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The Internet Censorship

Wikipedia Infiltrated by Intelligence Agents? 428

Posted by Zonk
from the super-seekrit-spy-stuff dept.
An anonymous reader writes "International Humanitarian Law professor Ludwig Braeckeleer thinks so. In an article published yesterday in the Korean newspaper OhMyNews, he reveals a discovery he made while researching a story on the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. It turns out that a Wikipedia administrator named SlimVirgin is actually Linda Mack, a woman who as a young graduate in the 1980s was hired by investigative reporter Pierre Salinger of ABC News to help with the investigation. Salinger later came to believe that Mack was actually working for Britain's MI5 on a mission to investigate the bombing and to infiltrate and monitor the news agency. Shortly after her Wikipedia identity was uncovered, many of her edits to articles related to the bombing were permanently removed from the database in an attempt to conceal her identity. This discovery comes only months after another Wikipedia admin was caught lying about his credentials to the press. What can Wikipedia do about those who would use it for their own purposes?"
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Wikipedia Infiltrated by Intelligence Agents?

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  • Transparency (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RunFatBoy.net (960072) * on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:12PM (#20016543)
    So maybe the question becomes, should those who contribute more (I don't know what the threshold would be) be required to reveal more personal identification details in order to ensure some level of transparency?

    Jim
    http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net] - A workout plan for beginners.
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:32PM (#20016813)

      So maybe the question becomes, should those who contribute more (I don't know what the threshold would be) be required to reveal more personal identification details in order to ensure some level of transparency?


      I have a better idea. Rather than an appeal-to-personal-authority based approach, maybe Wikipedia could adopt some policies regarding verifiability of claims, so as not to rely on the personal credibility of the submitter.

      • Re:Transparency (Score:5, Informative)

        by sepluv (641107) <blakesley AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:45PM (#20016943) Homepage

        I have a better idea. Rather than an appeal-to-personal-authority based approach, maybe Wikipedia could adopt some policies regarding verifiability of claims, so as not to rely on the personal credibility of the submitter.
        Which, in case you weren't been sarcastic, is exactly how Wikipedia does work. Stuff that isn't common knowledge having to be referenced is the cardinal rule of Wikipedia. See the Wikipedia:Verifiability (WP:V) [wikipedia.org] policy.

        Also, the founder, Jimmy Wales, has commented many a time on the fact that Wikipedians should just remove unreferenced statements that are potentially controversial or that someone disagrees with.

        In Wikipedia, appeals to personal authority don't work at all, unlike Britannica, which bases its entire approach on these. They are at either end of these extremes, andf both work to some extent. Being in the middle would like not work at all.

        • Re:Transparency (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:16PM (#20017261) Homepage Journal
          How does Wikipedia handle topics (like certain forms of proprietary technology) where the only published data sources might only exist in non-public forms (e.g., vendor manuals), or may not exist in published form at all anymore (e.g., out of print vendor manuals)?
          • Re:Transparency (Score:4, Informative)

            by networkBoy (774728) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:20PM (#20017305) Homepage Journal
            I would assume you could still reference the manual, even though it isn't widely available, others may have access and could verify. Similar to me referencing Nature, Lancet, or Science News.
            -nB
          • Re:Transparency (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:06PM (#20017721)

            How does Wikipedia handle topics (like certain forms of proprietary technology) where the only published data sources might only exist in non-public forms (e.g., vendor manuals), or may not exist in published form at all anymore (e.g., out of print vendor manuals)?


            As I understand it, that a source is no longer in print does not prevent it from being a citable source that would satisfy WP:V, though obviously, where they are available, more accessible sources for the same information would be good. Non-public forms are a bit trickier; if they are essentially inaccessible (the de facto equivalent of unpublished works or internal memoranda), I would imagine they aren't suitable sources and thus, if they are the only support for a fact claim, that claim cannot (under policy) be made on Wikipedia; if they are merely hard to find, I think the situation is similar to what I suggest for an out-of-print source, acceptable but perhaps not preferred if there is an alternative.
        • Re:Transparency (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:36PM (#20017455) Homepage

          Which, in case you weren't been sarcastic, is exactly how Wikipedia does work. Stuff that isn't common knowledge having to be referenced is the cardinal rule of Wikipedia.

          And that's been one of the key problems I've had with the Wikipedia from the beginning... Common knowledge to who ? Just because it's not common knowledge J. Random User, doesn't mean it's not common knowledge to a smaller more specialized community.
           
