Thursday, August 16, 2007

See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign

The CIA edits at Wikipedia. So do Congressional staffers and people working for companies trying to better the article about their employer or make a competitor's article worse. All of this has been suspected for years but now there is proof. John Borland wrote See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign which looks at the work of Virgil Griffith who is a CalTech graduate student.

Borland wrote, "Wikipedia Scanner -- the brainchild of Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith -- offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of internet IP addresses."

This program does not allow for tracing anything but anonymous edits. Hence, sophisticated Wikipedia users intent on editing on behalf of a government agency, business, or cause are not going to be detected using this site. The author acknowledges this, "Perhaps interestingly, many of the most apparently self-interested changes come from before 2006, when news of the Congressional offices' edits reached the headlines. This may indicate a growing sophistication with the workings of Wikipedia over time."

I hope this primary source is kept archived long term. The records of anonymous edits (as well as registered users) are going to be treasure trove for historians in the decades and centuries to come. Wikipedia itself is going to be a topic of historical note and all the edits (self-interested or not) tell a rich narrative.

In the meantime, if you plan on self-interested editing at Wikipedia, get a user name and do it away from the office. Do not use an anonymous IP address from where you work! You need to have some plausible deniability if you get caught!

No comments: