Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Censorship United States

Wikipedia Blocks Suspicious Edits From DoJ 294

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the watching-the-watchers dept.
kylehase writes "The release of Wikiscanner last year brought much attention to white-washing of controversial pages on the community-generated encyclopedia. Apparently Wikipedia is very serious in fighting such behavior as they've temporarily blocked the US Department of Justice from editing pages for suspicious edits."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wikipedia Blocks Suspicious Edits From DoJ

Comments Filter:
  • by Erie Ed (1254426) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:10AM (#23250268)
    Someone stands up to them. Now I think if the RIAA ever comes after me I will overrule them...I guess what I'm trying to say is I for one welcome our Self overruling overlords.
  • I believe thats what is generally called "rattling the bushes"...

    ..but what will come out? a paper tiger or a man eater? I cannot see the DOJ taking this lying down.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Hordeking (1237940)

      I believe thats what is generally called "rattling the bushes"... ..but what will come out? a paper tiger or a man eater? I cannot see the DOJ taking this lying down.
      President: Awwww, come back to bed, honey.
      DOJ: But...they blocked me on wikipedia....I have to hack around it!
      President: Rattle your sabre tomorrow! You're mine now! Grrrrrroowl!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      ..but what will come out? a paper tiger or a man eater? I cannot see the DOJ taking this lying down.

      Why? I can't see the DOJ filing suit because a site is refusing input from them based on previous (perceived) abuses.

      It's not like the DOJ has some inherent right to access Wiki any more than anyone else. They're free to have their own policies, and if they include blocking certain contributors, tough.

      As has been pointed out, it is unlikely this is an official DOJ campaign to modify this page, just an indiv

      • by FooAtWFU (699187)

        It's not like the DOJ has some inherent right to access Wiki any more than anyone else. They're free to have their own policies, and if they include blocking certain contributors, tough.

        *grumbly-pedantic-mode on*

        Don't call Wikipedia 'Wiki'. Call it WP if you're looking for something short, or maybe "the wiki" (since we have some context). There is more than one wiki out there, and Wikipedia isn't even the most wiki-ish site out there.

        It's roughly equivalent to calling Slashdot "Blog". Wow, Blog sure has a bunch of dupes! The editors of Blog keep letting Blog-vertisements through, it's stupid! Look at all those anonymous cowards trolling Blog with Frirst Psoststs. (See? It sounds stupid.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Don't call Wikipedia 'Wiki'.

          Wiki. Wiki. Wiki. Wiki. Wiki.

          Pedantry is about as welcome as grammar nazis.

          They're the original Wiki as far as most of us are concerned. The fact that there's a million things calling themselves Wiki-whatever. We're in a thread about that Wikipedia.

          I'm afraid you'll simply have to cope with the fact that I didn't clear my choice of words with you. :-P

          Cheers
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Cal Paterson (881180) *
            It's not pedantry, it's clarity. Examine the difference before you respond childishly to polite posts explaining the problem.
          • They're all called wiki-whatever because they are Wikis. That's like saying "hey, you drive car! I also have car. Car is good on mileage, isn't it?" and the other idiot is being pedantic for asking "which car?" when you mean "your ford".

          • They're the original Wiki as far as most of us are concerned. The fact that there's a million things calling themselves Wiki-whatever. We're in a thread about that Wikipedia.

            From what I learned, Ward Cunningham created the original wiki [c2.com]. You can wallow in ignorance, or you can learn new things. I know people will use "Wiki" as slang for Wikipedia the same way they use "Dave" as slang for "The Dave Matthews Band" (which particularly bothers me, since it implies the rest of the band that's not named Dav

      • by PlatyPaul (690601)

        DOJ isn't going to defend the ability for its staffers to contribute to internet sites.
        I was thinking something more along the lines of "the Department of Justice is not in charge of Gundam." [slashdot.org]
  • they've temporarily blocked the US Department of Justice from editing pages for suspicious edits.

    Because, y'know, the DOJ only has a single point of entry to the internet, and couldn't possibly get around this block by, say, having people doing it from their home PCs...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jelizondo (183861) *

      having people doing it from their home PCs...

      Which will then prove malicious intent; they are government employees but still are lawyers and could risk their careers with such a move.


      This kind of activity is carried in the shadows, as soon as you shine a bright light, they disappear into the bushes..

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
        Or disappear into coffee shops with free wifi, and, you know, coffee.

        "This kind of activity is carried in the shadows, as soon as you shine a bright light, they disappear into the bushes..."

        Does anyone else find that sentence to be hilarious? Truly, there is no light of righteous freedom like that of blocking an IP address to drive the shadowy evils of government into the scratchy bushes of ignominy. Truth is on the march!
      • by afabbro (33948)

        Which will then prove malicious intent; they are government employees but still are lawyers and could risk their careers with such a move.