          Heck, I was reading some articles on Pokemon last night (watched the cartoon out of boredom, decided to learn more), and very few statements presented as facts had any references - maybe they are common knowledge to Pokemon fans, but not to me. On the flip side, numerous edits I made to specialized articles that contained material that was common knowledge among folks active in that field were reverted because I couldn't provide a reference. Others were reverted because my reference was an extremely specialized $120 book - which contradicts the material available on the web.
          • Re:Transparency (Score:5, Interesting)

            by sepluv (641107) <blakesley AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:59PM (#20018235) Homepage

            Common knowledge to who ?
            Well ideally every statement should be referenced that isn't common knowledge to everyone (e.g.: the sun rises every morning, objects fall towards the ground). In practice, especially since it currently takes so long to add a reference using slightly complicated templates (they're really needs to be a nice front end for referencing, but I digress), if there is a nearby link to another article (especially one covering a the more general topic of which the current article is part) which itself contains the appropriate reference (or even links to another article with it), this is deemed acceptable. Also, you don't have to reference to support exactly the same fact that you've already referenced earlier on in the same article, although it is quite easy to link to the same reference again once you've added it once to the article.

            Just because it's not common knowledge J. Random User, doesn't mean it's not common knowledge to a smaller more specialized community.
            I guess that is my point above: obviously in an article about New York opening "New York City is a large city in New York state in the United States", I don't have to reference that NY state is in the US (which is covered in the NYC article and common knowledge to a hell of a lot of readers). I can also probably get away with not referencing that NYC is large and a city, because no one is really going to dispute that. Anyway, although you can, you don't normally have to reference article preambles as their contents should be a summary of the rest of the article which should itself be referenced (e.g.: "large" is supported by population and area figures and comparisons further down), although you see this done on some controversial articles so that nothing sneaks in without a reference.

            I was reading some articles on Pokemon last night...and very few statements presented as facts had any references - maybe they are common knowledge to Pokemon fans, but not to me.
            I think you'll find that actually that is down to old problem Wikipedia has with articles of limited interest not getting copyedited (e.g.: references added) as only a handful of users (who may not be regular Wikipedians who know about referencing) edit them, which is, I guess, an argument for lack-of-notability deletions (though I'm moderately anti-deletionist). Also, in practice, it is unlikely that anyone is going to delete unreferenced content and demand a reference for a Pokemon article. I mean it isn't exactly the most controversial topic. Who is going to lie about Pokemon? Whereas adding a single word to Global Warming will likely result in someone reverting it and demanding mutiple peer-reviewed references, because it is a bit more controversial and important an article.

            On the flip side, numerous edits I made to specialized articles that contained material that was common knowledge among folks active in that field were reverted because I couldn't provide a reference.
            Well, add one or point to somewhere else on Wikipedia where it is mentioned and revert back, or engage in a discussion with that editor and others who edit the article on the talk page.

            Others were reverted because my reference was an extremely specialized $120 book - which contradicts the material available on the web.
            Well, include the exact quote from the book in the footnote and revert it back. Removing material without good reason, particularly when it is referenced, is pretty frowned upon and leads to suspicion that the editor just didn't like what was added. Get other interested editors involved or post a standard warning to that user's talk page about deletion if they are deleting stuff without explanation or with an explanation that is clearly bogus. If they continue doing that, they may be blocked.
        • Re:Transparency (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zoney_ie (740061) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:53PM (#20017605)
          Realistically, that's a naive view of how things actually work on Wikipedia. In reality, certain contributors earn or grab authority and their views are given more weight than those who are newer, less experienced, or who hold unpopular views. Not only that, but certain contributors "get away" with more through either an earned status, or essentially sort of being a bully (or at the least, having more perserverance or perservering back-up supporters).

          In the end, Wikipedia will fail through it's lack of a traditional authority structure, however much not having one has certain advantages.

          One cannot expect a project of such a magnitude to survive in the real world (for all the talk of a "second life", people forget that the Internet is reality - part of our boring old society) without a sensible authority structure - and indeed rules decided by something else other than what sticks on a wiki. Even from a purely legal standpoint, Wikipedia is only going to have more trouble in the future than it can eventually handle.
          • Re:Transparency (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:16PM (#20017807)

            Realistically, that's a naive view of how things actually work on Wikipedia. In reality, certain contributors earn or grab authority and their views are given more weight than those who are newer, less experienced, or who hold unpopular views.


            In reality, your view might be valid as a description of how Wikipedia works in a few highly controversial areas where people expend lots of energy. Much of Wikipedia works more like this: someone posts material without adequate references and with clear inaccuracies, and over time it gets progressively edited to better compliance with Wikipedia's stated policies, improving in quality.

            In the end, Wikipedia will fail through it's lack of a traditional authority structure, however much not having one has certain advantages.


