July 28, 2014
Congressional IP Address Temporarily Banned From Making Wikipedia Edits
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
It sounds like the kind of joke you’d see on a late-night talk show, but there is no punch line: Wikipedia has actually banned some members of the US Congress from making page edits for the next 10 days.Yes, Wikipedia – the same website whose own help pages state that “anyone can edit any unprotected page and improve articles immediately for all readers” – has temporarily stripped an IP address linked to the House of Representatives of that right due to “persistent disruptive editing” practices, BBC News technology reporter Joe Miller wrote on Friday.
The suspension was issued after unusual activities on a number of pages were brought to light by the @congressedits Twitter feed, which reports all changes made from the government-owned IP address. Miller noted this is not the first time House computers have been banned for “similar acts of vandalism.”
Among the activity that drew Wikipedia’s ire was the changing of a page on the JFK assassination, which was edited to claim that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting “on behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro,” and an entry on moon landing conspiracy theories being altered to suggest that they were being “promoted by the Cuban government.”
One edit referred to Ukrainian politician Nataliya Vitrenko as a “Russian puppet,” while another described former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as an “alien lizard who eats Mexican babies,” the BBC reporter said. Another involved changes to the Choco Taco Wikipedia page, a Time.com reporter added.
However, the activities that ultimately led Wikipedia administrators to temporarily ban anonymous edits from the House IP address were changes made to the media news site Mediaite, which previously published a story on “rogue edits from congressional computers,” Miller said. That outlet’s Wikipedia page was changed to describe the blog as “sexist transphobic” and claiming that it “automatically assumes that someone is male without any evidence.”
According to Polly Mosendz of The Wire, Wikimedia Foundation chief communications officer Katherine Maher issued a statement explaining that the Foundation itself does not set editorial policies for individual Wikimedia projects, including the English Wikipedia page. Each site’s volunteer team sets and upholds those guidelines.
“In this case, this decision was made by a member of the English Wikipedia community. According to the entry for Disruptive Editing, it is a ‘pattern of editing’ that disrupts the process of ‘improving an article or building the encyclopedia,’” she added. While the 10-day suspension is designed to serve as a warning, Wikipedia’s website did note that additional “abuse from this IP address may result in an extended block.”
An anonymous user protested the decision through a Wikipedia discussion page, according to the Washington Post. That individual posted, “Out of over 9000 staffers in the House, should we really be banning this whole IP range based on the actions of two or three? Some of use here are just making grammatical edits, adding information about birds in Omsk, or showing how one can patch KDE2 under FreeBSD.”