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Wikipedia Entries 'Cleaned' By Political Staffers

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the don't-they-have-better-things-to-do? dept.

The Internet 720

worb writes "According to the Lowell Sun, U.S. Rep Marty Meehan's staff has been heavily editing his Wikipedia bio, among other things removing criticisms. In total, more than one thousand Wikipedia edits in various articles have been traced back to congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six months."

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Wikipedians expose the "congressional edits" (5, Interesting)

worb (935866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594275)

You can have a look at how some of them were revealed in the talk page for rep. Marty Meehan (D) [wikipedia.org] . There's even a big list of entries edited by a specific IP address, with the comment:

"These edits range from benificial and informative to libelous and childish."

Marty Meehan on house.gov. (1, Informative)

worb (935866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594298)

Oh, and here's Meehan's page on house.gov [house.gov] .

Re:Wikipedians expose the "congressional edits" (5, Insightful)

abh (22332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594307)

> "These edits range from benificial and informative to libelous and childish."

That pretty much sums up Wikipedia

Re:Wikipedians expose the "congressional edits" (5, Insightful)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594372)

That pretty much sums up our house of represenatives.

(me thinks its just an underlying meme of the human condition)

Re:Wikipedians expose the "congressional edits" (3, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594543)

Yeah, yeah, but is there life beyond snarky post-modernist cynicism?
Not so much you, Jeff; the whole modern age seems just a little too pouty over the fact that the Information Age brought more ambiguity than transparency.

Re:Wikipedians expose the "congressional edits" (1, Insightful)

Cl1mh4224rd (265427) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594475)

That pretty much sums up Wikipedia
Sucks when reality creeps into our fantasy realm, doesn't it?

Re:Wikipedians expose the "congressional edits" (0)

starwed (735423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594388)

Hopefully, this can be dealt with by an existing framework; the law. It might be optimism on my part, but it seems that this would violate some sort of law.

Propaganda is... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594554)

... to the Democrap what mother's milk is to the child...

Those damn Republicans, always censoring the truth (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594278)

Oh wait... he's a Democrat.

Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (1, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594325)

Democrats and Republicans are basically the same today. The Republicans don't represent conservatives, and the Democrats don't represent liberals. They represent the various corporations and industries of America, or the best interests of foreign nations. With perhaps the exception of Ron Paul, they do not stand for the people of America. They are both morally deficient, and it's quite obvious to anyone who sees the American system as it truly is that both parties participate in the same sort of nonsense.

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (5, Funny)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594384)

(Edited Sunday January 29, 03:26PM by RonPaul)

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (2, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594413)

I know you're joking, but you should go look into what Ron Paul has written, especially if you are an American. Notice how vastly different his thoughts are compared with those of the other politicians in the US today. It'd be a good exercise for any American to do. It's the closest you'll get to what America truly stands for.

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (-1, Flamebait)

ortcutt (711694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594410)

Hmm. Ron Paul stands for the people of America? He supports the reintroduction of the gold standard for christ sake. If you love Ron Paul, that's great, but don't pretend like you speak for the American people generally.

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (2, Informative)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594468)

Ron Paul stands for the people of America? He supports the reintroduction of the gold standard....
Having the dollar backed by gold keeps the government from raping our currency. In other words, having a gold standard means the money that the government prints has to be redeemable for something of value. Fiat money is the easiest way for the government to manipulate the economy, and the Feds seem to be doing a really good job of it, too.

Hell, the government shouldn't even be printing money, whether backed by precious metals or not, since the Constitution allows it to coin money:
The Congress shall have power....
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
But we haven't followed that "...damned piece of paper" in over 130 years, so why should we start now?

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (3, Informative)

benzapp (464105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594474)

He supports the reintroduction of the gold standard for christ sake.

And the financial system based on usury we have today is better?

Most Americans, if they had any clue how the federal reserve works, would be absolutely horrified. That the value of their money is not decided by Congress, even though the constitution explicitly grants them that right, is even more outrageous.

Mod this OFF-TOPIC . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594431)

WTF does this have to do with the story? The story is about abuse of Wikipedia, not repsonsiveness of politicians to the people's needs.

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (0, Offtopic)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594508)

Democrats and Republicans are basically the same today.

Only if unimportant issues like abortion, foreign policy, ANWR/energy policy, taxes, religion and civil liberties don't matter to you.