            In the end, we're all dead, and every business (even nonprofits) will fail, because every business is subject to risk at all times, and has finite, exhaustible resources, and thus every business is subject to gambler's ruin. So, really, prognostication that "in the end" Wikipedia will fail is not all that substantial.
            • Re:Transparency (Score:3, Interesting)

              by makomk (752139) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @06:44AM (#20021665) Journal
              The thing is, the Wikipedia administrator whom the article is about is involved in several highly controversial areas (for example, the whole "Martin Luther anti-semitism" mess, which would be somewhat hotter if it wasn't for the fact that several of the people who opposed her are now banned). Take a look at the usual anti-Wikipedia sources - for all their problems, they're fairly good at picking up on potentially interesting behaviour on the part of admins.
          • Re:Transparency (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sepluv (641107) <blakesley AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:21PM (#20017875) Homepage

            So, to support the idea that I am indeed being naïve, can you give me an example of how these individuals manage to exert pressure on others over the Internet? I don't really think "bullying" works very well over the Internet and multiple personal attacks will get one banned, anyway. Also, winning through having better arguments and the other editors agreeing with them (a self-selecting argument-based democratic consensus) seems to me to be quite a good way of dealing with things; please suggest a better one.

            I'm assuming this hierarchy must work via some kind of conspiracy. I don't doubt there is the odd, small-scale conspiracy between a few friends going on (like IMing them to support you in some discussion), but I see little evidence of a greater cabal. In fact as an editor without a great deal of experience, it just so happens that I recently admonished two editors who turned out to be admins (who I guess would be the ones most likely running any cabal) about what I thought was their not following policy (I was probably a little too severe in retrospect), and they discussed this with me very politely with reasoned argument and one conceded some ground on it, as opposed to exerting pressure on me somehow.

            In the end, Wikipedia will fail through it's lack of a traditional authority structure, however much not having one has certain advantages.
            I'm confused. I thought your argument was that it does have an authority structure.

            One cannot expect a project of such a magnitude to survive in the real world
            It seems to have "survived" 6 years with the number articles, readers and editors continually growing exponentially. Do you have any reasons why it might not survive? It seemed obvious to me that it would work from when I first heard about the model (for a number of reasons, like lots of editors making it more balanced and less NPOV, the ease of fixing mistakes, &c).

            Even from a purely legal standpoint, Wikipedia is only going to have more trouble in the future than it can eventually handle.
            Pray, tell me, what form this trouble will take, if you want me to believe you, lest I believe you are merely casting around weasel words as flamebait.
    • should those who contribute more (I don't know what the threshold would be) be required to reveal more personal identification details in order to ensure some level of transparency?

      Freedom yields truth. There is great incentive for contributors to identify themselves. Part of the reward for editing is recognition. Truth, however, requires anonymity and multiplicity. Freedom gives you as much truth as is possible and restrictions, licenses and all that reduce it.

      Just as there need to be multiple, independent news organizations, there needs to be multiple independent organizations providing what Wiki does. The reason ABC, BBC and others broadcasters are suspect is because there are so few of them. It's easy to corrupt a small number of organizations. Imagine every University in the world, every high school even, running it's own Wikipedia. That kind of network would be impossible to corrupt.

      How do you do that? That's where freedom comes in again. Wikipedia is free, so everyone can copy what they want. University departments and news organizations can independently decide who they trust and who to copy. In a system like that, bad eggs can be tossed out and MI5, North Korean Communists and other bully boys will have more than they can do.

      • by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:56PM (#20017633)

        Imagine every University in the world, every high school even, running it's own Wikipedia. That kind of network would be impossible to corrupt.
        Unfortunately that's when the marketing techniques step in to pander and cater to certain crowds - thereby using the theory of mob rule to enforce credibility on subjects that shouldn't be decided by such factors. A large chunk of my job is in marketing and I am willing to say from first hand experience I don't want it involved with establishing reference credibility in any way, shape, or form.
    • by Monchanger (637670) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:38PM (#20017481) Journal
      How do you see that working? Do you think there's any kind of "personal identification detail" that Wikipedia would use that MI5 couldn't forge for such an operation?

      >> What can Wikipedia do about those who would use it for their own purposes?

      The answer to the question is very simple: Infiltrate MI5.

      I'm sorry to bring up the old fighting fire cliche, but that's how counter-intelligence works. Well, using that and disinformation. Which do you think is more in line with Wikipedia's goal?
  • by nevali (942731) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:13PM (#20016559) Homepage
    ...would be "is there a major web-site which doesn't have a presence from at least one intelligence agency?"
  • by User 956 (568564) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:15PM (#20016579) Homepage
    This discovery comes only months after another Wikipedia admin was caught lying about his credentials to the press.

    This sort of thing is a compounding issue. In fact, this sort of activity has tripled in the last six months. I read that on wikipedia somewhere.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:15PM (#20016585)
    I can't see why spooks would be editing entries about or favorite tv shows, comic book characters, science/fantasy books, technology entries, etc. Us geeks is safe.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:19PM (#20016643)
    ...that influences popular perceptions, and anyone can contribute to it. Of course government agents are using it.

    OTOH, compared to what covert agents do outside of Wikipedia, I can hardly see much reason for alarm.
    • To be perfectly honest, I'd be a little annoyed if the brain surgeons in our intelligence agencies -- who I, along with the rest of the taxpayers, bankroll -- weren't at least aware of Wikipedia.

