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Twitter Government United States Wikipedia

Bot Tweets Anonymous Wikipedia Edits From Capitol Hill 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the noting-the-changes dept.
mpicpp writes about a new Twitter bot that reports all of the anonymous Wikipedia edits being made from the US Senate and House of Representatives. Ed Summers, an open source Web developer, recently saw a friend tweet about Parliament WikiEdits, a UK Twitter "bot" that watched for anonymous Wikipedia edits coming from within the British Parliament's internal networks. Summers was immediately inspired to do the same thing for the US Congress. "The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool," Summers wrote in his personal blog. "So using my experience on a previous side project [Wikistream, a Web application that watches Wikipedia editing activity], I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges and tweets them." The stream for the bot, @congressedits, went live a day later, and it now provides real-time tweets when anonymous edits of Wikipedia pages are made. Summers also posted the code to GitHub so that others interested in creating similar Twitter bots can riff on his work.
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Bot Tweets Anonymous Wikipedia Edits From Capitol Hill

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  • by Assmasher (456699) on Monday July 14, 2014 @08:07AM (#47447651) Journal

    ...for when they start anonymizing... ;)

  • GitHub link (Score:5, Informative)

    by worf_mo (193770) on Monday July 14, 2014 @08:19AM (#47447673)

    In case you don't want to wade through the article, the source code is at https://github.com/edsu/anon [github.com]

  • by Andreas Kolbe (2591067) on Monday July 14, 2014 @08:28AM (#47447701)
    @parliamentedits, @wikiAssemblee, @gccaedits and @RiksdagWikiEdit Twitter accounts have been the set up to do the same for the UK, France, Canada and Sweden.

    One thing to remember here is that most of these edits are probably made by junior IT staff rather than elected representatives (recall the recent Hillsborough case [telegraph.co.uk] in the UK).
    • Not to forget Norway ... http://boingboing.net/2014/07/... [boingboing.net]
    • One thing to remember here is that most of these edits are probably made by junior IT staff

      It doesn't matter who makes them, the only thing that matters is the reason.

      • A prominent reason is probably boredom in the lunch break.
      • by SpzToid (869795)

        The few that I checked out, were all clarifying legitimate typos. This is an excellent tool, to be able to monitor such, with precision like this. If only we could get this tool into OpenSSL or some derivative of OpenSSL, etc., somehow.

        FWIW, this is the first useful thing I've personally seen Twitter used for. But like everything I see in Twitter, there is redundancy in plained old, un-walled-garden rss publishing, (with no 140K limit!)

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          FWIW, this is the first useful thing I've personally seen Twitter used for.

          You got a problem with food tweets?

          [note: the first time I typed the above, I mis-typed it as "foot tweets" which sound much more interesting]

        • by NoKaOi (1415755)

          The few that I checked out, were all clarifying legitimate typos.

          Looks like there are several of those. But then there's the one about a radio host saying he's a disinformation agent of the Kremlin. Or the tea bagger that had a paragraph added with wording that sounds like it's from a campaign pamphlet (rather than facts about what his platforms are).

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:20AM (#47448331)

      One thing to remember here is that most of these edits are probably made by junior IT staff rather than elected representatives

      I can't speak for the others you've listed, but these Capitol Hill edits almost exclusively affect articles on sitting members and those on politically contentious topics. If it really is by "junior IT staff," then it's more likely that they're doing it under orders from their higher-ups rather than wasting office hours on topics they're personally interested in.

      • Well, the latest edit tweeted [twitter.com] by @congressedits for example is this one [wikipedia.org], inserting the following into David Icke's biography: "He is also a disinformation agent funded by the [[Pleiadians]]." That's just someone wasting their and everyone else's time. That's not to say there haven't been edits on politically contentious topics from gov't IP addresses; there most certainly have, and that's why these Twitter accounts are a good idea. The downside is that long-term, they will drive this sort of editing undergr
      • by mrbester (200927)

        Except that there's a bunch of edits that to pushed that have nothing to do with politics. Like one for a dance movie.

        So while it's good to see the positive spinning, it's also good to see the time wasting on the taxpayers dollar.

      • by dryeo (100693)

        Plausible denialability says that the higher-ups will honestly not know about what the junior staff member is doing, instead they just mention how such and such wiki article is wrong or such.

      • If it really is by "junior IT staff," then it's more likely that they're doing it under orders from their higher-ups rather than wasting office hours on topics they're personally interested in.

        I work at a major US Air Force base as a civilian in a middle level management capacity. I edit Wikipedia "articles" related to the military several times a week from work (possibly on my lunch hour, it's a grey area).

        Does this mean I'm editing on the orders of my superiors?

        • by HiThere (15173)

          No. But it *does* mean that in contentious areas your edits should not be as trusted as those of a possibly unbiased person. (OTOH, do note the "possibly unbiased". You are guaranteed to be biased, as well as informed. It's not clear what your biases are, or whether you will intentionally shade the truth because of them. But many will.

          If you consider that you are willing to stand behind your edits, get an account.

          • If you consider that you are willing to stand behind your edits, get an account.

            I have an account. I have for the last 10 years. But often times I don't feel like being abused by editors / admin with "WP:OWN" and God Syndrome issues.

