One of Wikipedia’s greatest strengths and weaknesses is that just about anybody is able to contribute and edit the content. It’s obvious that certain people, organizations or companies keep tabs on what content their Wikipedia page contains when anything controversial or what would be considered “bad publicity” is removed anonymously. It happens quite often, and those same people are the type to edit competitors or enemy pages as well. The ability to post anonymously has opened up the door for people to “whitewash” Wikipedia without anyone knowing for sure who did it.
A CalTech student, Virgil Griffith decided that he wanted to come up with a way to find out who it was that made the anonymous changes based upon the IP address of a user. According to Wired, Griffith “offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of Internet IP addresses.”
The results (courtesy of Wired)? It’s interesting…
- MySpace: Someone from an IP address belonging to MySpace edits the “censorship” section for MySpace’s Wikipedia entry
- MSN Search is major competitor to Google: That addition to the MSN Search Wikipedia page was added by an IP address belonging to Microsoft’s PR firm, Waggener Edstrom
- Exxon Mobil: “Glass half full or half empty? Someone using an ExxonMobil IP address changed the discussion of the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster and subsequent cleanup from one focusing on the company’s failure to pay $5 billion it purportedly owed to Alaska fisherman to one touting in detail the money it had already spent”
- Diebold: You’ve heard of Diebold, the e-voting machine, right? 15 “critical” paragraphs were removed from the Diebold page by an IP address for the Diebold corporate offices
- President Bush: A change to George W. Bush’s page says “IS TAINTED BY POLITICAL BIAS THAT HAS NO PLACE IN WIKIPEDIA.” This came from an IP address from the Justice Department in Washington D.C.
And that’s just the start of it! I know it shouldn’t be too surprising, but it is. Wikipedia considers this Vandalism, and now we are able to find out who is doing it.
Now the great thing is, if you want to try and find others who have done anonymous edits, you can search yourself. Here’s the website, and if by chance you do find something, you can submit it to Wired who’s keeping tabs on what’s been found. Another reason to check out the website is because there’s a list of “editors picks” where you can see the anonymous edits made by corporations like Wal-Mart, Government edits, and more.