      Okay, so in this case they get zero points for subtlety (and when your cover gets blown editing an encyclopedia that anyone can edit, that's not a good sign...), but they're not doing anything I wouldn't expect them to be doing.

      I fully expect that the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, etc., probably have propaganda agencies astroturfing Wikipedia and other web sites to their own advantage. This is what countries do.
      • Annoying Indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by twitter (104583) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:18PM (#20017275) Homepage Journal

        I'd be a little annoyed if the brain surgeons in our intelligence agencies -- who I, along with the rest of the taxpayers, bankroll -- weren't at least aware of Wikipedia. ... they're not doing anything I wouldn't expect them to be doing.

        I do NOT want my government spending my money on disinformation. It's bad enough when they publish it openly, but lying about who you are while you vandalize a public resource is much worse. Freely elected governments are supposed to represent the opinions of their people, not brainwash them.

        I fully expect that the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, etc., probably have propaganda agencies astroturfing Wikipedia and other web sites to their own advantage. This is what countries do.

        No, that is what tyrants do. They also murder those who oppose them. They do both of these things because they are fucking everyone. They have placed their self interest above yours and do what it takes to keep that position.

    • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:13PM (#20017201) Journal
      OR better yet, Why isn't anyone upset that a covert agent got outed based on untruthful information?
    • by megaditto (982598) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:18PM (#20017281)
      There is no telling what kind of a sick twisted deception scheme the CIA/MI5 are cooking up next. I mean, they already had a woman pose as a 42 year old bolding fat male administrator:

      Wikipedia administrator named SlimVirgin is actually Linda Mack, a woman [...]
  • by Paxton (24233) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:20PM (#20016655)
    It can do what it's designed to do: self-edit.

    Wouldn't you rather have someone writing stuff that can be corrected by anyone than have a publisher infiltrated and subsequently print untrue (yet unchangeable) information?

    Of course, through ignorance or apathy or downright malevolence, any source produces at least some erroneous information anyway...
  • by superwiz (655733) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:21PM (#20016665) Journal
    It's a site that's meant to inform. Does it matter if information is contributed under false identity? Information is either true or not. Judging whether it's true or not by who contributes is setting a very low standard for fact finding. Claims about knowledge that is outside of the expertise of layman have to have references to well-established sources (which can be checked) anyway. Otherwise, it's just rumors.
  • Pierre Salinger (Score:4, Informative)

    by MontyApollo (849862) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:22PM (#20016685)
    Pierre Salinger was kind of a crackpot at this point in his career, so just because he believed somebody was an MI-5 operative doesn't mean much. He was a laughing stock because of all of his conspiracy theories at the time.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:31PM (#20016803)
      I agree. That dude is nuts. You should just ignore him.

      Linda Mack
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:14PM (#20017221)
      Mind you, if you were to truthfully describe some actual documented conspiracies and events to a person off the street, they'd think you were crazy too.

      (Putin murdering people with radioactive isotopes, the French blowing up anti-nuclear vessels, Scientology break-ins at federal offices, acoustic kitty, LSD experiments on civilians, Tuskagee experiments, etc. etc.)

      Lets face it, the world is an incredibly fucked up place - and the idea of someone being planted to infiltrate a newspaper investigation is not bizarre at all in comparison.
      • Re: Pierre Salinger (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 28, 2007 @04:45AM (#20021279)
        The history of government experiments on civilians might actually go further back than the LSD stuff. My university, for example, participated in the Manhattan Project and has a large medical campus. My freshman year there, I read in the paper that in the 1940s, they injected people with radioactive material to see how they would react to it. I'm talking about random hospital patients. This was without their knowledge. They all got bad cancer. And it was funded by the federal government.

        Or... How about the J Edgar Hoover days at the FBI? Spying on Martin Luther King Jr and John Lennon? I read that they "discovered" that John Lennon did lots of drugs and cheated on Yoko. They had to bug his apartment to figure that out? Federal tax dollars at work!

        Or... What happened to socialists and communists inside the US? Isn't the US supposed to be a country where you can believe in any political system you want? Why were these people silenced during the Cold War? Is that really a free democracy?

        Or... How about all the dictatorships we installed? Latin America is a good example. Most Americans don't care about any of this, but ask a Latin American about the Monroe Doctrine some time. And here in the US, we're taught in school what a good thing it was! And speaking of dictatorships... Who was it that put Saddam there in the first place?

        Or hey... How about the shit that's been going on more recently. Iraq anyone? Wasn't it curious how just about everyone with the means to do so was pushing for that thing in 2003? Warantless wiretaps? Federal money delivered to contractors in the form of millions in cash in trash bags? Executive orders that say, "Hey, I'm going to go ahead and break the law. Peace, -George Bush."

