Scanner uncovers organizations behind Wikipedia edits

August 16, 2007

A Wikipedia scanner invented by an American student has made it easy to see who is editing entries in the popular online encyclopedia.

The tool has revealed some interesting cases of organizations editing information pertaining to themselves. Notable examples include the CIA editing a page on the invasion of Iraq to highlight the speculative nature of civilian casualty figures, as well as user at the Democratic party headquarters editing right-wing radio DJ Rush Limbaugh's entry to describe him as a "racist" and a "bigot", while describing his audience as "legally retarded".1

Now that this search engine exists (located here) and has made the news, it would not be surprising to see organizations modifying their policies to specifically state that contributing to Wikipedia on office equipment is forbidden, in order to avoid possible embarrassments in the future (e.g. a disgruntled employee criticizing their employer, their competitor, or their government).

Wired keeps a list of the most interesting Wikipedia edits.

However, the author of the tool admitted that it's impossible to be completely sure if edits were actually made by someone working at one of the organizations, although the IP address reveals that they were made by someone with access to their networks.2

Somewhat related, there exists a interactive map (based on the Google maps engine) that shows the ongoing ‘Power Struggle’ within Wikipedia. An explanation and history of the map can be found here.

1. "Scanner shows origin of Wikipedia edits", vnunet, August 15, 2007

2. "New tool exposes self-edits in Wikipedia", Computerworld, August 16, 2007