secretly gathering evidence that ended up putting the facility on America's target list. Intelligence sources say their agents clandestinely gathered soil samples outside the plant and found, quote, "strong evidence" of a chemical compound called EMPTA, a compound that has only one known purpose, to make VX nerve gas.

    Then, the connection:

    The U.S. had been suspicious for months, partly because of Osama bin Laden's financial ties, but also because of strong connections to Iraq. Sources say the U.S. had intercepted phone calls from the plant to a man in Iraq who runs that country's chemical weapons program.
    Oops.

    No link was ever really substantive, but there were links, and that shouldn't be surprising in the region. But that isn't even the point.

    Those who want to paint all these issues as black and white, or say that some official or another "lied" about complex issues related to WMD in Iraq, OIF, etc., are the ones who are effectively the liars -- by ignoring everything that doesn't neatly support their own political positions. They lap up the new Iran NIE like it's gospel, while simultaneously writing off anything else that doesn't support their own views as lies. How convenient...and disgusting, for people who fancy themselves as enlightened intellectuals.
    • The word used was "manipulate" not edit, and it's appropriate. The edits done were done to inject a partisan element into what had been a more neutral article. If the edits had been purely informative, then they'd have been legitimate.

      Your comment is akin to saying "Wow, you mean someone entered a public library that everyone is allowed to enter" when in fact the charge is that the person went in and set fire to the books.

      • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:00PM (#21672503)
        Looking at the examples of the edits shown for the summary [wikipedia.org], I don't see anything that is inaccurate, much less partisan. I do see things that people who don't agree with OIF and/or the current administration, especially the sort of folks who think literally everything that supports their position is true and everything else is a trumped up "lie", won't like, though.

        In fact, every single edit I see on that page, save for perhaps the one in the first paragraph which is a little over the top, makes the article more factually accurate, if that's what we're interested in.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Notice the edits like to use the Fox News style "some say." That's what Fox News does to interject unsourced opinions into their stories.

          The Fox News reporter might say something like this "Some say that Nancy Pelosi is sexually attracted to Laura Bush." The reporter didn't say it, a named source didn't say it, no SOME said it. Who's some? The trick here is that the reporter managed to get his own opinion into the story under the guise of journalism.

          Journalists are journalists because they source the facts
          • Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Junta (36770)
            The changes that insert some also tend to put alleged on it. The edit linked took some data that was written that could be considered putting the invasion of Iraq in a bad light and softening it up with 'somes' and 'alleged', to make it seem like less strong/credible statements.

            Note also, the first edit, where the edit takes existing 'alleged' out of the picture.

            Basically, the spin on the article pre-edit was things showing the invasion in a bad light were presented more like hard facts, while the elements
          • Re:Whoa, whoa, whoa (Score:5, Interesting)

            by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:22PM (#21672923)
            First, it is factually correct to say "some say" instead of "it is so" in so many of those places. Because the article's older edit makes it appear as if it was unequivocally correct that any such links had been disproved, when that is simply not the case at all.

            Substantive links that would justify an invasion on their own with no other reason or purpose were disproved. But various links existed nonetheless.

            I included a link that showed the government found Al Qaeda ties in Iraq years before Bush took office. Just because someone doesn't source and cite everything with endless streams of URLs from people who have nothing better to do than construct their own perfect view of the world on Wikipedia doesn't mean it's not still true. If there are no sources AND is not true, it will most certainly be reversed in short order.

            Unfortunately, the simple fact is that most people who regularly edit Wikipedia are very likely to prefer the article's older form, which ignores the nuance and difficulties of acknowledging there actually were ties, since it doesn't fit into the neat little box of "everything the administration says or does is a lie". Don't get me wrong: I think Wikipedia does a fairly good job. Damned good, in fact. But there is a LOT of bias in a lot of articles, and it's no surprise that bias tilts toward the views of majority of the demographic doing most of the edits.

            Just because a little number isn't floating in the air next to one of the edits doesn't make it untrue. The fact of the matter is that all of these edits were actually increasing the accuracy of the article, weasel words and all. Using weasel words is sometimes the only way to quickly update an article where people are making sweeping statements and conclusions that are, quite simply, incorrect. So yes, "some people" believe that any ties to Al Qaeda were disproved. But that's not correct. At all. By all rights, that entire section should be rewritten to accurately represent the situation.

            I think the last edit sums it up:

            Such a link was never suggested by President Bush or the Bush administration as a justification for the invasion [emphasis mine]; rather, that such a relationship existed at all is seen as compelling.