        I think it's all kind of messed up. I know some people who are really hardcore conspiracy theorists, and I usually dismiss their attitudes, but yeah, with crap like this going on, I can see why they come to their conclusions. We need a government that doesn't try to meddle with these things.
    • by twitter (104583) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:28PM (#20017393) Homepage Journal

      He said, "If Bush wins, I'm going to leave the country and spend the rest of my life in France," and then he did. In hindsight, this guy had great forsight. He missed the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Freedom Fries and other red neck/Nazi stupidity.

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:50PM (#20017591)

      Pierre Salinger was kind of a crackpot at this point in his career, so just because he believed somebody was an MI-5 operative doesn't mean much. He was a laughing stock because of all of his conspiracy theories at the time.

      Too bad you're using a straw man attack on someone. Just because he's nuts, doesn't mean everything he says is false.

  • 3 words for you: Dee Dee Dee
  • by loteck (533317) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:27PM (#20016739) Homepage
    The wikipedia community might want to take it on themselves to promote a "Real Name" system that casts suspicion on and removes the benefit of the doubt from those who choose to post anonymously.

    I remember when Amazon went to that system after it was discovered how many negative reviews were authored by competing writers attempting to anonymously besmirch eachother in the review comments. Now you really find the highest rated reviews are almost exclusively by people who have chosen to forego anonymity for the benefit of having a trackable reputation.

    • by Haeleth (414428) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:27PM (#20017363) Journal

      The wikipedia community might want to take it on themselves to promote a "Real Name" system that casts suspicion on and removes the benefit of the doubt from those who choose to post anonymously.
      How exactly would these real names be verified? Amazon can do it because they can compare the name you give with the name on your credit card, but that really isn't an option for community projects for all sorts of reasons.
    • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @03:50AM (#20021093)
      First off, you're basically describing Citizendium, a Wiki-based encyclopedia founded by Larry Sanger to compete with Wikipedia.

      Secondly, requiring people to provide their real names is very "un-wiki", meaning that it flies in the face of some of the core philosophies of Wikipedia. Anyone is supposed to be able to contribute on equal footing, regardless of who you are. Other people can also correct you if you're wrong, regardless of who you are or who they are. If a 12-year-old can compose a more convincing argument than a Nobel laureate, then that argument carries the day, not either person.

      Finally, there's no reason why CIA agents shouldn't be allowed to contribute to Wikipedia. No doubt they have hobbies and interests just like you and I. They can contribute positively and objectively to any number of articles unrelated to their profession. If they want to edit articles relating to the CIA, they are expected to abide by Wikipedia's guideline on conflicts of interest [wikipedia.org], just like anyone else. I work for a company that has a entry in Wikipedia and I've edited Wikipedia before. Does that mean my company has "inflitrated" Wikipedia?

      On the other hand, there are plenty of people and organizations that do try to influence Wikipedia's articles through decidedly underhanded means. Thankfully, the Wikipedia community is usually very good at detecting that kind of thing and sorting it out. Wikipedia has a wonderful tendency to right itself eventually. No attempt to spin an article in any one direction will last very long if it's a popular or important topic.
  • by mi (197448) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:28PM (#20016753) Homepage

    What can Wikipedia do about those who would use it for their own purposes?

    What a retarded question... Don't we all use Wikipedia for our own purposes? The reaction — if any is needed at all — should depend on the purposes.

    A covert agent of a reasonably democratic government investigating a crime is one thing. A pseudo-scientist lying about his credentials is another. A pranskter vandalizing pages is the third. An overt agent of a reasonably democratic government pushing their government's view [slashdot.org] is yet another. And so on... And then, of course, come the rest of us using the resource to learn, teach, and immortalize ourselves via contributions...

    • by oGMo (379) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:55PM (#20017039)

      Don't we all use Wikipedia for our own purposes?

      I use it to look up documented information and references to canonical sources thereof. I use it for a reference. Most people who use it probably do.

      However I don't edit it for my own purposes. The purpose of Wikipedia is as an information reference, with cited sources for some measure of integrity. Not a playground for pushing agendas. Not necessarily that this was what the alleged agent was doing---but some people do.

      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:26PM (#20017355)
        However I don't edit it for my own purposes.

        Oh come on, let's think this out. Are you suggesting people who do edit it do not edit it for their own purposes (fame, showing off, to feel part of a virtuous movement)? Or are you suggesting they're robots acting purely from instinct?

        Surely imagining that anyone does anything without personal motivation is deluded. We're not insects. But just because you have a personal motivation doesn't mean what you do is suspect. I go to work primarily to get money to buy myself stuff. That is not the motivation of the company founder, but that doesn't mean my work is corrupt -- or even that it's of lower quality than the founder's. The fact that I'm there for different reasons doesn't mean we can't work together profitably. What's important is the result of one's work, not the motivation for it.
      • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:03PM (#20017697) Journal

        The purpose of Wikipedia is as an information reference, with cited sources for some measure of integrity. Not a playground for pushing agendas. Not necessarily that this was what the alleged agent was doing---but some people do.
        Not everyone believes this in the same way. It took a while before I noticed I should look at it this way too.

