A number of well known companies and political partites have been accused of altering their entries on Wikipedia, in order to cover up previous misdeeds, or to make their rivals’ entries less appealing.
A new tool developed by the California Institute of Technology can find out about the editors of Wikipedia entries by comparing the net addresses of editors on Wikipedia to a known database of IP addresses.
While it cannot pinpoint the exact identitiy of someone who has altered an entry, it can find out that an edit came from a particlular location or organisation. Wired has a list of some of the edits made to the site.
For instance, US retailer Wal-Mart was found to have edited its own entries in 2005, altering entries critical of its wage structure and referring to a study which praised it for creating jobs, though it did still leave some criticism in the entry.
In another example, someone from Fox News altered the entry on Al Franken, a critic of the organisation who had been taken to court by the news channel. The New York Times was also found to have made edits, adding the word ‘jerk’ to the George Bush page.
A Wikipedia spokesperson welcomed the tool:
“We really value transparency and the scanner really takes this to another level. Wikipedia Scanner may prevent an organisation or individuals from editing articles that they’re really not supposed to.”
The online encylopedia has been criticised previously, for the fact that its entries can be edited anonymously, and thus abused. This tool may go some way towards correcting this by exposing conflicts of interest. Although if you’re working from home we reckon you can still carry on faking…
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