            And indeed it was.
            • by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:42PM (#21673263)

              First, it is factually correct to say "some say" instead of "it is so" in so many of those places.

              Not the kind of fact that is required for an enyclopedia. If you can't give an actual quote rather than a paraphrase, let alone an attribution to who exactly is saying it, then is bafrely qualifies as heresay, let alone the level of fact required for an enclyclopedia.

              As an earlier poster commented, "Some say" is a technique pioneered by Fox News to inject the partisan opinion of the reporter (or actually the reporters employers) into what is supposed to be news. It has no place in an encyclopedia.

              If the original was wrong in some way, that is no excuse to flip the bias the opposite way. Rather the error should have been corrected.

              And drop the paranoid persecution complex, it's not helping your argument.

              I think the last edit sums it up:

              The last edit is propaganda. It's not the kind of hard fact an Encyclopedia is about. Again UNLESS there is some evidence that that was always their position.
        • by Junta (36770) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:31PM (#21673095)
          The overall tone of all the edits were definitely partisan spin, without contributing any facts. However, reading the before and after also makes clear that there did already exist a somewhat opposing spin.

          Probably, you can logically argue the injection of 'alleged' phrasing in any controversial point as making a statement more universally true rather than presenting it as true. However, the edit clearly demonstrated they only wanted to put alleged around points they didn't like, *and* wanted to remove the weakening 'alleged' term from a point they did like. Both the article pre-edit and post-edit seemed to be using alleged to weaken points that the editor didn't like.

          The last bits didn't remove data, but read more like a debate that should be in the Talk section as to why a paragraph or two is irrelevant to the article. The post-edit seems confusing 'here is data point A, with respect to the invasion of Iraq. However, it had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq'.

          Particularly the first edit, though, points to some right-wing nut who happens to be in government, and not a conspiracy. I would imagine a conspiracy would have written more clean, less bitter sounding stuff.
          • by drmerope (771119) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:20PM (#21673899)

            Actually there is a wikipedia policy [wikipedia.org] against using the alleged modifier at all.

            "alleged" is an editorial modifier; it renders the statement judgmental. In the first paragraph edit we go from "Alleged links... was mentioned..." to "Links were mentioned..."

            The latter is literally correct. The media and the government mentioned links between Iraq and terrorism. An appropriate bit of balance would have been a citation to analysis of the recovered Iraqi government papers which showed, in retrospect, contacts but skepticism.

            The edit also deleted a sentence quoting an editorial claiming that mentioning the links strained credulity. At the time that quote was written it was off the wall partisan. Only in retrospect is it clear how much the links were exaggerated. So the text sets a very biased tone.

            Arguably the propaganda came not from the staffer's edits but from the original authors. Indeed now we have new propaganda being reported on slashdot about the evil congressional staffer. Hey wake up slashdot editors: the Inquirer is a left-wing publication and the article smears the right. Gee-wizz that can't be partisan spin in itself.

            Bush et al were wrong but some people still need to get over their frenzied nonsense dogma about being lied into war. Being right was an accident.

      • by Bearpaw (13080)

        Your comment is akin to saying "Wow, you mean someone entered a public library that everyone is allowed to enter" when in fact the charge is that the person went in and set fire to the books.

        Actually, it's more like going into a library and stealing books you don't want anyone to read. Which I gather is a real problem at libraries.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Stradivarius (7490)
        What the edits did was change some statements from being absolute statements "it was the case that X" to more a more guarded statement of "some claim that it was the case that X". The effect was to give a greater sense of uncertainty to an issue that has been hotly debated.

        Now I happen to think that some of the edits went a bit too far in that direction. But to call the edits partisan or manipulative just because they gave the benefit of the doubt to Bush is going too far. And comparing it to book burning
    • There is no need to talk about conspiracies and manipulation on both sides.

      It might appear that the ip in question is an outgoing proxy or something. The ip address 143.231.249.141 [wikipedia.org] appears to have made thousands of contributions and the editing pattern looks as though it would be multiple persons editing. For example there is a case where the contributor from the IP in question admits he's a staffer in Albert Wynn's office [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Burnhard (1031106)
      You are quite right. I don't think there is an article on Wikipedia that isn't edited with some kind of bias. Each subject is seen through the eyes of the writer, whether they hold views as an individual or are representing the views of some organisation they are associated with. To truly edit an article with no bias whatsoever requires a familiarity with absolute truth. Perhaps only in the fields of mathematics is this possible and even then there is some scope for interpretation.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Now why did you have to go and ruin a good article by bringing some reason and light into it.
      Orwellian propaganda is in the eye of the beholder.
      Really if the edits had been negative then a lot of people wouldn't have a problem with it.
    • This is definitely old news. The edits happened in 2005, the article completely blows it out of proportion (the URL is "bush censors wikipedia" which is pretty ridiculous), and anyone who's been paying attention already knows that Congress-critters and their staffers love to edit wikipedia.

