Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Minister defends cutting Bain paragraphs on Wikipedia

The Government did not have any rules regarding MPs or their staff editing Wikipedia. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Government did not have any rules regarding MPs or their staff editing Wikipedia. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Justice Minister Judith Collins has defended her office's editing of Wikipedia pages, saying the revisions were minimal and removed defamatory material.

The minister was accused of using her staff to censor the online encyclopedia after a contributor found that his articles had been altered by someone who appeared to be Mrs Collins' press secretary.

Mrs Collins, speaking through a spokeswoman, confirmed that her office had created an account to edit Wikipedia, but it did so transparently and made just two uncontroversial changes.

The press secretary provided a new photo for Mrs Collins' Wikipedia page, and removed several paragraphs relating to the minister's handling of David Bain's compensation case, which her office felt were defamatory.

The paragraphs were written by author and alcohol and drug counsellor Roger Brooking, who questioned whether Mrs Collins was using taxpayer money to rewrite Wikipedia articles.

One of the deleted paragraphs referred to an "embarrassing public spat" between the minister and Canadian Judge Ian Binnie, who had considered Mr Bain's compensation case.

A spokeswoman said: "These two actions were the only two made - and both [were] completely transparent and in accordance with Wikipedia policy. No further edits."

The Government did not have any rules regarding MPs or their staff editing Wikipedia.

The website does not allow people with a conflict of interest to edit articles, and the press secretary was warned by the site's administrators.

But the warning was withdrawn because the conflict was clearly signalled on the site and the press secretary had not made any further changes to Mrs Collins' page or other related pages.

Mr Brooking said that another contributor, whose identity was not known, had heavily edited or removed a number of critical references to Mrs Collins in her current and previous portfolios.

Mrs Collins' spokeswoman said that these changes did not come from the minister's office.

She also noted that Mr Brooking had been banned from Wikipedia for using more than one account.

Mr Brooking said he had been blocked from the website for creating new accounts to get around the ban.

However, he remained concerned that pages relating to the National-led Government were being "sanitised" online.

"Ninety per cent of what I've written has been deleted. Most of these pages have been sanitised and they convey a very distorted picture of the current situation in New Zealand."

- NZ Herald

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