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The Internet Censorship

Wikipedia Infiltrated by Intelligence Agents? 428

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 ( 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 [] - A workout plan for beginners.
  • 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 br00tus ( 528477 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:40PM (#20016903)
    Here is an edit by someone coming from the IP [] 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 (the IP now resolves to a different CENTCOM host, 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 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 HexRei ( 515117 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:08PM (#20017159)
    Wow, I was just banned from editing by Crum375 for posting a question to her talk page, asking if she was Linda Mack/Sarah McEwan and part of an intelligence agency. I guess Crum375 doesn't feel that is relevant to an editor's NPOV considerations so my reason for banning was "Harassment and attempted outing of a fellow editor".

    It might qualify as harassment if it wasn't totally relevant to her NPOV and should be known by fellow editors but as far as I can find, "attempted outing of a fellow editor" isn't even in the policy guidelines. I really do believe this is just a sockpuppet of hers.
  • Re:Transparency (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Richard Steiner ( 1585 ) <> 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, Interesting)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> 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.
  • by ucla74 ( 1093323 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:14PM (#20017789)
    Someone explain to me (or to all of us) why it's perceived worse to have a purported "intelligence agent" (isn't that what a Google spider is?) write some BS on Wikipedia, than it is for some anonymous bozo with a personal bias to write the same BS?

    After all, if someone's relying on Wikipedia as an unimpeachable source (and way too many "netizens"--most of whom should know a helluva lot better, do so) then they do so at their peril.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:28PM (#20017923)

    How is propaganda from any democratic government ever legal?

    By not being outlawed under the laws of that government.

    Proper decision-making in a democracy requires access to the truth.

    Proper decision-making, period, requires access to the truth. Which is why propaganda has always been important in war: denying the enemy the ability to make decisions well. Of course, domestic propaganda by a regime is undesirable from a democratic perspective. And, in the modern age where information is fairly globalized, its very hard to engage in propaganda directed at an enemy without simultaneously engaging in domestic propaganda.
  • 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.
  • Re:Transparency (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sepluv ( 641107 ) <> on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:59PM (#20018235)

    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.
  • To say that "information once outed can't be put back in a bottle" is misleading. Yes, obviously the damage Daniel Brandt did here cannot be undone.

    But on the other hand, the propagation to OhMyNews and subsequently to Slashdot is a substantial escelation of the damage. And I question the editorial wisdom of both sites in deciding to be complicit in spreading the information.

    Ironically, this is something Wikipedia is increasingly getting better about - deciding that person X is primarily a private citizen, and that we just don't need to be the people who come up as the first Google hit on their name. It doesn't put the information back in the bottle, but it doesn't turn the bottle upside down and shake it to see if there's a little more we can wring out of it either.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:41PM (#20018613)
    Hi Jimbo,

    "This story is demented and broken on so many levels, it is quite difficult to know where to begin, even."

    Why don't you start with the basics then?
    Is SlimVirgin Linda Mack?
    Does she enjoy vastly more power than most admins?
    Does her clique suppress legitimate editors on WP?
    Does she get paid by someone else to edit WP?

    "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."

    EssJay was a 'private person' you supported even after it was clear he lied about everything all the time. How is this time supposed to be different?

    "Slashdot, you have been trolled."

    Translated: "I don't like it when wikipedia is examined under a light. Make it stop. Make it stop.

    P.S. How's that situation with Jeff Merkey aka "the standard of truthiness" working out for you Jimbo?
  • by Anon1234 ( 1133933 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:06PM (#20018801)
    I respectfully disagree with you.

    SlimVirgin along Jayjg, Crum375, Mantimoreland and a few others do effectively operate as a powerful and unaccountable clique on Wikipedia controlling the content of numerous articles and quickly banishing and/or abusing those that disagree with them. SlimVirgin is a very abuse character, although she is also great at playing the victim and ingratiating herself with those who hold power.

    There is an essay I wrote about the tactics that they use to effectively control articles on Wikipedia here:
    -> Cabals on Wikipedia: Prerequisites, Characteristics and Tactics of Effective Partisan Groups []

    Another honest account of the situation is provided on this web page, also written by experienced long-time Wikipedians:
    -> WikiTruth.Org: SlimVirgin []

    There is an elite class on Wikipedia that colludes together and is effectively unaccountable. You can continue to ignore this issue but it isn't about to go away, its just going to grow.
  • by Ayanami Rei ( 621112 ) * <> on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:22PM (#20018901) Journal =17&l=0&m=h&v=2 []

    Check out the two CIA buildings in the center.

    Now check their edit histories...
  • by georgewilliamherbert ( 211790 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:44PM (#20019051)
    You're suggesting that questions a la "So have you stopped beating your wife yet?" are appropriate for civil discourse.

    They aren't. And if you think otherwise, you're going to go through life being kicked out of places that insist on people playing at least a little nice with each other.

    If you troll people like that, you're gone. And you should be.
  • 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 [], 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by makomk ( 752139 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @07:44AM (#20021897) Journal
    How optimistic of you. The thing is, removing allegations that a Wikipedia editor is a government spy (whether they're true or not) is a permitted use of oversight powers (since it's removing private information).
  • Re:Transparency (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dtobias ( 262347 ) <> on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:57AM (#20022285) Homepage
    This [] is an interesting example where Slim, and a few of her clique buddies, ganged up on somebody who was complaining about a possible image copyright violation. Rather than give any attention to the substance of the complaint (which apparently had validity, since the image was ultimately deleted), Slim and her friends kept character-assassinating the complainant, including attempting to use guilt by association based on other websites and IRC rooms he was in, a tactic specifically prohibited by the Wikipedia "No Personal Attacks" policy. In a major show of irony, they also accused him of violating that very same policy, and of trying to gang up on Slim. The clique seems to be very quick to accuse others of doing the stuff they do themselves all the time.

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