  • Pro choice or pro life? Then it matters!
  • Pro fossil fuels or pro new technology? Then it matters!
  • Pro balanced budget or deficits don't mean anything? Then it matters!
  • Prayer and ID in schools or science and separation of Church and State? Then it matters!

I'm so sick of hearing this. Congrats to all the people who thought this and didn't come out to vote for Gore or Kerry. Or swallowed Nader's BS hook, line and sinker. You've handed the Federal judiciary to the far-right for the next few decades. You've alienated the rest of the World. You've committed American troops to be an occupying power in a hostile country with no foreseeable way out that doesn't create another theocracy.

No difference between the parties? Give me a fscking break.

Oh and if you think the Democrats are corporate sell outs or the Republicans don't represent true conservatism -- then why don't you register for whichever party and get off your lazy ass and vote in primaries? Or run for office? I guess it's much more productive to whine on /.

Re:Democrats, Republicans: the same thing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594567)

Pro balanced budget or deficits don't mean anything? Then it matters!

Excuse me? Which party is for a balanced budget? Both parties are for uncontrolled pork, they only differ in who they think should pay for it.

Re:Those damn Republicans, always censoring the tr (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594332)

"Bush lied, Cindy cried. On cue." Oh wait. "Teddy Kennedy was laughing and joshing with his friends before donning the neck brace and going before the cameras near Chappaquiddick pond." No, waitaminnit I'll get this right: "Dick American-soldiers-are-Nazis Durbin said that he is too a good Christian, just as he was yelling 'Pull!' and blazing away at the suddenly soaring frozen embryo."

Fucking Democrats.

Mudslinging (4, Interesting)

BMIComp (87596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594281)

This isn't as bad as some profane articles I found some congressional aides/staffers writing about each other... which was confirmed by their senate IP addresses...

Re:Mudslinging (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594353)

If that's true, they could be held guilty for libel.

Given the US political system, I think that if it were true and able to be proven in a court of law, the subjects of the "profane articles" would have legally retalliated by this point...

Re:Mudslinging (1)

Quixotic Raindrop (443129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594452)

Except that Public Figures, which might include the staff of MOC, are generally held to a much higher burden of proof in libel/slander cases, including proving that the defendant had "actual malice" and that the statements were totally false. Many defamation cases by "Public Figures" fail early in litigation because of this very high burden, and so a lack of suits, or successful ones anyway, is in no way an indicator of whether these edits occured or not.

Re:Mudslinging (1)

BMIComp (87596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594358)

Actually, I just looked at the edits again, and it looks like they were senate pages.

Here is one of the edits [wikipedia.org]

It's the done thing. (5, Insightful)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594283)

Wikipedia is open for potential abuses like these, but then again Wiki has always been a good reflection of society, and this is precisely what political agents do with the rest of society/PR outlets.

Re:It's the done thing. (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594472)

So true. Unlike with a wiki, though, society doesn't have a button to rollback to a previous version.

Re:Very true (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594531)


And is it really any surprise that a congressman was outed as a liar? Isn't that the one thing that politicians do best?

Just the same, I am satisfied not only that this issue came to light, but that, at least with Wikipedia, there is a record of it. That strange sensation Vogel is dealing with- I know it's very rare in political circles, but I think it's referred to everywhere else as accountability.

Sue them under DMCA ! (-1, Redundant)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594292)

Sue them under DMCA !

sue them under the same Act they passed blindly.

Would teach them a lesson and give "bubba" some good time in prison.

Re:Sue them under DMCA ! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594316)

Yeah! Who cares if the DMCA has absolutely nothing to do with this? Or if civil suits don't lead to prison time? Or if you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about?

Always a risk... (4, Insightful)

neocon (580579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594295)

Hasn't the risk of Wikipedia always been that stories were most likely to be updated by people who are interested in them -- and people who have an interest in them are likely to be the most interested of all?

In short, this is another example of the old saw: ``Wikipedia is like a public toilet -- when you need it, you're sure glad it's there, but you never know who used it last.''

It's easy to see the edits. (4, Informative)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594390)

But you do know who used it last, and what specifically they changed. It's extremely easy to compare different versions of the same article. You can even be shown exactly what text differs between the two, for instance.

So rather than suggesting it's a flaw that anyone can change the most recent copy of the information, we need to realize that it's beneficial that we can see past edits, and who performed them.

