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Interesting Wikipedia Edits – Anonymous No More

Leave to someone working in theoretical neurobiology and artificial life at the Santa Fe Institute to have a most interesting side project. The Santa Fe Institute and the people there just simply… rock.

Virgil Griffith has created a Wikipedia propaganda-tracking tool – the WikiScanner (tip o the hat to Alternet for the story).

People change Wikipedia entries all the time. While the identities of individual editors are sometimes opaque, the networks and IP addresses are not. This tool shows where certain kinds of edits come from (see the FAQ). He has matched up organizational IPs to edits made.

Changes made by people with close ties to an issue are not supposed to be allowed to contribute to entries on it. Tools like this will make attempts more transparent (and documented, and correctable).

When the change is made by someone with access to the organization’s network, you have to shake your head at the level or incompetence.

I mean, if you or I were doing information sabotage and cleansing work, I would hope that we would have the basic sense to go off-site, or at least off-network!

Generally speaking, this is the kind of information vandalism that Griffith has found:

1. Wholesale removal of entire paragraphs of critical information. (common for both political figures and corporations)

2. White-washing — replacing negative/neutral adjectives with positive adjectives that mean something similar. (common for political figures)

3. Adding negative information to a competitor’s page. (common for corporations)

The Department of Defense has been busy on really quite a lot of topics – I am really kind of shocked at the kinds of things that interest them these days!

From Griffith’s list, you can follow all the edits by organizational name and IP addresses. Griffith directs the reader to a juicy list of edits posted at the Wired site, and encourages everyone to submit “salacious edits.” Here’s a couple:

The School of the Americas (now called WHISC) at Fort Benning has a long history of training Latin American officers, who are later found to be commanding death squads, involved in killing Catholic nuns and archbishops in Latin America and so forth. This is an edit whitewashing the mention of human rights abuses at WHISC – the IP address coming from Fort Benning (

Someone at the Republican Party HQ changed the entry on the history of Iraq’s Baath Party from “US-led occupying forces” to “US-led liberating forces.”

Diebold removing all criticism and contreversy (sic) about them. Many edits :

Nobojo has collected some interesting Bob Jones University edits that seem to indicate a high degree of manipulation of the “Bob Jones University” Wikipedia article.

Have fun. If you discover anything, pass it on! Be sure to list the IP, the organization, and the nature of the change. If you found it at Virgil’s site, give him credit, too!

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