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Sunday 19 August 2007

Those Wikipedia edits in full ...

CalTech graduate student Virgil Griffith built a search tool that traces IP addresses of those who make Wikipedia changes.

WikiScanner is the work of Griffith, 24, a cognitive scientist who is a visiting researcher at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Mr. Griffith, who spent two weeks this summer writing the software for the site, said he got interested in creating such a tool last year after hearing of members of Congress who were editing their own entries.

Mr. Griffith said he “was expecting a few people to get nailed pretty hard” after his service became public. “The yield, in terms of public relations disasters, is about what I expected.”

Mr. Griffith, who also likes to refer to himself as a “disruptive technologist,” said he was certain any more examples of self-interested editing would come out in the next few weeks, “because the data set is just so huge."

Here's Wikiscanner. It's slow but persist — I found edits done from my work PC (these were legit!).

It has "editor's picks" — showing the latest body to be 'outed' using WikiScanner.

The Independent has helpfully done a round-up of what's been discovered thus far about who's editing Wikipedia.

  • Exxon Mobil and the giant oil slick
    An IP address that belongs to ExxonMobil, the oil giant, is linked to sweeping changes to an entry on the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. An allegation that the company "has not yet paid the $5 billion in spill damages it owes to the 32,000 Alaskan fishermen" was replaced with references to the funds the company has paid out.

  • The Republican Party and Iraq
    The Republican Party edited Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party entry so it made it clear that the US-led invasion was not a "US-led occupation" but a "US-led liberation."

  • The CIA and casualties of war
    A computer with a CIA IP address was used to change a graphic on casualties of the Iraq war by adding the warning that many of the figures were estimated and not broken down by class. Another entry on former CIA chief William Colby was edited to expand his cv.

  • The Labour Party and careerist MPs
    An anonymous surfer at the Labour Party's headquarters removed a section about Labour students referring to "careerist MPs", and criticisms that the party's student arm was no longer radical.

  • Dow Chemical and the Bhopal disaster
    A computer registered to the Dow Chemical Company is recorded as deleting a passage on the Bhopal chemical disaster of 1984, which occurred at a plant operated by Union Carbide, now a wholly owned Dow subsidiary. The incident cost up to 20,000 lives.

  • Diebold and the dubious voting machines
    Voting-machine company Diebold apparently excised long paragraphs detailing the US security industry's concerns over the integrity of their voting machines, and information about the company's chief executive's fundraising for President Bush. The text, deleted in November 2005, was very rapidly restored by another Wikipedia contributor, who advised the anonymous editor, "Please stop removing content from Wikipedia. It is considered vandalism."

  • The Israeli government and the West Bank wall
    A computer linked to the Israeli government twice tried to delete an entire article about the West Bank wall that was critical of the policy. An edit from the same address also modified the entry for Hizbollah describing all its operations as being "mostly military in nature".

  • The dog breeders and fatal maulings
    A dog breeders association in America removed references to two fatal maulings of humans by the Perro de Presa Canario dogs in the US. In 2001 a woman was attacked and killed by two Presa Canario/Mastiff hybrids in the hallway of her apartment building in San Fransisco. Last year a pure-bred Presa Canario fatally mauled a woman in Florida.

  • The gun lobby and fatal shootings
    The National Rifle Association of America doctored concerns about its role in the increase in gun fatalities by replacing the passage with a reference to the association's conservation work in America.

  • Discovery Channel and guerrilla marketing
    A source traced to Discovery Communications, the company that owns the Discovery Channel, deleted reference to company's reputation for " guerrilla marketing".

  • MySpace and self-censorship
    Someone working from an IP address linked to MySpace appears to have been so irritated by references to the social networking website's over-censorial policy that they removed a paragraph accusing MySpace of censorship.

  • Boeing and a threat to its supremacy
    Boeing has made it clear that it is not just one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers, but is in fact the leading company in this field.

  • The church's child abuse cover-up
    Barbara Alton, assistant to Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison, in America, deleted information concerning a cover-up of child sexual abuse, allegations that the Bishop misappropriated $11.6 million in trust funds, and evidence of other scandals. When challenged about this, Alton claims she was ordered to delete the information by Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.

  • Amnesty and anti-Americanism
    A computer with an Amnesty International IP address was used to delete references accusing the charity of holding an anti-American agenda.