Indeed, if we see a trend of certain information being edited out of articles about Republicans, it could be quite safe to assume the information that was removed is completely valid, and is being removed because it is the unfortunate truth. The same would go for the Democrats, or basically any other group, for instance. At least, however, we can see what was changed, and what it was changed from. That's just as beneficial as the information itself.

Re:It's easy to see the edits. (2, Insightful)

pomo monster (873962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594403)

You have time to dig through page histories and whatnot? I'd rather just go consult a source I already trust.

That said, I do use Wikipedia quite a bit... but only because I have the time to waste.

Who said getting reliable information was easy? (4, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594434)

Who ever said that getting the whole picture was easy or quick? It's your whole attitude of consulting some other "trusted" source, rather than investigating the matter on your own, which leads to people being easily manipulated.

Unfortunately, that happened to many Americans during the run-up to the ongoing war in Iraq. Most Americans didn't investigate the claims made by politicians and the media, and thus were ignorant to the fact that they were being seriously mislead.

Re:Who said getting reliable information was easy? (1)

pomo monster (873962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594469)

Yes. But I'm very choosy about whom I trust. At some point, I figure, you're going to have to trust somebody for everything you didn't witness personally, so it's worth it to take the time to invest yourself in sources that are (1) consistent and (2) reliable. Under neither of those criteria, I'm afraid, does Wikipedia rate very highly.

Re:Who said getting reliable information was easy? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594540)

lol, I thought your name was "Porno Monster!"

Re:Who said getting reliable information was easy? (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594553)

Personally, I only trust my ability to not trust.

Re:It's easy to see the edits. (5, Interesting)

neocon (580579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594466)

But you do know who used it last, and what specifically they changed. It's extremely easy to compare different versions of the same article. You can even be shown exactly what text differs between the two, for instance.

Seeing that it was used before you doesn't tell you anything useful about who the person was who did the editing (unless their nick or IP is one you recognize as someone you know outside of Wikipedia).

In real life, when we see a bunch of conflicting claims about something, we look at those speaking, and ask questions such as:

  • Is the speaker likely to have knowledge of the matter they are discussing?
  • Is the speaker someone whom we generally trust to be of sound mind?
  • Does the speaker have a vested interest in our believing one thing or another?

In Wikipedia (as in Slashdot -- but no one is claiming Slashdot's comment section is a valuable source of unbiased reference information) this information is not available. Instead, we get a bunch of conflicting quasi-anonymous edits, and no information to help us decide which are more valid.

Re:It's easy to see the edits. (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594509)

To me, the problem is that wikipedia is presented in "traditional mode" where the user assumes that the current article to be the best of the best, like traditional encyclopedias.

I think wikipedia would be better understood, and therefore a better tool, if it were presented as multiple concurrent articles, instead of the latest winner of a revision war posing as a proper encyclopedia entry.

Some physics entry might have one branch, whereas a controversial subject like abortion would have multiple branches.

The trick is to present the branches to the user so that they understand immediately that there is contention. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to think that Wikipedia should be questionable, since it does *look* like a traditional encyclopedia.

Yes, I am aware that there are mistakes in traditional encyclopedias. However, you are certainly not going to find flames and 0-day trolls in Brittanica. Wikipedia's current interface does a poor job of helping non-technical users understand this.

not just him.... (5, Informative)

Jarwulf (530523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594302)

they've been busy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:143.231.249.141 [wikipedia.org]

Re:not just him.... (5, Interesting)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594346)

Busy, but banned :) "This IP has been blocked It belongs to Information Systems, U.S. House of Representatives Has vandalised many times." Looks like some pretty serious stuff they're trying to get away with, if you take a look at the list

Re:not just him.... (5, Interesting)

netsharc (195805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594453)

What a funny reflection of the world (or at least the US) today; politicians meddle with something that belongs to the public, making it worse, using it to their own advantage, and the public has to kick them out.

If only that can work for the real senate and government and not just the senate's IP address.

At least the errors are being caught. (4, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594354)

As flawed as the Wikipedia system might be, at least it is known to all what sort of errors are being made.

Anyone with an ounce of intelligence could use the list you posted a link to to their advantage. Chances are that if Republicans are adding material to an article, such information is likely a lie. Likewise, if they're removing information, it is probably truthful information they wish to hide from the public. Likewise for the Democrats.

The system works! (2, Insightful)

nigels (264332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594433)

> As flawed as the Wikipedia system might be...