      So kudos to you for pointing that out.

      However, then you run off on a rambling and weird digression and into some random defense of the Iraq-war hawks.

      You make a sound argument in trying to link Iraq and Al-Qaeda, except
    • Sorry to indulge the off-topic troll of the parent, but I'd like to state a common sense point lest other get sucked into this fallacious line of reasoning.

      Those who want to paint all these issues as black and white, or say that some official or another "lied" about complex issues related to WMD in Iraq, OIF, etc., are the ones who are effectively the liars -- by ignoring everything that doesn't neatly support their own political positions.

      I agree that people have a tendency to accept things that con

  • by Neil Blender (555885) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:39PM (#21672111)
    You and your precious online encyclopedia. The one that can be edited by anyone. The one that contains absolutely no bias. It's so cute.
  • by Celarnor (835542)
    Why aren't we embracing their changes and using the fact that they've changed it as a historical fact in and of itself?

    Wikipedia isn't just the article at any given point in time. It's the article throughout it's whole history, changes and differences intact. By it's very nature as a (mostly) amatuer-penned encylopedia, any given article is going to be filled with bias one way or another. Assuming that references exist throughout the history of the article, then you should be able to mostly eliminate
  • You think the U.S. Government will openly admit that the Middle East conflicts are all about a resource war? Throughout the last 2000 years, wars are usually fought over land and resources. Things are no different today, except that we will not admit it and instead cook up reasons (i.e., WMD).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Throughout the last 2000 years, wars are usually fought over land and resources.
      Let's not forget for defense of those things (the US in WWI and WWII, France in WWI and WWII) and also for ideological reasons (terrorism, crusades, etc).
      • by Artifakt (700173)
        Wars are usually over general stupidity on at least one side. The nation that starts a war most frequently loses, in part because their government has made repeated miscalculations and miss-estimations, and they continue the same pattern through the actual war. Those mistakes do often reflect resource problems, i.e. the government screws up their economy, unemployment increases, inflation increases, the populace gets increasingly shrill, and so grabbing someone else's resources looks like a way out. Then th
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:44PM (#21672173) Journal
    From a blagh entry from two years ago [mcgrew.info]:

    In 1979, the US Copyright Office granted a world wide copyright to the late Mr. Adams, who thought he still had plenty of time left. The copyright will not expire until you, too, are long late. The copyright was on a wholly remarkable book based on that radio play.

    I never heard of the book. Indeed, nobody outside Islington (at least, nobody important) heard of it, either.

    Also unheard of by anybody that matters is another book, called "Whackapedia". In many of the nerdier civilizations in the outer eastern rim of the internet, Whackapedia has already displaced the great Encyclopedia Britannica as the standard repository of all knowlege and wisdom, for though it has many ommissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

    First, it's free, and second, it has the words "FOO BAR" in large, friendly letters on its cover.

    -mcgrew [slashdot.org] (latest blagh)
  • by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:44PM (#21672185)
    Why is it a bad thing if our government representatives, staff and employees are contributing to Wikipedia? Its no worst than yellow journalism or biased professors at a university. For that matter can't Saddam supporters contribute also? Biased information is great for historical reasons, all we really need is attribution so we can judge the bias ourselves.
  • At least the House of Representatives realizes they aren't in charge of Gundam.
  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc@yahoo . c om> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:47PM (#21672237) Homepage
    as most of the edits took place in 2005 and were just recently noticed, and most of the edits are apparently fairly minor. Adding some "it is claimed" phraseology etc. here and there, where the underlying fundamentals of the article remained basically unchanged.


    What I found more interesting is that apparently the Register doesn't like Wikipedia because they refer to it as "whackypedia", and the statement that the edits were made by a "Bush friendly" source inside the House. Maybe the Bush friendly angle is true -- the Register article asserts it to be so without quoting the edits or commenting, but there is no way to tell by an IP address.


    Which tells me that the Register article is basically shoddy journalism. No fact digging, no fact checking, polemics instead of the who what when why where that journalism is supposed to accomplish. So -- with all due respect to GOOD journalism, and while not a Bushie or US Govt. fan, I have to say that this tidbit is yellow all under.

    • Which tells me that the Register article is basically shoddy journalism. No fact digging, no fact checking, polemics instead of the who what when why where that journalism is supposed to accomplish.