  • Dell computer out-sourcing
    Dell removed a passage about how the company out-sourced its support divisions overseas.

  • Nestle and corporate criticism
    Someone from Nestle removed criticisms of some of the company's controversial business practices, which have all subsequently been re-added.

  • The FBI and Guantánamo
    The FBI has removed aerial images of the Guantánamo Bay Naval base in Cuba.

  • Scientologists and sensitivity
    Computers with IP addresses traced to the Church of Scientology were used to expunge critical paragraphs about the cult's world-wide operations. On biography pages for dead celebrities, links were added to articles by a Scientology front group suggesting that pharmaceuticals were responsible for their deaths.

  • News International and the hypocritical anti-paedophile campaign
    Someone at News International saw fit to remove criticism of the News of the World's anti-paedophile campaign by deleting the suggestion that this amounted to editorial hypocrisy. The original entry reminded readers that the paper continued to "publish semi-nude photographs of page three models as young as 16 and salacious stories about female celebrities younger than that."

  • Oliver Letwin and his great disappearing act
    An edit linked to the Conservative Party IP address expunged references to The MP Oliver Letwin's gaffe during the 2001 general election when he reportedly said he wanted to cut "future public spending by fully 20 billion pounds per annum relative to the plans of the Labour government" . The accompanying paragraph, explaining that when his own party failed to support the move he took a low profile on the election campaign, was also removed.

  • Some more:

    • Someone from SeaWorld's owners removed a paragraph about criticism of SeaWorld’s “lack of respect toward its orcas [Killer Wales]”.
    • Ebay deletes criticism of Paypal.
    • Last year, someone at PepsiCo deleted several paragraphs of the Pepsi entry that focused on its detrimental health effects.
    • Someone inside Wal-Mart Stores changed "Wages at Wal-Mart are about 20 percent less than at other retail stores," citing the author Greg Palast as the source, to "The average wage at Wal-Mart is almost double the federal minimum wage", citing Wal-Mart.
    • Last year, someone using a computer at the Washington Post Company changed the name of the owner of a free local paper, The Washington Examiner, from Philip Anschutz to Charles Manson.
    • A person using a computer at CBS updated the page on Wolf Blitzer of CNN to add that his real name was Irving Federman. (It is actually Wolf Blitzer.)
    • Someone at The New York Times Company changed the page on President Bush repeating the word “jerk” 12 times. In the entry for Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, the word “pianist” was changed to “penis.”
    • A member of Pope Benedict’s staff changed Gerry Adam’s entry to remove links to newspaper stories written last year that claimed Mr Adams was involved in a double murder in 1971.
    • A BBC employee changed US President George W Bush’s middle name from 'Walker' to 'Wanker'.
    • Someone from Al Jezeera changed Israel's entry to add: "Jews believe that they are chosen by God and that they are better than other people."
    • Someone from the United Nations changed the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci's entry to describe her as a “racist whore.”
    • Two Spanish TV stations exposed for performing an 'experiment' on John Lennon and Elvis Presley's entries.
    • Games trade association ESA removed references to mod chips which can be used to play pirated game software.
    • Apple employees editing the Microsoft page.
    • Someone using a Connecticut Police computer added " the holocaust is fucking awseome."
    • Editors from Christian-right Liberty University deleted the fact that Moral Majority leader and Liberty founder Jerry Falwell was fined in 1987 for illegally transferring funds for his ministry to his political action committees.
    • Someone in the South African Government added "'I think that was all bullshit, thats why I deleted it. Thank you motherfucker!" on being discovered editing the HIV/AIDS entry.
    • Someone at the ACLU added "during the Pope's final illness, he carried out many of the Pope's functions as leader of the Catholic Church, such as molesting young boys and degrading women."
    • FoxNews removed references to misquotes, legal brushes, bad ratings, and gaffes by personalities — and, once exposed, responded by attacking Wikipedia's credibility.
    The only people who seem to have come out clean from Griffith's 'disruptive technology' are Microsoft.

    In another blow to Andrew Keen, FoxNews and other anti-Wikipedia credibility types, they are now adding 'nofollow' tags to all outgoing links, thereby destroying Search marketeers attempts to 'game' Wikipedia.

    Postscript: According to TechCrunch, Google also come out clean.

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