I don't see the the rationale for being critical
of Wikipedia due to this political manipulation.

In fact, I think it's a strong feature of
Wikipedia that the changelog is stored, and
provides some kind of papertrail, providing
far more transparency and accountability than
other forms of media/information.

In a sense, nothing can ever be deleted from
Wikipedia, merely removed from the main branch.

Re:At least the errors are being caught. (1)

pomo monster (873962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594498)

"At least the errors are being caught[,] as flawed as the ... system might be."

Isn't that the same argument made by proponents of capital punishment in the American justice system?

Re:At least the errors are being caught. (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594580)

We're clearly talking about different kinds of errors. In the case of Wikipedia, any errors are easily remedied. As of now, it is not possible to bring to life somebody who was wrongly executed. Wikipedia errors can be reversed; execution errors cannot.

Wikipedia need a serious fix! (2, Insightful)

Oldsmobile (930596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594304)

Don't get me wrong, I think Wikipedia is a good idea, I use it all the time to find out tidbits of information on various subjects.

Yet Wikipedia is seriously flawed! I really wish Wikipedia could be used as an academic reference. I really wish the edit wars would stop. I really wish I could truly trust the information posted there. I really wish the POV could be fixed so that various viewpoints could be accurately and fairly be included.

It could be done. The current system is just too open for the kind of abuse described in the article.

Re:Wikipedia need a serious fix! (5, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594380)

Actually, for technical issues Wikipedia articles seem to be ok -- people who write articles are people who care, and thus they usually have reasonable expertise. As a mathematician I can say that the Math articles are quite reasonable. Still can replace MathWorld [wolfram.com] , but if you need a definition you can look it up. Physics articles are not quite as good, mostly because of popular influences (tend to discuss popular controversies), but are rather reliable. Politics is a different kettle of fish -- because people have a stake and are rather more biased.

Re:Wikipedia need a serious fix! (1)

zantolak (701554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594389)

I see people mentioning this all the time. "The CURRENT SYSTEM is FLAWED, it needs to be CHANGED!" But I rarely see anyone offering actual advice on how to do it, at least not with reverting to some kind of Nupedia-like system that would grind all progress to a halt. Seriously, if people think it's that bad, why aren't they offering solutions? If you're going to pan a service that hundreds of thousands of people use daily, at least try to come up with something better.

Re:Wikipedia need a serious fix! (5, Insightful)

Bob of Dole (453013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594397)

If it can be done, do it. No, really. Wikipedia's content (ALL OF IT) is under a license that lets you use it as long as you still retain the attribution to wikipedia.
The software it runs on is free, the content is free, all you have to do it duplicate it and then apply whatever silly editing rules you think will fix the problems with wikipedia.

Hell, someone has even written a tutorial on setting up your own copy of wikipedia. [wikinerds.org]
Do that, and you can edit it however you want, with whatever rules you want. It'll be just like wikipedia, but you can change the rules!
Oh, but you won't have wikipedia's legion of editors! Your copy won't really as good as wikipedia without that, will it?
Oh, wait. Maybe that's why wikipedia is as big as it is... because of the editing rules! Many other rules have been tried. Wikipedia is as big as it is because THESE RULES WORK. But go ahead and set up a copy with your rules. If it's better than wikipedia, people will use it as much as they use wikipedia now.

But I rather doubt you'll be able to convince the wikipedia community to change the very things that make wikipedia wikipedia, but you're welcome to try. Anyone can edit, after all.
For now, at least. We'll see if that's still true after you explain your amazing scheme to fix wikipedia.

Re:Wikipedia need a serious fix! (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594435)

Wikipedia is spectacular if you want to play tourist in the hard sciences. Curious about Meiosis? (insert joke) - Wondering what the hell feshbach resonance is?

Call me boring, but this is more important and lasting than some idiot ... I mean elected rep ... having an edit war with some other idiot over their 'legacy'. 'Liberals' Vs 'Conservatives' is next centurys' trivia. Frankly the future will be more worried about 20th century pop charts than who took money for what from whom during the reign of George III.

Google + Wikipedia on a cell phone is like handing me a crack pipe.

Re:Wikipedia need a serious fix! (1)

thewiltog (906494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594467)

From my limited experience as a contributor, it depends on how controversial/topical the article is. There are many articles that provide a good introduction to their subject - which is what an encyclopedia should do - which never suffer from this type of editing. However, these never make the headlines. As for using it as an academic reference - most Wikipedia aricles are tertiary sources at best. However, if they're properly referenced, they should lead you back to something that could be used academically.