        I know people who just like me have some position on whatever and cite Wikipedia as their reference and not only are wrong, but when they go back to show the links, the information isn't there anymore. I don't hold any creditability over Wikipedia except to look at the sources they link to and get information from there. Almost everything on it is biased to some degree or slanted to push a certain point. This is doubly true when it deal with something in politics or a disaster of something.
  • If this is happening on Wikipedia, the next logical step is the rest of the Internet and the rest of the mainstream media. I know it seems impossible now, but can you imagine if a far-left wing liberal editor was in charge of the editorial page of the New York Times? Or what if a neocon tycoon owned a 24-hour news network! If Wikipedia is having problems, our mainstream media is going to be next and lose the objectivity that it's currently known for.
  • by HexRei (515117) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:32PM (#20016815)
    "Beyond right and wrong, there is a field.
    I'll meet you there."

    Interesting.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:32PM (#20016817) Homepage Journal
    OK, maybe Wikipedia is a tool of the Man, and it's deleting edits to cover the tracks of an intelligence agent.

    So, show me the 'before' and 'after' of the edits. Surely Google cache or Archive.org or any of the other search engines have that page from some point in the past, no? How about even a locally cached copy (certainly not tamper proof)?

    Or... have all of the people who might have a cached copy also been infiltrated? We know how that story goes.
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:32PM (#20016819) Homepage
    She sure looks [andrews.edu] like a spook!
  • Carry On (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:36PM (#20016869) Journal
    > What can Wikipedia do about those who would use it for their own purposes?"

    Carry on exactly as they are, because that is precisely what every contributor is doing. Their purpose may be an attempt at the truth, which is noble, but also subjective, and some will disagree. They too will contribute if they care enough. With enough of that, any other "purposes" will be, if not buried, then at least illuminated. Where that could fail is if there are not enough who care enough to contribute.

    So what are you still here for?
  • by Snowspinner (627098) <philsand.ufl@edu> on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:38PM (#20016883) Homepage
    It's shameful that this made it to the front page. The OhMyNews story that is cited isn't linked to. A quick glance at it (It's at http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_vi ew.asp?menu=c10400&no=374006&rel_no=1 [ohmynews.com] ) shows why - the writer's only source for his claims about Slim Virgin is the evidence collected by Daniel Brandt, who cyberstalked her publicly on The Wikipedia Review, a board populated by the banned trolls of Wikipedia. The article makes clear the degree to which this "investigation" is based on rumors and lies, and proceeds to publicly state the alleged name and city of residence of this person.

    I am appalled that Slashdot decided to participate in this public character assassination of a private citizen.
  • You jail him/her, and go on with your life. thats whats gonna happen with wikipedia.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:40PM (#20016903)
    Here is an edit by someone coming from the IP 214.13.216.142 [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia. His or her edits are focused on diminishing the massacre at No Gun Ri during the Korean War, as well as related atrocities during the Korean war.

    Well, where is that IP from? At the time I did an nslookup and I resolved to n-mnstci-142.mnstci.iraq.centcom.mil (the IP now resolves to a different CENTCOM host, host216-142.iraq.centcom.mil). CentCom I remember from the film "Control Room", they are the people trying to spin the Iraq war for the world (and especially the US) media. But MNSTCI? A little checking around showed me MNSTCI stood for the United States Central Command's Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq.

    I brought this up at the time, but everyone I brought it up to dismissed it. This is CENTCOM's job - US taxpayer's dollars to rewrite history, so that the US can keep going overseas militarily. It particularly annoyed me that I was paying the salary of the person trying to rewrite history. I kind of felt like I was battling someone in the bowels of the US's Orwellian version of "Minitru".

    In the mid-1990s, I got a strange SNMP request from an army intelligence outfit in Quantico, Virginia after reading Australian web sites which discussed possible CIA involvement in overthrowing Australia's government in the 1970's (the Whitlam/Kerr thing). This was back in the (usually) non-NAT'ed days - I had just assigned this IP and had an unusual amount of monitoring set up, I'm sure most people would have noticed the query. With the PATRIOT act, split fibers at the major telcos going to who knows where and so forth, I guess this is normal nowadays. The next step for those who support all of this is to just to either dismiss it, or attack the people who complain about.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:47PM (#20016959)

      CentCom I remember from the film "Control Room", they are the people trying to spin the Iraq war for the world (and especially the US) media.


      While, certainly, there are people in the PR arm of Centcom (and the Pentagon itself, and the White House) doing that, Centcom is the United States "Central Command", the regional combatant command in whose area of operations both the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan are being fought, not simply a special-purpose spin shop.