        What on earth are you talking about...editing Wikipedia with a biased viewpoint is a crime? Did I miss the Wikipedia Integrity Act of 2008? Seems to me I can modify Wikipedia all I want to say that black is really white and there's nothing illegal about it.

    • Once a certain kind of edit results in an IP ban, I would guess that the editors of wikipedia would keep an eye on similar edits and anyone trying to make similar edits, irrespective of their location, would get a warning or possible ban. Of course the edit would be reverted.

      I really don't see any point in an organization getting someone to push views similar to the ones that caused an IP ban in the first place.
  • Good for them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garett_spencley (193892) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:12AM (#23250286) Journal
    Although I'm really not sure what the big deal is, except perhaps the fact that "suspicious" edits were occuring from the DOJ's networks.

    Until Wikipedia is served a court order requiring them to remove or alter certain information, they can do whatever the hell they want with their own web site(s) so long as they are law abiding.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:14AM (#23250316) Homepage Journal
    The big problem with the Wikipedia comes down to one of opinion.
    As long as it is just facts then it seems too work pretty well. When it comes to opinion then things get into trouble.
    One persons white washing is somebody elses setting the record straight.
    What is funny is bias and opinion can creep into the strangest articles.
    • The intelligent thing that is frequently done on Wikipedia to handle obvious perspective issues is to make articles about those perspectives. A wikipedia article about "cats versus dogs as a pet" is a better place for such an argument than in the cat or dog articles, for example.
      • And then some cat lover comes along, deletes "cats vs dogs as pets" as a "POV fork" of the Dogs article, and then alters Dogs to say "dogs are crappy pets compared to cats".

  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:16AM (#23250342) Homepage
    Governmental Wikipedia editing around the world:

    Japan: "The agriculture ministry is not in charge of Gundam"
    USA: "The defense department is in charge of Gitmo"
  • by kellyb9 (954229)
    Wikiscanner appears to have nothing to do with the department of justice. Besides, If an IP from the DOJ tries to erase a particular scandel from wikipedia or wiki-whatever, doesn't that, in a way, verify the accuracy of the report?
    • Did you even read the summary? WP is concerned that edits from DOJ IP addresses are being used for malicious edits. On your second point: inductive logic is not a useful way of determining accuracy.
      • by kellyb9 (954229)
        The summary makes mention of wikiscanner which was apparently developed by some private individual and not the government. Furthermore, the article makes NO mention of wikiscanner. I just thought it was strange that it was even brought up. I think inductive reasoning is very applicable here. If something isn't true, they really have no reason or resposibility to correct it. In fact, if allegations are raised, i'm sure they can just be proven false fairly easily. However, if the DOJ IP address were to change
  • Glass House (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rydia (556444) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:17AM (#23250366)
    Meet stone.
  • by iamhigh (1252742) * on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:18AM (#23250388)
    Should the government have the right to even be on Wikipedia making edits? Isn't that similar to them controling any other media outlet?

    Or does the 'openness' of wiki mean that the government is justified in making changes to whatever articles they want?

    I personally don't want them even touching it, or influencing any media outlet.
    • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:34AM (#23250552)
      The argument is only valid if you view 'the government' as a single faceless monolithic entity. I'll guarantee that 90% of edits coming from various government IP addresses are interns on their coffee breaks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by CloudyPrison (821861)
        Interns who represent the 'government' when their at work making edits.
      • YOUR DESK, Your office (Work) -- The chances of you finishing writing this article without getting interrupted or distracted are slim.

        U.S. office workers get interrupted on the job as often as eleven times per hour, costing as much as $588 billion in paid time lost to open content production each year. The digital communications that were supposed to make working lives run smoothly - cc'ed email jokes, Internet porn and chatting up that hottie in the next office by IM - are actually preventing people from

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RepelHistory (1082491)

        The argument is only valid if you view 'the government' as a single faceless monolithic entity.

        Applying the reasoning that Bush himself uses, the Executive branch of government should, in fact, be viewed as a single monolithic entity. The unitary executive theory, used by Bush to justify his ridiculous signing statements and other expansions of executive power, states that only the president has the power to interpret and enforce the law.
        To quote, ironically, Wikipedia:

        The theory relies on the Vesting Clau

        • by ls -la (937805)

          now he can have his constitution and eat it too
          Bush doesn't want the constitution, after all, it's just a goddamn piece of paper.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kellyb9 (954229)
      That's all well and good, but honestly, how would you propose we stop government from editing wikipedia. Wikipedia is what it is. An open community inviting everyone to the table. Do you think Google has any less at stake than the Department of Justice? Maybe, I'm sure they are happily moderating their wikipedia pages. Would THEY be justified in changing articles? I doubt it, but everyone has a stake in information. Wikipedia is information, everyone has a stake in wikipedia. As much as I hate to say it, sh
      • by iamhigh (1252742) *
        I am not speaking of banning IPs and blocking the gov't from a technical perspective. I mean more theoretically, should the government (or any single individual acting on their behalf) be changing the information that the people of the state have created?

