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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Altering the uncomfortable truths

Political Staffers Tried to Delete the Senate Scandal (and Other Bad Behaviour) from Wikipedia

Yesterday I wrote an article about a new Twitterbot called GCCAEdits, which monitors revisions made to Wikipedia articles and tweets every time it catches an edit made from a Canadian government computer. In my piece yesterday, I focused on the more humourous edits I noticed government employees making—like adding the phrase “poopy balls” to an article about Pomeranian dogs. But after digging a bit deeper, I discovered a common, poorly hidden pattern of government computers making edits to Wikipedia pages in order to completely remove controversial sections from various entries about politicians.

The most glaring edit was made on July 10, 2013 to Pamela Wallin’s Wikipedia page—just shy of two months before Pamela Wallin had to reimburse the Senate for what was determined to be overspending. She has since been suspended from the Senate for wasting too much of the public’s money. The edit to her Wikipedia page on July 10th was made from a House of Commons IP address, and it removed an entire section of her entry entitled “Residency and travel expense controversy” that outlined, in detail, Pamela’s excessive travel expenses and subsequent resignation from the Senate.
The information about Pamela’s spending problem was added back to Wikipedia by non-government users—with a comment reading: ‘unexplained removal of content,’ tagged to it—while the July 10 edit was negatively rated for “section blanking,” a phrase Wiki uses to describe an edit that completely erases a particular section.

Pamela Wallin was unavailable for comment, as her government email (which is still listed on her official website) no longer exists.


And then there is this..............

Is someone at House of Commons vandalizing Dean Del Mastro’s Wikipedia page?

If you’ve ever wondered what the currently on-trial MP Dean Del Mastro did as profession outside of politics, you might check his Wikipedia page.

For a few brief minutes on Tuesday, you would have seen “Used Car Dealer, formerly sold crippled mules,” or, very briefly the allegation, “Dealer of Used Cars with Bent Frames, Perjurer.”

According to the Wikipedia edits page, someone who appears to be using an IP address associated with the House of Commons has been vandalizing the professions listed on Del Mastro’s Wikipedia, and someone else, also apparently using a House of Commons IP address, has been changing it back to “auto dealer.”

On a Wikipedia talk page, someone, apparently the House of Commons vandal, explained those changes to a Wikipedia editor, saying: “Do you know the difference between a reputable Auto Dealer (like Open Road Mazda) and a shady used car salesman like Dean Del Mastro Motors?”

That editor, Altamel, responded: “I understand that Mr. Del Mastro is being investigated under some campaign finance violations. But until those allegations are ‘proven,’ it is not up to Wikipedia to accuse him of being guilty… I also noticed that you appear to be editing from the computers of the Canadian House of Commons. In that case, it would also be wise to read Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy.”

The edits were brought to light by the Twitter bot @gccaedits, which automatically tweets links to edits to Wikipedia pages by IP addresses associated with the Government of Canada, House of Commons and Department of National Defence.

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