Re:Wikipedia need a serious fix! (2, Insightful)

zCyl (14362) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594536)

Yet Wikipedia is seriously flawed! I really wish Wikipedia could be used as an academic reference. I really wish the edit wars would stop. I really wish I could truly trust the information posted there. I really wish the POV could be fixed so that various viewpoints could be accurately and fairly be included.

Wikipedia is not a source of truth, it is an index of information, statements, and beliefs, with references to further information. This means it is about as authoritative about truth as searching through Google, but reorganized by topic, and thus providing a different means of accessing information.

The problems with Wikipedia begin with people believing it is accurate, simply because much of it is written in a style that makes it "feel" accurate.

unfortunately (5, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594305)

this is what you have to accept with a democratic ideal like Wikipedia. Much like a real democracy, you might not like what you see, but you have to live with it. Wikipedia is a similar process, except that individuals get a WHOLE LOT more say in the process. And if you bring in guards, who will guard the guards? (and don't say meta-guards, PLEASE!) If this bothers you, do some research, edit the article yourself and play the editing war with that politician's staff.

Re:unfortunately (5, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594367)

No, Wikipedia is more like anarchy, where any one person can shout over anyone else, overwhelming the majority with rhetoric. Any one person can modify any entry on Wikipedia. It has its pros and its cons. Unfortunately this sort of thing where politicians (Scumbag politicians of BOTH extremes) use Wikipedia to mislead voters who might want to research voting records and positions on issues. The ultimate result of this will be that the greatest stregth of Wikipedia - peer editing - will be lost forever, just because a few assholes abuse it for their own personal gain.

With that said: I always try to vote against incumbents.

Quite true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594378)

Though I dare say it's as ironic as fuck-all that the weaknesses in the democratic nature of Wiki are epitomized via our own supposedly democratically elected government.

Re:unfortunately (1)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594387)

this is what you have to accept with a democratic ideal like Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, where the truth has term limits.

Re:unfortunately (2, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594424)

Much like a real democracy, you might not like what you see, but you have to live with it.

And here I thought the point of democracy was just the opposite.

Re:unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594537)

I like how on Wikipedia the feature article never gets locked, and ALWAYS gets replaced by pictures of cocks (way to impress those people new to Wikipedia), but just linking from slashdot or fark is grounds for a lock on the article.

Re:unfortunately (2, Insightful)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594562)

Democracy is often termed the tyranny of the majority. If you don't like what you see, then you can change it... provided the majority of the people don't disagree with you. In which case you're SOL.

Re:unfortunately (1)

jd0g85 (734515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594445)

What ever happened to the "semi-protection" scheme? It seems that this is just the kind of thing it was supposed to provent.

Re:unfortunately (1, Interesting)

humphrm (18130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594471)

The problem with that argument is, while it's true from the perspective of the Wikipedia reader, alternately from the standpoint of a taxpayer, there is some question as to whether paying an elected official's staff to edit their online bio may be illegal. If you are a Massachusetts taxpayer, you are probably paying for his staffers. If his staffers have enough time to ponder his Wikipedia bio, then he's probably overstaffed, and you're paying for it. And, even if you are opposed to that elected official, you have to pay for his staffer to blow sunshine up people's arses in his bio.

Re:unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594497)

Democratic? When is the last time you voted on Wikipedia edits? The last time you helped Meta-Moderate the Wikipedians?

I think you meant to say Anarchistic, and I would change that in your post, but I can't find the "edit this page" link.

Re:unfortunately (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594546)

"And if you bring in guards, who will guard the guards?"

Everyone. Have everyone watch everyone.

Yeah, this is news. (5, Funny)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594306)

Coming up after the break, we'll have the weather, and Tom will present his special report, "Are All Politicians Scumbags?" The answer may surprise you. But first, is your computer rotting your brain? You may be dead and not even know it yet.

--------- (I apologize if this is too high concept. I sick, and my head is floaty. It feels right, but right now I have terrible judgement.)

remember to abbreviate... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594320)

House of Representatives --> HOR which must be pronounced not spelled out --> whore. Also, the best place to pick up a whore in DC is K-street.

That's the power and the weakness of Wikipedia (5, Interesting)

mi (197448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594334)

It can be edited by everybody. Including the "Congressional staffers". Why is it "censorship"?