        I don't think blocking the gov't is an option... I just want to know if we think they should be on wikipedia changing what millions of people read? We must remember the government is supposed to work for us, not against us. The gov't, its entities, ag
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by esocid (946821)
      I have no problem with them editing articles, until they start whitewashing and inserting propaganda into them to shed a better light on whatever the material is in question. Then they get put in timeout until they can learn to behave themselves.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Evil Kerek (1196573)
        Ah but there's the catch. One persons 'whitewash' is anothers persons 'improved accuracy'. Which is the right answer? I mean, let's just take Iraq as a great example where if you sample 50 people, you'll get 50 different view points that all say something different. How in the world do you make an 'accurate' entry for it? Justifiable war? Invasion? Geneocide? Rescue mission? All depends on your point of view.

        EK
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scrameustache (459504)

      Should the government have the right to even be on Wikipedia making edits? Isn't that similar to them controling any other media outlet?
      Or does the 'openness' of wiki mean that the government is justified in making changes to whatever articles they want?
      I personally don't want them even touching it, or influencing any media outlet.

      With this deal [salon.com] in place, government officials and their contractors began approving, and in some cases altering, the scripts of shows before they were aired to conform with the government's anti-drug messages. "Script changes would be discussed between ONDCP and the show -- negotiated," says one participant.

      Rick Mater, the WB network's senior vice president for broadcast standards, acknowledges: "The White House did view scripts. They did sign off on them -- they read scripts, yes."

    • Lets just say for argument the DoJ is 'fixing' errors in the articles. Is that bad? It's not inherently bad for sure, but the question is when is the line crossed. Wikipedia works because of editor and moderators, which is really no different then the government in how they could effect what people think after reading an article. Luckily there's enough moderators to help push back those bad edits and temp-ban violators. "The Government" editing a page isn't any worse the someone else and Wikipedia did
    • The trouble here is that these edits were likely NOT made byt "The Government" but by some low level govenment employee who was posting to the Wiki when he should have been doing something else.

      Everyone works for some body. Let's say my job is at Ford and I put the wheels in F250 pickup trucks. If I post to the wiki from a computer located at the Ford plant and say "Ford makes the best trucks, Chevy sucks" is this a case of Ford promoting it's own business? I'd say not even it it came from a Ford IP add
    • It is either open or it isn't.
  • by Miseph (979059) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:25AM (#23250466) Journal
    I think the real story here isn't that Wikipedia has temporarily suspended the DOJ from article edits. The real story, at least to me, is that the DOJ has demonstrably been involved in a systematic effort to rewrite history. Many of us have been suspecting that the administration was doing that, but this is the kind of damning evidence that we've been looking for.

    This needs to be the straw that breaks the PNAC's and neo-conservatism's back, and we can only hope that the Republican party rises from the ashes better and more rational for having done so. They're already making solid progress by picking the McCain horse, if only he would stop selling himself out to the fundies and stick to his old center-right positions. The time of the Religious Right's domination of American politics needs to come to an end, and if we can show their more moderate colleagues just how bad they really are I think there's a solid chance that they'll kick the monkey off of their back for good.
    • These edits were most likely done by one person acting independently. The federal government has more than 1.8 million civilian employees, so you can imagine a few may do questionable things on their own. This one act doesn't prove "the DOJ has demonstrably been involved in a systematic effort to rewrite history." Have a drink and relax.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      I think the real story here isn't that Wikipedia has temporarily suspended the DOJ from article edits. The real story, at least to me, is that the DOJ has demonstrably been involved in a systematic effort to rewrite history. Many of us have been suspecting that the administration was doing that, but this is the kind of damning evidence that we've been looking for.

      I don't see these attacks being "systematic" in nature. If they really wanted to "rewrite history" they'd do a much better job of things; they have vast resources and could easily access any one of thousands of IP ranges worldwide. Furthermore, such a campaign presupposes that Wikipedia is some sort of authoritative place for recording History, which it's not. This is just some random partisan hacks in the DoJ goofing off (whether during work hours or over lunch or after-hours has not been established, th

  • I'm somewhat mystified at the DoJ behaviour. They are tasked with enforcing US federal law, and have been granted extraordinary powers to do so. Whatsa matter? Men with heavy guns and judicial immunity isn't enough? :)

    The DoJ (and all govt entities) are creations of law,NOT any sort of corporation or moral person and are not entitled to any sort of opinion. Any expression of opinion seriously undermines the democratic process since it generally favors incumbents.

    There is a clear line between answering

  • I would have thought that technically, the DOJ can kick Wikipedia's ass on this one, if they were serious enough about it. Are we going to reach the stage where Wikipedia has to roll over or find some kind of safe haven for its servers, a la Pirate Bay?