      This is CENTCOM's job - US taxpayer's dollars to rewrite history, so that the US can keep going overseas militarily.
      being the part of the US military that is (in one particular area) overseas. Their job is fighting and winning wars, and preventing wars by having the capacity to fight and win them. Propaganda is part of that, of course, and no doubt they engage in some practices in the course of that against which there are legitiamte objections.
    • CENTCOM is the US military's Central Command. They cover the middle east, so spinning the Iraq War is part of what they do. But the main thing is that they also fight that war. The Security Transition Command is responsible for handing off security to the Iraqi police. Looks like your person is some military-can-do-no-wrong fanboy (or -girl) attached to CENTCOM. May or may not be their day job-- there are a lot of nutcases in the military who will do things like that just because they believe in it.

      Quantico: that's something more likely to be a real cause for concern.

    • by dbIII (701233) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:04PM (#20017709)

      possible CIA involvement in overthrowing Australia's government in the 1970's (the Whitlam/Kerr thing)

      There was CIA involvement - but it did not appear to be paticularly competant or effective and Whitlam was informed of it some time before the dismissal (and apparently laughed at some of the stupid antics along with the intelligence agents that told him - it looks like they sent the new kid in the agency). The major consequence of this operation was it's existence upset two US agents and they used is as the reason/excuse to sell intelligence secrets to the USSR - the movie "The Falcon and the Snowman" was based on what came out in court.

      Whitlam was of course doomed to be removed from office once he lost the numbers, long before any attempted CIA involvement. I find it bizzare that anyone in the CIA would have considered him worth removing - he was such a strong ally of the USA that he even supported Nixon's line on East Timor despite it being opposed to Australia's national interest and a policy formed by a large bribe to the Republican party by the Indonesian President. Timor is still suffering phyically and Australia financially and militarily from the consequences of that bribe - government corruption can have major consequences.

  • by Compulawyer (318018) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:41PM (#20016913)
    This is only a problem if you consider Wikipedia to be an authoritative source. IMHO, any source that is not peer-reviewed by identified experts and can be edited by anyone at a moment's notice is not authoritative. Wikipedia may be a decent general information source or even a starting point for more serious research, but until these fundamental issues are addressed, it will never be a reliable, authoritative source of information.

    Because I know it will come up ....

    1. I know "authoritative sources have errors and both can and have been manipulated;
    2. I know that no source is 100% accurate; and
    3. I have nothing against Wikipedia.
    • by sepluv (641107) <blakesley AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:00PM (#20017079) Homepage

      IMHO, any source that is not peer-reviewed by identified experts and can be edited by anyone at a moment's notice is not authoritative.

      By your definition of "authoritative", no encyclopedia can be authoritative because an encyclopedia is, by definition, a tertiary source.

      An encyclopedia is a large work that attempts to summarise the entirety of human knowledge through a number of articles on distinct topics. Each article gives a concise summary of the current state of knowledge on that topic by referencing secondary sources, which are themselves based on original research (and in part the results of any peer reviewing of said research).

      Wikipedia may be a decent general information source or even a starting point for more serious research
      That is all an encyclopedia is supposed to do. If you are doing serious research (for, say an academic thesis, something relating to a decision of grave importance to you) you should always refer to the original sources such as those referenced by the encyclopedia article.
  • by msimm (580077) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:45PM (#20016949) Homepage
    You kids and you're fancy toys. In my day there was nothing like a good old fashioned flogging to set things right.

    And we liked it that way!
  • Indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chazzf (188092) <cfulton&deepthought,org> on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:54PM (#20017029) Homepage Journal

    Obviously the fact that a twenty-something was caught posing as a Catholic theology professor lends credence to the accusation by a former Kennedy administration official that MI5 has penetrated Wikipedia.

    ...

    Don't you fools see? Kennedy was Catholic, and Essjay claimed to be Catholic! TELL THE WIKIT$&$^^$^&NO CARRIER

  • by SamP2 (1097897) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:55PM (#20017041)
    Question people's actions, not their motives -- Cicero

    As long as their contributions are valid, it does not matter why they contribute. If you wouldn't delete a given contribution from a PHD, you shouldn't delete it from a highschool student either, because it's the contribution itself that is either good or bad, not the source. The validitity of contributions should be derived from itself (including references provided, which is explicitly required by Wikipedia policies), and it has nothing to do with who actually contributes, because you may not use yourself or your reputation as a reference.

