The CIA really IS editing Wikipedia

August 14, 2007

The CIA really IS editing Wikipedia A new data-mining service is making it possible to check anonymous Wikipedia edits, confirming that yes, the US Government is editing Wikipedia, with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) apparently making changes to entries about itself, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Richard Nixon, and Pope Benedict XVI. On a lighter note, it appears that someone at the CIA also made changes to entries about Secret societies, Fortune cookies and the Beatles.

When users make changes to Wikipedia anonymously, their IP address is logged, and this is what has allowed a computation and neural-systems graduate student at CalTech, Virgil Griffith, to create Wikpedia Scanner.

Wikipedia Scanner allows you to search anonymous Wikipedia edits by organization, location, or IP address.

To create his database Griffith downloaded the entire contents of Wikipedia, capturing the IP addresses of anonymous edits. He then matched those IP addresses to companies and organizations using IP matching services such as ARIN and IP2Location.com.

Already a number of other interesting discoveries have been made.

Both the Democrat and the Republican parties have been busy making changes to Wikipedia, as have the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US National Institute of Health.

Corporates have also been contributing, with Diebold, Amgen, Pfizer, Wal-Mart. Microsoft, Apple and Exxon Mobil all doing their bit.

And not to be left out, news agencies, including Fox News, the New York Times and Al-Jazeera, have also been participating in the Wikipedia community.

To be fair, many of the edits simply involve updating information or making corrections. For example someone at an IP address associated with the New York Times made a contribution to the entry on Louis XIV of France. And some of the edits are more than likely being made by Wikipedia buffs on their lunch break using their work computers.

But that certainly doesn’t account for all the changes, as Wired’s John Borland found out.

For example, Borland noted that in 2005 someone at an IP address associated with Diebold deleted paragraphs detailing concerns about the integrity of the company’s voting machines and the company’s fund-raising activities for George Bush. Thankfully the deletion was noticed by a legitimate Wikipedia editor at the time.

Borland also busted Wal-Mart making more subtle changes, such as changing a line that said it pays less than other retailers to saying that it pays more than twice the minimum wage.

Is it such a surprise that companies and organizations are changing entries related to their sphere of activity. Not, really, but at least now we have a tool to help keep “the bastards honest”, as we say in Australia. And surely that’s going to make Wikipedia even stronger.

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7 Responses to “The CIA really IS editing Wikipedia”

  1. Ole Juul:

    I’ve noticed this sort of thing on my own, but it’s good that someone is showing it clearly. Wikipedia is quite useful, but it’s more like “the word on the street”. Despite it’s usefulness, it has neither authority nor wisdom. Thoughtful users know this.

  2. Iconoclast421:

    keep the bastards honests? The real bastards would no doubt go through a proxy, no?

  3. Quintin:

    I’m really not surprised.

    Wikipedia is like Marxism – it’s a noble idea, but it’s based on an ideal theory. It assumes that people are by nature “good” and honest. They just aren’t.

    It’s a pity that most people simply take what they read on Wikipedia at face value, and only look at the first two pages of a Google search… and that’s if They aren’t Feeling Lucky, which they usually do.

    People have to learn that the truth is never apparent. Better yet, people have to learn to think for themselves.

  4. SurferOfTheInternet:

    I don’t think it’s smart for CIA and big corporations to edit Wikipedia’s articles, seeing that the articles can be edited by anyone at any later time.

    If I were a bad agent of CIA I would simply threaten a Wikimedia’s employee to do the editing for me so I could still remain in the dark while getting the job done. And if I were a very big corporation I would simply buy or bribe an employee of Wikimedia to do the work for me.

    Either way, Wikipedia will not be made “even stronger”, but only its staff will be put in a more dangerous situation, and Wikipedia’s future is in peril.

    A single college student dared and had the resourse to test and theorize the intentions behind the edits of Wikipedia articles by powerful and dangerous organizations of the world. . . this original news article could have been made a great idea for a detective fiction to challenge and test the thinking ability and imagination of the readers. That would certainly have made the readers “even stronger”.

  5. ala:

    Wikipedia reminds me of that old joke about the encyclopedias in the Soviet Union with the loose leaf pages.

  6. KILLuminati:

    CIA EDIT WIKIPEDIA O_O

  7. how to mask ip address:

    Surf anonymously, prevent hackers from acquiring your IP, encrypt your Web connection, deliver anonymous email, and un-ban yourself on discussion boards. Hide your IP with the click of the button.

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