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CIA behind Wikipedia entries
Posted: 16 August 2007 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Conspiracy theorists will no doubt have a field day with this one.

Program shows CIA behind Wikipedia entries

But now an innovation on the site has confirmed a long-held suspicion: that Wikipedia is a prime target for spin-doctoring.

A new identification program on the site reveals that some of the most prolific contributors to Wikipedia are the CIA, the British Labour Party and the Vatican - and they are not just updating their own entries.

The Wikiscanner site shows the CIA has edited entries on many issues relating to the United States Government, including presidential biographies and descriptions of military operations.

It has also edited topics as diverse as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and the singer Richard Marx.

Seamus Byrne is the editor of online technology site Gizmodo Australia.

“Wikipedia is basically an open encyclopedia online that basically anyone can edit, anyone can add entries to and anyone can change anything they read on there,” he said.

But he says while anyone can put up content, users do keep track of entries to ensure they’re accurate and balanced.

“It’s quite a large community of users that are really devoted to Wikipedia, and something they do spend a lot of time monitoring is when changes are made,” he said.

“I guess so far it hasn’t been a case of monitoring the source, but they do try to keep an eye on any bias that may appear within any articles.”

And the Wikiscanner has revealed some interesting sources of that bias. It rummages through entries and edits posted on Wikipedia to find where they originate.

And among the usual list of companies and celebrities spinning their online image are some unusual mentions, including the British Labour Party, the Church of Scientology and the CIA.

Mr Byrne says he is not surprised.

“You’ve always got the feeling that they’ve been doing it and it just confirms that idea because there’s a lot of both vanity editing but more serious editing that goes on,” he said.

Checking sources

Gerard Goggin is an expert on the use of the internet in politics at Sydney University, and he says the influence of organisations such as the CIA on Wikipedia is cause for alarm.

“This underscores that we need to be careful with all the sources we quote,” he said.

Despite the CIA’s input, Dr Goggin remains a fan of Wikipedia.

“What is really crucial here is that people are aware of how Wikipedia comes to be, how entries are created and what the limitations of it are,” he said.

“One of its advantages is that any change to the entries can be tracked and you can actually reference those. People need to be aware of that kind of thing because Wikipedia is not the be-all and end-all.”

Mr Byrne says proof that the CIA is editing on Wikipedia will fuel internet conspiracy theories.

He says Wikipedia is just one place where government agencies are watching people.

“Obviously there’s the quite large - and people in online circles certainly know about it - Echelon Project,” he said.

“It’s a series of surveillance systems around the world that actually monitor phone, data, all kinds of traffic that goes on, looking for keywords related to things like terrorism and all kinds of troublesome issues and they pull that out and try to sift through it to find any connections that could be made to point to a real problem.”

There’s also a sound clip available at the link above, however I can’t seem to get it to work.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Of course, it doesn’t say just what all the edits are. . .some guy correcting the spelling of “Czechoslovakia” wouldn’t be that big of a problem.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Oooh. This is a wonderful tool.

Although I would suspect that the CIA and other organisations would also have some IP ranges that aren’t directly registered to them, or soon will…

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Posted: 16 August 2007 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Of course there’s this story about Wikipedia. Very topical.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Peter - 16 August 2007 01:58 PM

Of course there’s this story about Wikipedia. Very topical.

linky no worky downer

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Worked fine for me…

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Transfrmr - 16 August 2007 02:09 PM
Peter - 16 August 2007 01:58 PM

Of course there’s this story about Wikipedia. Very topical.

linky no worky downer

It works for me. Here it is anyway:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/50902

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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LOL

Quite like the 750 year old USA story.

Just emphasises the fact that the US is the little kid of the world. I have cheese in the fridge I’m pretty sure predates the Declaration of Independence.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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gulp My work is apparently blocking The Onion now mad

Too bad I am smarter than them… monkeys.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’m not at all surprised that the CIA edits articles.

Last year there was an article about Wikipedia in The Independent and they got some important people (geneticists, polticial analysts, politicians, doctors, lawyers, etc) to check articles and see how accurate they were. One of them was a Number 10 PR lady who said they were well-versed with Wikipedia and are constantly editing the Tony Blair page (the one she’d been given to review for accuracy) and they have people who check it in regular intervals to change vandalisms and such. Right there in a major newspaper article admitting to keeping the Tony Blair page under surveillance and being in constant control. And they’ll be doing it to other articles. And if Number 10 does it, then the SIS does it.

And if the SIS does it the CIA does it.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It’d be interesting to see this for this forum. How many of us are with the CIA or the NSA or Interpol or MI5 or ... (got to cut short, there are some men in black at the door)

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Posted: 16 August 2007 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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FrostBird - 16 August 2007 03:02 PM

It’d be interesting to see this for this forum. How many of us are with the CIA or the NSA or Interpol or MI5 or ... (got to cut short, there are some men in black at the door)

None of us.  None.  Not a single person.  Now stop writing this sort of thing, or we’ll track you down and arrest you for violating national security.

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