      That just about sums about everything that the Register publishes. Which is exactly why I usually don't even bother with them. They're the National Enquirer of the tech world.
    • Which tells me that the Register article is basically shoddy journalism.
      The Register? Shoddy journalism? Wash you mouth out with soap!
    • What I found more interesting is that apparently the Register doesn't like Wikipedia because they refer to it as "whackypedia",

      It's the Inquirer, not the Register. The Inquirer was formed after the founder of the Register left/was-forced-out.

      The Inq has a real stick up their ass about wikipedia. But they do have some justification for it, articles about the Inquirer have been subject to some rather arbitrary edits by prolific wikipedia editors over the years. As a result, they seem to have taken the tactic of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and every article they publish about wikipedia is guaranteed to be scare-monger

  • And even if it was the House (big "if") that made the changes; it's not propoganda. If anything, most of the changes seem grammatical in nature. The changes to the context only made them seem more speculatory (which is exactly what they need to be when no citation is given).

    Sorry, as much as I'd like to scream Foul Play on this one; I can't.
  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:49PM (#21672295)
    They don't realize that you can't hide stuff like this on the internet. Did it not even occur to them that it would be changed back five minutes later?
    • Did it not even occur to them that it would be changed back five minutes later?
      Perhaps it did, why should they care? I'm not aware of any restriction on government employees contributing to Wikipedia, I do all the time.
    • by kabocox (199019)
      They don't realize that you can't hide stuff like this on the internet. Did it not even occur to them that it would be changed back five minutes later?

      It sounds like some one was cleaning up an article at work and improving the grammar/facts to it. Yeah, I can believe some people will go and massively screw the page up now just cause one individual from a US government IP made some really minor edits.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:52PM (#21672339) Journal
    The edits were spelled correctly and the grammar was tolerable... I guess the culprit is not from the Oval Office.
  • Most of the other comments are pretty mundane - name corrections and such. But some of them are golden.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mitt_Romney&diff=prev&oldid=165709470 [wikipedia.org]

    "Clearly, Romney needs to be explained the doctrines of separation of powers, and judicial review."

    I guess somebody wants to make sure Romney doesn't get the republican nomination. :-)
  • Okay, so certain institutions are editing Wikipedia.

    Uh.... yes.... and your problem with that is....?

    What part of "anyone can edit it" don't you understand?
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:01PM (#21672525) Journal

    [INSERT GROUP HERE] Caught Manipulating Wikipedia

    This has now become so commonplace that it really shouldn't surprise anyone or even be considered news. Answer this question: they've been "caught" -- now what? Will Jimmy Wales declare war on the U.S. Government or the Catholic Religion? This isn't even going to generate enough interest in the mainstream media to become a blip on the national radar. I also imagine the average American or Catholic probably doesn't even know what Wikipedia is.

  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PrvtBurrito (557287) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:03PM (#21672559)
    I guess I don't get this. Who can edit wikipedia pages? Everybody has an agenda or a conflict or they wouldn't be voluntarily editing these pages to begin with. Anybody who suggests they don't is running around with blinders on. Wikipedia represents a publicaly edited corpus of knowledge, that can be edited by *anyone* including ourselves, our government the media, conflicted individuals, etc. Of course it can be manipulated, isn't all of history? From wikipedia's about page:


    "Visitors do not need specialised qualifications to contribute, since their primary role is to write articles that cover existing knowledge; this means that people of all ages and cultural and social background can write Wikipedia articles. With rare exceptions, articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet, simply by clicking the edit this page link. Anyone is welcome to add information, cross-references or citations, as long as they do so within Wikipedia's editing policies and to an appropriate standard. For example, if you add information to an article, be sure to include your references, as unreferenced facts are subject to removal."


    I don't see any rules against government, people editing their own pages, etc. Only that facts be added, if they aren't they should be removed.

  • solution (Score:4, Funny)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@@@devinmoore...com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:04PM (#21672575) Homepage Journal
    only unbiased contributions should be allowed to edit Wikipedia. That's a simple rule to implement, right?
  • by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:08PM (#21672649) Homepage
    What's the difference? Wikipedia is supposedly self-editing, and self-correcting so what exactly do you mean by "manipulating." Every Wikipedia user "manipulates" content don't they?
  • Underwhelming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Empiric (675968) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:17PM (#21672835) Homepage
    Wikiscanner's roster indicates a Vatican computer was used to remove references to evidence linking Ireland's Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to a decades-old double murder.