Re:That's the power and the weakness of Wikipedia (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594383)

It's the censorship of the loudest voice, drowning out all others. A Babel of infinite loudhailers, shouting so many points of view you don't know up from purple any more. The truth is out there - unfortunately you can no longer tell the truth from the spin, the spin from the distortions or the distortions from the downright lies. If Congressional staffers are being paid to remove criticisms, how can you win an edit war against them?

Re:That's the power and the weakness of Wikipedia (4, Insightful)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594437)

By reading the page history, and encouraging other users to do so. I think Wikipedia should have a little notation in the heading that shows the number of edits in the past little while, and allows you to quickly view them - perhaps merged into the same document.

Re:That's the power and the weakness of Wikipedia (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594392)

> It can be edited by everybody. Including the "Congressional staffers". Why is it "censorship"?

Because THEY weren't supposed to edit it, it was for US to bloviate. Yea right. The typical slashdot/DailyKos types think they own the Internet and

The Internet is changing a lot but don't expect the old power structure to simply vanish overnite. If Wikipedia is going to stick to their claim of being open they have to expect people to remove the more nasty bits from their entries.

Would you? (5, Insightful)

Bomarrow1 (903375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594340)

Well. I'm not suprised. But really if you found a page about yourself in the wikipedia full of critisisms you would think about changing them. Really with a world where comments can be changed they probably will be.

Although having people doing this for seems a bit of misuse of resourses.

Could you honsitly say you wouldn't be tempted to change things critisising about you if you could.

With the power to change things to the way one would want them one would.

Very simple solution (4, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594343)

From the Wikipedia entry:
In January 2006, Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, admitted to authorizing a replacement article on Meehan published on Wikipedia, with an approved and sanitized staff-written biography [1] [2]. This ran afoul of internal Wikipedia guidelines [3], and government ethics' rules on the use of employee time.
The simple thing to do: fire Matt Vogel. If the Representative simply turns a blind eye to this sort of activity, then it is indicative of how he feels about ethical questions and what he thinks about the place of informed public debate in a republican form of government.

With Members of Congress like this about information on themselves, is it any wonder nobody there disclosed information on the warrantless wiretaps?

Re:Very simple solution (2, Insightful)

superyanthrax (835242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594423)

If they're going to fire the Chief of Staff of the Congressman for small issues like that, they're going to have to sack the staffs of most congressmen. There are much more important ethical issues going on (i.e. Abramoff) to be worried about Congressmen changing their own Wikipedia entries. Honestly, I don't think it's unethical at all. By Wikipedia's design anybody can change entries, and the Congressmen are people. Besides, it's just an extension of what they do in campaigns to project themselves with a certain image. If you're upset with it, get in an edit war with them and if you lose, that's too bad for you.

Re:Very simple solution (4, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594510)

"If they're going to fire the Chief of Staff of the Congressman for small issues like that, they're going to have to sack the staffs of most congressmen."

Fine by me.

"There are much more important ethical issues going on (i.e. Abramoff) to be worried about Congressmen changing their own Wikipedia entries."

It's a lack of enforcement of the Little Rules that allows violations of the Big Rules to happen. Besides, we're not talking about ejecting Members of Congress (which would involve a vote) but firing a personal staffer, soemthing that is generally left to the discretion of the Representative.

"By Wikipedia's design anybody can change entries,"

Then you are unaware of the rule against editing your own biography? I seem to recall a Wikipedia founder getting in trouble for violating that rule recently...

"Besides, it's just an extension of what they do in campaigns to project themselves with a certain image."

That makes it right?

"If you're upset with it, get in an edit war with them and if you lose, that's too bad for you."

I was under the impression that the ethics rules were there to (among aother things) avoid petty bickerings like this by having an agreed-upon list of "Thou shallt not."

Re:Very simple solution (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594533)

By Wikipedia's design anybody can change entries, and the Congressmen are people. Besides, it's just an extension of what they do in campaigns to project themselves with a certain image. If you're upset with it, get in an edit war with them and if you lose, that's too bad for you.

Didn't Wiki's founder get busted doing the same basic thing?

IP (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594349)

"I'm not denying it," Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the House computer network, said when asked to confirm House ownership of the address.

For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned.

Did I just hear someone say "FOIA"?

Re:IP (1)

ChadAmberg (460099) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594415)

When congress wrote FOIA, they specifically exempted themselves.