            • by HiThere (15173)

              Yeah, I understand your problem. But if you are anonymous from a known-to-be-biased IP range, you can't be as trusted as even ordinary anonymous posters.

              • Yeah, I understand your problem. But if you are anonymous from a known-to-be-biased IP range, you can't be as trusted as even ordinary anonymous posters.

                A government IP range is automatically "known to be biased"? It sounds to me like you have some bias of your own.

    • by pjt33 (739471)

      The UK one which inspired the US one is actually mentioned in the summary, but if you're assuming that 90% of /.ers won't even RTFS you're probably right.

  • by KarlH420 (532043) on Monday July 14, 2014 @08:30AM (#47447707) Homepage
    In other news congressional interns are now encouraged to work from home and on their mobile devices.
  • I applaud the effort to make a bot like this, but from what I understand, most of the Wikipedia edits that are shilling for someone (or something) are done by outside "reputation management" firms. It would probably be interesting to track anonymous and reverted edits to pages for major politicians and see if they can catch some of these firms at work.

    • by matbury (3458347)

      That's easy enough to do: create an account on Wikipedia.org and "watch" those pages.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday July 14, 2014 @09:29AM (#47447969) Homepage

    I started browsing it looking for anything juicy. The edits seem to be small, good quality, mostly political edits. They look like interns with an interest in politics, history, and dance movies. I'd love to have an app like this for my employer's corporate network, just to see what people here do (if anything).

    Here are the changes I've seen thus far:
    lawyer --> attorney
    remove "cold war" from some 18th century guy
    change someone from democrat to independent
    however --> then
    $ --> dollars
    Jiang Jiemin --> Zhou Jiping
    [[ --> ]]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Competent edits? Not on my watch! [revert]

    • by cultiv8 (1660093) on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:00AM (#47448179) Homepage
      And then there's this edit added to Lyndon LaRouche's page:

      He is also a disinformation agent funded by the Kremlin.

      Source [twitter.com]

      • by zyxwvutsr (542520)
        Similar addition to the Alex Jones page [wikipedia.org]:

        Following his appearances on Russia Today, there were allegations that he was a disinformation agent with ties to the Kremlin.

    • by Binestar (28861) on Monday July 14, 2014 @10:09AM (#47448243) Homepage

      I agree in principle, but you missed the context and a bit on completeness on the lawyer -> attorney edit.

      It was actually "Corporate Lawyer" -> "Attorney", which has a different feel to it.

      • by sjf (3790)

        Exactly. Moreover it was in the bio of a Congressman. For some voters "lawyer" is a pretty damning word, "Attorney," less so. But "Corporate Lawyer," is synonymous with "Corporate Shill."

    • I started browsing it looking for anything juicy. The edits seem to be small, good quality, mostly political edits. They look like interns with an interest in politics, history...

      Huh. Competent information provided by people who actually might know something about a topic. Who would've guessed?

      This is one of the main issues with Wikipedia -- it depends on knowledgeable editors, but those who know the most about a topic are often barred (or at least discouraged) from sharing their knowledge, which might be branded "original research" or (as in this case) automatically assumed to be suspicious or potentially made only in self-interest.

      The problem here is NOT contributions from e

      • Sounds a bit like Pending Changes [wikipedia.org] (installed on the German, Polish and some other Wikipedias, but not on the English one). This requires all IP edits to be approved by a "trusted" editor. Not a perfect system, but better than what is in place now.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Yeah, that looks like spin management. Now if they's moved it's position to "allegedly each year" I would have considered it acceptably parsimonious reasoning. After all, I only know that it meets occasionally, I don't know that it actually does meet yearly. Or if it had said "allegedly the most powerful men", I would have found that acceptable. AFAIK nobody from either the Chinese or Russian government attends. It seems to be mainly a US/European group.

  • Great idea. What the politicians will now do is use remote IPs to hide their anonymous behavior however that can then be tracked by watching the aggregate behavior, the meta data of Wiki. This will in turn reveal the lying scumbags. NSA will drool at this tool.

  • ...is from kneejerk partisan/anti-government types who automatically revert every change reported by his bot, because of course politicians are always wrong. For an example, see https://en.wikipedia.org/w/ind... [wikipedia.org] and the history changes that follow.

    • by operagost (62405)

      anti-government types

      The IP address these changes were coming from was congressional so, no.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        anti-government types

        The IP address these changes were coming from was congressional so, no.

        I'm pretty sure it can be argued that at least one house of Congress is currently being run by anti-government types, so yes.

  • Many people don't seem to realise that by editing Wikipedia anonymously, you're giving away your IP address for everyone to see. I'd expected a comment to that effect here but didn't, so I'll be the first to post it.

    In that sense, editing with a registered account is much more anonymous. Only some Wikipedia staff members can look up your IP address, so edits from Capitol Hill using an account won't be picked up by this twitter bot. Also, those staff members (should) have to follow procedures before they can

  • by X0563511 (793323)

    I don't think this word means what you think it means.

  • I'm not sure this is a bad thing... but if it is then it's too close to election day for the US House to get away with it.

  • You would think people that lie for a living wouldn't be so damn blatant. https://twitter.com/congressed... [twitter.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/w/inde... [wikipedia.org]

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