Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia profile – using social media for political gain

September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin\'s Wikipedia profile - using social media for political gainSarah Palin is the Vice Presidential candidate under John McCain, and will soon be fighting for your vote to take her to the White House. But she’s also currently in the middle of a Wikigate over who edited her Wikipedia entry in the hours leading up to her nomination as McCain’s running mate was announced.

Politicians and their lackeys are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the Internet and how to utilise it for their own ends. Barack Obama has his own social networking site, and has also used Twitter to inform supporters of his latest news. While John McCain’s campaign has been cleverly using search engine marketing to increase knowledge of McCain’s policies amongst the wider Web population.

One of the most trafficked and searchable resources for finding out information about our politicians is Wikipedia, so having an accurate and up to date Wiki entry is essential for any budding leader. But should that mean that Wikipedia entries can be tinkered with to give a false or leading impression of a politician?

That is the question on many people’s lips at the moment after it emerged that in the 24 hours prior to Sarah Palin being nominated as John McCain’s running mate for the US Presidential Election, her Wikipedia page was edited to within an inch of its life.

The New York Times has an extensive article looking at the nature of the edits made by a person calling themselves YoungTrigg. Suffice to say that the vast majority of the edits were made to put Palin in a good light, and talk up her good points while ignoring her bad points.

In the 24 hours before her nomination was announced, YoungTrigg made 30 edits to the article, all positive and all timed to perfection. But that timing, along with the coincidence that the name of the user seems to refer to Sarah Palin’s young son Trig, have lead many to suspect foul play is at work.

Wikipedia is guaranteed to come very high in search results for a well known personality’s name. And it is often the first site people will turn to when they hear a name of someone they are unaware of or want to learn more about. So having a Wikipedia entry that is flattering to you is a must for anyone looking to be voted for by the general public.

The Wikipedia log shows that YoungTrigg is now under investigation, and the user information has disappeared from the site after being classified as ‘retired’.

This is a new user since August 28, 2008 who has edited only the Sarah Palin page. Sarah Palin was selected by McCain as his VP the next day after the entry was gone over and sanitized. The edits have a partisan POV and are extensive. The edits evidence some familiarity with wikipedia, more than might be expected for a new user. The discussion of the edits is currently a recommended diary on the Daily KOS. If this user turns out to be someone connected to Sarah Palin it violates Wikipedias conflict of interest rules.

While it is still unclear whether YoungTrigg is a member of Sarah Palin’s family or campaign team, it would be a very big coincidence for there to be no connection between the plethora of positive edits and the unveiling of Palin as Vice President elect the next day.

This case seems to indicate that not only are politicians becoming more clever about using the Internet and social media to bolster their approval ratings, they are also going that bit too far and trying to cheat the system in order to make themselves look good.

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