Whatever (3, Interesting)

Tufriast (824996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594351)

I give up, really I do. But it was only a matter of time before political machines corrupted Wikipedia I guess. How long before it starts being less true than is true? Good idea, ruined by humanity once again.

Re:Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594500)

But it was only a matter of time before political machines corrupted Wikipedia I guess. How long before it starts being less true than is true?

What do you mean "only a matter of time"? Wikipedia has been a political puppet for anyone interested in a topic practically since its inception.

Re:Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594516)

If you prefer to totally ignore how actual humans act when deciding that something will benefit humans, of course you're likely to be cynical when you turn out to have been wrong. After all, it's not you who set yourself up for disappointment, it's those evil others who disappoint you.

Sensitivities (4, Insightful)

bokmann (323771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594374)

I realize some information is a lot more sensitive than others, but exactly, then, WHO is supposed to edit this information? Isn't this the point of the whole wikipedia excercise? I mean, it is hardly a headline when musicians edit entries about musical intruments, even when a violinist edits an entry adding a comment about the 'harsh tone' of brass instruments. The brass players need to come in and correct their own entries.

By the same model, politicians are probably going to be the ones editing the entries about politics. If a politician doesn't like his own entry, he should get in there and fix it (or tell his staffers to). If entries become too volitile, they will trigger other wikipedia policies.

Frankly, I think the 'meta moderation' of these entries is interesting political infotmation itself. I think the article itself should have some header or hilighting ranking its volatility - I would be more likely to 'trust' stable entries.

Re:Sensitivities (1)

Cl1mh4224rd (265427) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594446)

By the same model, politicians are probably going to be the ones editing the entries about politics.
You tend get articles that are self-serving more than informational and balanced with that method.

Re:Sensitivities (1)

JPyun (911266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594454)

It violated wikipedia guidelines, and was biased information. Therefore, it was fixed. I have no idea what you're trying to say.

Re:Sensitivities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594563)

Anyone who could write a neutral and fair account of the person involved.

Pure democracy has problems... (2, Insightful)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594409)

...when directly interested parties are involved. This is the problem with Wikipedia. In a jury trial, great pains are taken to assure that the juries consist only of people without any personal interest or attachment to the outcome; this seems to be an inherently time-consuming and expensive process.

            Up until recently, Wikipedia has relied on the fact that it was relatively unknown outside the geek population, and so the odds were that highly agendized individuals were not drawn to it as a priority. This, unfortunately, has changed with Wikipedia's popularity.

            This is what makes /., Wiki, and all the other attempts at what ruleset allows a productive, participatory, democratic system that results in the best knowledge interesting - nobody has hit upon the right answer yet, but we are learning and getting better by watching what does and doesn't work. If only we could apply this to something like voting! Unfortunately, WAY too many overinterested parties are already assuring that almost any change to the voting system that gets implemented will make it worse from the voter's point of view.

This is a good thing (3, Interesting)

bgarrett (6193) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594419)

Many people say things like "well, people shouldn't be allowed to put crap like this on Wikipedia. We should do something about it". What nobody has done is advance a clear picture of how this can be done, aside from "put a cabal in charge", which raises the question of "who keeps the cabal from putting crap in?"

Wikipedia accepts that problems will arise, and it has mechanisms in place (like the edit history) to mitigate the effects. When a slashdot story goes up saying "House staffers screw around with articles", that's a victory for the Wikipedia system.

Re:This is a good thing (1)

colinbrash (938368) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594550)

When a slashdot story goes up saying "House staffers screw around with articles", that's a victory for the Wikipedia system.

That's like saying getting beaten up is a victory for a masochist.

It may be a victory in some abstract sense. In any meaningful sense of the word, it most certainly is not.

best line in wikitalk pages for this (House) IP (4, Interesting)

fiddlesticks (457600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594421)

Read down, from the beginning of the talk for that IP. It's like a sad soap opera. Noone there knows anything about how they're being observed/tracked, or IP addresses, or wikipedia, or NPOV, or, really, anything.

Quantum Information (1)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594442)

Once again, Wikipedia has proven that quantum information isn't worth the paper it's not even printed on. Wikipedia is 100% accurate, when taken from the standpoint of hindsight... all the information is accurate, depending on at what point in time the information is accessed. The information on your screen could be wrong at the moment you read it, but it could be right moments later. This is quantum knowledge, and it is only as flawless as the beings who designed it.

