How Republicans, Democrats, and Diebold fix Wikipedia

Among the anonymous edits to Wikipedia uncovered by a fantastic new tool: Republicans change the "occupation" of Iraq to its "liberation."

Published August 15, 2007 8:06PM (EDT)

Wired News' John Borland had quite a fun story yesterday about a new tool to track down folks who are anonymously editing articles in Wikipedia.

A CalTech grad student named Virgil Griffith developed the tool, called Wikipedia Scanner, after hearing about congressional aides who were fixing their bosses' WP entries. The service is a database of all anonymous edits to Wikipedia organized according to the Internet addresses of well-known groups: Want to know what people with Democratic National Committee IP addresses were doing on Wikipedia? Go here. (Among other things, such folks were calling Rush Limbaugh a "racist" and a "jerkoff.") Or check out the Republican Party's record, including this alteration of the U.S. "occupying" Iraq to our "liberating" it. [Note: Direct links to Wikipedia Scanner don't seem to be working right now; that's likely because everyone online is checking it out.]

Among the many other organizations whose edits you can track are Diebold, the faulty voting-machine company; Wal-Mart; ExxonMobil; Fox News; The New York Times; and Al Jazeera.

Wired's Threat Level blog is running a search for the most shameful self-promoting Wikipedia edits uncovered by the new tool. The leading contender, now, is Diebold's deletions of criticisms of its voting technology -- but if you unearth any yourself, be sure to let me (and Threat Level) know.

Correction: I originally called Griffith an MIT grad student; he is actually a student at Cal Tech.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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