    Likewise, it's wrong to censor someone's contributions just because you think he has a political agenda. As long as (and only as long as) the content submitted is valid and conforms to all policies (neutrality, references, no original research), it should make no difference whatsoever what agenda the contributor has.
  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:58PM (#20017061)

    What can Wikipedia do about those who would use it for their own purposes?"
    Exactly what this guy did--investigate and find the truth. I don't like the implication that this should somehow be prevented from happening. I doubt that's possible, so it's better to keep things open and to think that it's always happening--and be on the lookout for evidence. Web servers provide data, but they also collect data.
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:03PM (#20017095)
    The evidence that Wikipedia has been infiltrated by Intelligence Agencies is that a woman who was a major contributor on the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing was a graduate student who investigated it for Pierre Salinger, but he came to suspect that she worked for MI-5. Note: not that he discovered that she worked for MI-5, just that he thought she did. Pierre Salinger is a man who in his later years demonstrated a gullibility for conspiracy theories.
  • by samuel4242 (630369) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:09PM (#20017167)
    Hint: Everyone contributes out of their self-interest. Some people like to talk and others just get their grins out of editing. The good news is that this still produces something of value. But even the most selfless librarian from Kansas is not going to go against self-interest. The real problem is your definition is not the same as my definition. Naturally I like mine better. But what if I like the fact that the intelligence agencies are protecting our country and you like the unvarnished truth. Both seem like good ideas within limits. Who chooses? Answer: the last one to edit a wikipedia piece.
  • by lixee (863589) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:13PM (#20017193)
    If that guy isn't a Mossad agent, then I don't who is!

    While a caricaturization, there is some truth to the EncyclopiaDramatica article that follows (Note that SlimVirgin as part of the cabal)

    http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/T he_Wikipedia_Jews


    I got repeatedly threatened by the guy and called an apologist for trying to wanting to include Tehran official response to the mistranslation of the infamous "wipe off the map" Ahmadinejad speech. They wanted to block my account for adding the conciliatory words of the Ayatollah (the guys who actually has a say on Iran's foreign policy) in the article.
  • by oohshiny (998054) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:55PM (#20017621)
    Unlike many news media and publications, Wikipedia doesn't try to use the identity and authority of contributors to establish credibility. Who cares if someone is working for the MI5 or CIA or whatever as long as they give accurate information and cite verifiable sources?
  • by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:56PM (#20017631)
    Ah, of course, Daniel Brandt and Pierre Salinger, the most trusted names when it comes to Internet conspiracy theories. These two have never gotten their facts wrong.
  • by J'raxis (248192) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:32PM (#20017973) Homepage

    The important revelation here isn't that there are intelligence agents using Wikipedia to spread propaganda -- being open to edit by most anyone means it'll pick up its fair share of people editing in bad faith, ranging from civilian vandals and scumbags to the government's equivalent. The important question here is why the hell did Wikipedia's admins cooperate with her -- protecting her by removing the content -- when she was outed? Everyone likes to argue over the credibility of the information they find on Wikipedia, and this does not help their credibility at all.

  • huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by coaxial (28297) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:39PM (#20018021) Homepage
    From the blurb:

    Shortly after her Wikipedia identity was uncovered, many of her edits to articles related to the bombing were permanently removed from the database in an attempt to conceal her identity.
    Huh? That would imply that spooks not only have root access, but also the power to destroy all the backups from everyone else with root access.

    Prove it.
  • by jwales (97533) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:10PM (#20018335) Homepage
    This story is demented and broken on so many levels, it is quite difficult to know where to begin, even.

    Here we have an excellent Wikipedia administrator who has been victimized by lunatic conspiracy theorists, a private person who has absolutely no relation to the wild stories that this article promulgates.

    Slashdot, you have been trolled.
    • by dtobias (262347) <dan@tobias.name> on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:37PM (#20018571) Homepage
      An "excellent Wikipedia administrator", maybe, in some ways... but also a top member of a clique that can be quite hypocritically nasty to anybody who gets in its way, and which pushes policies such as the silly one against linking to so-called "attack sites" under any circumstances, which end up reflecting poorly on Wikipedia by making it seem to be trying to censor its critics. I think that critics, even "lunatic conspiracy theorists", should be kept in the light of day instead of forcibly suppressed and left to fester in the dark.
    • by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:30PM (#20018941) Homepage
      Bullshit. Just like with Essjay, you have known that Slimvirgin is Linda Mack, and you have also known that SV has been instrumental in the falsification of history, especially in relation to PanAm 103.

      You have knowingly harbored and cossetted a person very strongly suspected of spying on behalf of a foreign government and should never have been allowed to touch Wikipedia never mind be one of the most powerful and thoroughly abusive admins.

      Now all that's happened is that SV's user pages (and that of her sock Crum375) have been locked and at least one editor has been banned for the heinous crime of asking Crum375 whether she was Linda Mack and has she spied for MI5.

      Just like with Essjay, you're in denial of reality. The only person trolling is you.

      For anyone else who would like to see what lies beneath, see Wikipedia Review here [wikipediareview.com]
  • by Torodung (31985) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @01:18AM (#20020427) Journal
    ...that "MI-5 persecution" guy, a celebrated Usenet-spamming lunatic, is the anonymous user who submitted this article?

    --
    Toro
  • by 12357bd (686909) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @03:47AM (#20021087)
    Well, what says Wikipedia about it?

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun

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