    And here I was expecting some Dan Brownesque intrigue of large-scale controversial religious/historical edits. Anyone consider these "manipulations" are just some random user who happens to be on the network owned by the "manipulating organization"?
  • Primary Source? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:17PM (#21672837)
    I know that this insertion of propoganda was not appropriate but hypothetically speaking on the idea of US Government representatives writing in wikipedia, I'd argue this is a good thing (if they can follow the guidelines).

    Maybe my understanding is off, but wouldn't the US government be the perfect entity to write encyclopedia article given that they are the primary source in the scope of their job? Would the US Forest Service agent who was present in the California Wildfires in 2007 be the perfect source to write (if he could be objective, and without bias) of the factual events of the fires, such as "At 8PM 27 fire engines from 6 counties began working on and achieved containment at 10PM". Or In a "perfect" system, would not an encyclopedia only contain factual data such as "On 12/12/2007, this person was quoted as saying ..." or "The current cost of the war according to the GAO is ". I'd rather hear it from "the horses mouth" than the condensed version from news organizations who report the news as it meets an agenda.

    Even from elected officials, such as congressmen, I think it would be great to have themselves or staff or a Gov't official append their voting record to their wikipedia page. I think having a wikipedia page for every bill voted on in congress with a short summary, the bills sponsor, the committee's vote, and the houses of congresses voting record, along with any Congressional Record indexing information would be a very useful resource, and one that would give Wikipedia's flexibility and limitless nature (as opposed to a print encyclopedia) a real advantage.

    Just having the data there is a valuable work as other contributors help grind the content down to a consensual view. Someone just has to get the ball rolling and if the original author does a great job, we'll get a solid article sooner than if we start with a crap one.

    I'd say the only problem would be is that politicians and "neutral-point-of-view" don't usually go hand in hand, but you have a certain level of bias in any peice of writing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KiahZero (610862)
      No Original Research.
    • Re:Primary Source? (Score:4, Informative)

      by randyest (589159) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:28PM (#21674091) Homepage
      Maybe my understanding is off, but wouldn't the US government be the perfect entity to write encyclopedia article given that they are the primary source in the scope of their job?

      Well, you would think so, but you'd be wrong. Wikipedia does not allow original research [wikipedia.org], so if you are the source, you can't add the info. You have to get the info from some other notable source, and cite it. Also, if you're calling those edits "propaganda" I have to wonder if you looked at the changes at all.
  • Since when did articles from The Inquirer become a trusted source?

    From my experience this "news source" creates many articles based upon speculation and rumors. Also, they "spin" the information to make it seem as if the article was entirely correct about the issue.
  • by Corporate Drone (316880) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:28PM (#21673033)
    TFA mentions an edit to the page of Gerry Adams that came from a computer with a .va address: "Wikiscanner's roster indicates a Vatican computer was used to remove references to evidence linking Ireland's Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to a decades-old double murder."

    Taking a look at the Wiki page on Adams, I see that not only the reference to evidence is gone, but also, any reference to the murder as well. Gee... a change that has stood up to public scrutiny within Wiki... hmm -- think that means that there was some basis to the edit?

    Meantime, the edit is placed aside others which change W's name to "Wanker", a description of Rush Limbaugh and his audience to insults, and other juvenile character attacks.

    Nice anti-Catholic hatchet job, there, dude...

  • I'm on the fence here. Does technology make rewriting history easier or more difficult?

    Sure, one can point to wikipedia being changed, but again, one *can* point to wikipedia being changed.

    History has always been at the mercy of those in power. Sure you can argue abut the persistence of flattened dead trees and ink, but whole sale book burnings are the 3D equivalent of "rm -rf /"

    The skeptical eye we hold for wikipedia is probably more healthy than a reverent eye for commercial encyclopedias. At least *we* a
  • by wtansill (576643) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:37PM (#21673185)
    If the Government cannot edit Wikipedia as it sees fit, then the terrorists have already won!!! </sarcasm>
  • by eyrieowl (881195) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @07:02PM (#21677829)
    Yes, someone at that IP address made some ideologically slanted edits. However, if you go and look at the talk page for that IP address, you will note that there are *many* warnings which have been issued to that user. If you go further, and take a second to look at the pages it was being warned about vandalizing, several of the 'bad' edits are things like "Tom Sucks!" and other edits which were almost certainly made by interns, not at the behest of some nefarious Representative but out of mundane immaturity. So, while a serious, ideologically slanted edit like the one highlighted in the summary may well be the result of government misdeeds, it is clear that there are plenty of people who are capable of editing from that location, and that it is not provable that the edits were...'government' sanctioned.

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