    Maybe there's a market for some small country to become a haven for unpopular websites - I kind of internet equivalent of the Cayman Islands or Monte Carlo.

    Of course, if Wikipedia did have to do that, the first amendment is basically busted.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      I would have thought that technically, the DOJ can kick Wikipedia's ass on this one, if they were serious enough about it. Are we going to reach the stage where Wikipedia has to roll over or find some kind of safe haven for its servers, a la Pirate Bay?

      No, since the Wikipedia-editing was probably some random doofuses in the employ of the DOJ in some manner or other just coming over to edit it during lunch / while slacking off and avoiding work, and is likely not part of any concerted campaign of (dis)information.

  • Maybe the DoJ and all other government agencies should be permanently banned. Not as a punishment, but as a matter of appropriateness. Think of the recent upset when it was discovered that the "military analyst" on most news shows was just a Pentagon mouthpiece. [slashdot.org] Why was that bad? Because in order for a democracy to function well, the people need access to clear unbiased information. While most everyone knows that various News programs have a slant, Wikipedia wants to (and should continue to) maintain as bal
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)
      Original Replica wrote, "...the people need access to clear unbiased information."

      Only in the math world can information be unbiased. In any other area, the information is going to be discolored with bias, even if it is not intended and worse when it is.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      Think of the recent upset when it was discovered that the "military analyst" on most news shows was just a Pentagon mouthpiece.

      Sand in my vagina? It's more likely than you think.

      Seriously. The story there is not the analysts were biased, but that the bias was explicitly directed from the inside. Think of the former-military "experts" like the star witness in a mob trial.

      Why would the prosecution call as a witness a former mobster? There's the credibility issue--hey, the guy was in the mob. There

      • by hachete (473378)
        I'd rather have the govt in the tent and pissing out than outside the tent and pissing in ... Seriously, domain names should be clearly attached to edits, people named, and NO ANONYMOUS editing. Just like the article says. At least then we'd have a fair chance of detecting bias, changing the really biased information etc etc.
  • Wikipedia -- the encyclopedia anyone can edit... as long as Honest Jimbo and his Admin Regime agrees with you. All else is vandalism and must be dealt with harshly.

    Also, Wikipedia recently got a grant from the Sloan Foundation. On the board of the Sloan Foundation are several General Motors execs. So... hands up anyone who is naive enough to think that Wikipedia's General Motors pages will be 100% POV.

    4 legs good, 2 legs better.
    • by owlnation (858981)
      damn... too fast with the submit button - I meant "Sloane Foundation" and "NPOV", but I guess that's obvious.

      The Sloane Foundation being only one recent example of a potential conflict and lack of transparency in Jimmy's and Wikipedia's dealings.

      And always worth mentioning -- there's STILL no accepted definition of "Vandalism". Wikipedia Admins use it the way "terrorism" is used by Fox News. This is easily abused and most certainly not to be trusted. Banning IPs is a disgraceful and disgusting practi
      • Wikipedia does not, and should not, respect your freedom of speech. It is not a government entity, so I don't know what has mislead you into thinking it should. They don't have any more obligation to allow you access to their services than the local car wash does. "Freedom" means no one interferes with you, it doesn't mean you force other people to accommodate you.
  • The Department of Justice has almost 130,000 employees, and as much as some conspiracy theorists would like to believe otherwise, I seriously doubt that they're able to keep track of the individual actions of every single one of them. As even the article has pointed out, these questionable edits are most likely the action of an individual employee making edits on their lunch break, a personal effort instead of an organized one. If this were a coordinated and malicious conspiracy by the government, don't y
  • Wikipedia can take this as a compliment. The wiki can be useful or dubious, but it appears to be playing an important role in this new information age. I fully welcome the gubment to make use these tools, since the enemy already is.
  • The Reg did a good job of summarizing the issue. The Slashdot "article" does not.

    The main dispute regarding CAMERA's lobbying campaign is summarized on Wikipedia. [wikipedia.org] That effort did not involve DoJ. (CAMERA, the "Committee for Accuracy in Middle-East Reporting", is an advocacy organization for Israel. CAMERA sometimes claims to be neutral, but even the Israeli press says they're pro-Israel.)

    After the CAMERA lobbying effort had been detected, and edits related to CAMERA were being closly scrutinized, so

  • you people bitch about fox news, but what i'm seeing from /. these days is worse.

    wikipedia can't "overrule" the DOJ since it's their own fucking website. who is going to rule against them, santa claus? maybe Elvis?

    how about we try dropping the sensationalist headlines for a day ok.

  • They're taking a big risk here, going up against the DoJ. After all, the number of Departments of Justice has tripled in the past six months.

What the world *really* needs is a good Automatic Bicycle Sharpener.

Working...