Look at about 1/2 of the Reps' pages (4, Insightful)

ortcutt (711694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594447)

About half of the pages look like press releases. On the other hand, a lot of the pages acquire a lot of unsubstantiated rumor mongering, and I don't have a problem with the Rep's staffs keeping an eye on people making false or unsubstantiated claims on the site.

The moral of this story (4, Informative)

symbolic (11752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594449)

What's so awesome about wikipedia is that even after editing, the original information is still available. That being the case, part of one's research (especially when dealing with people of the political persuasion), should include past versions. At least this way, those seeking information can get the whole story, regardless of any sanitizing efforts by those in office.

Re:The moral of this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14594524)

At least this way, those seeking information can get the whole story, regardless of any sanitizing efforts by those in office.

You mean you will also get the mudslinging from their opponents (whether inside or outside of congress) ?

Wikipedia's system works (5, Interesting)

Aqws (932918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594450)

Here is the talkpage of the article. [wikipedia.org]

I usually check the discusion of a wikipedia article to check if it biased. Usually there is a group of editors dedicated to the subject who pay a lot of attention to the article, along with vandals and stray people who just felt like adding some of their knowledge. Pretty interesting to have people with opposing views edit an article. I am not saying they are all like this, just the good ones. When they disagree enough a flag will go up. When there isn't an opposing view there is a problem, no one would question what goes in.

Something interesting, the wikipedia article on google is way more critical of google than the microsoft article is of microsoft.

"Wikigate" scandal (4, Insightful)

Anti-Trend (857000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594462)

What really gets me is that they're apparently as dumb as they are immoral. They weren't even bright enough to use a proxy to mask their IP address, leaving their greasy fingerprints all over wikipedia for the world to see. Aside from this, I wonder how many other astroturfing operations have gone completely unnoticed by the public.

Astounding (1)

shma (863063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594490)


From TFA

Recently, a user wrote in a Wikipedia bio that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor "smells of cow dung." Another wrote that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is "ineffective." These statements were traced to the House Internet-protocol (IP) address.

So this is what politics is now? Insults not worthy of a 5-year-old intellect? How much more can it possibly take to get voters to throw these people out of office?

Lowell Sun (1)

ortcutt (711694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594507)

It is worth pointing out as well that the Lowell Sun is a rabidly right-wing rag ranking right up there with the Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It doesn't suprise me that they would want to manufacture a scandal out of every single action of Rep. Meehan and his staff however reasonable.

Re:Lowell Sun (2, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594582)

It is worth pointing out as well that the Lowell Sun is a rabidly right-wing rag ranking right up there with the Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It doesn't suprise me that they would want to manufacture a scandal out of every single action of Rep. Meehan and his staff however reasonable.

That may be true, but the Lowell Sun has just called attention how widespread this problem could be. This article has now been posted on both Slashdot and Digg. All the House and Senate pages will likely get a good looking over by many members of the net-savvy public with particular attention paid to IP addresses from house/senate staffers. It will backfire from a rabid right-wing point of view, if it turns out that lots of Republicans are also engaged in this practice.

security reasons my arse (2, Insightful)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594523)

From the article:

"For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned."

It must be great being the US government in this day and age, any question which they do not want to answer they simply cite "For security reasons ...I cannot tell you that". I'm just waiting to see George Bush in February state that he cannot tell people the US budget (or deficit to be accurate) "for security reasons".

This has backfired on the Meehan staffer (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594527)

I was completely unaware of Meehan's weaseling out of his term limits pledge until this. Screwing around with Wikipedia has brought this issue to the fore. Hope his opponents point out that he's way past his self-assigned Sell-By date in office.

Now that is what I call Spam Filtering!!! (1)

oilisgood (161130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594529)

FTFA...
Evan Lehmann's e-mail address is elehmann.com.
Good luck emailing her at that address...

He's a Democrat, by the way (0, Offtopic)

Skirwan (244615) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594535)

If the edits in question had been made by the staff of a Republican, does anyone doubt that fact would be omitted from the summary? Had a Republican done this, we would have been informed of his party and had to suffer inane comments about the stifling of freedoms under the Bush administration. Just sayin'.

Go figure (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14594545)

Open it to the world, people will make changes.. Be the entries right or wrong.

Isnt that what the WIKI is all about, and why ultimately its doomed to fail?
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