Blogger targets 'political' editing of Wikipedia in Beehive

A person at Parliament is making too many "political" alterations to New Zealand entries in the open-access internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia, says media commentator Russell Brown of Auckland.

Politicians and staffers "editing" such entries should have to declare their interests rather than remaining anonymous behind the strings of numbers which make up internet "addresses" for individual users, Brown said today in his Hard News "blog".

"I think 202.22.18.241 is doing way too much, and behaving in too political a way, for someone hiding behind an IP address," he said.

"I'd rather see Parliamentary editors register and declare interests in their profiles".

Wikipedia records the exact time and IP address - the numerical identifier of each computer on the internet - when any user alters a page.

The IP address used for the June 2007 alterations - to remove information about the deputy Opposition leader Bill English's moral beliefs and family - is assigned to the New Zealand Parliament, Brown said.

The initial entry said of Mr English: "He married a Catholic GP, Mary, and they now have six children - five boys: Luke, Thomas, Rory, Bartholemew and Xavier; and one daughter, Maria. He is a devout Catholic himself, and upholds his churches opposition to abortion, voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, civil unions in New Zealand and prostitution in New Zealand.

"His wife Mary edited the newsletter of an anti-abortion medical practitioners group, Doctors for Life, and served as president of a conservative Christian women's group known as the Family Education Network, before stepping down when her husband was elected Leader of the Opposition. Both organisations are now defunct"

These passages were cut to: "He married a GP, Mary, and they now have six children - five boys and one daughter, Maria".

When another Wikipedia "editor" argued with 202.22.18.241 yesterday, the anonymous user at Parliament said: "The material in question has absolutely nothing to do with Bill English. If you want to detail the life and practice of his wife, start a page on her."

Brown said "whoever sits at 202.22.18.241 is Parliament's busiest Wikipedia editor. There are more than 500 edits logged against that IP address".

After a new piece of software, WikiScanner, was released last year, an Auckland blogger, Cameron Slater, who writes as "Whaleoil" used it to track changes to the popular internet encyclopedia being made on computers at Parliament. "202.22.18.241 is by far and away the busiest little beaver in Parliament on Wikipedia," said Slater, who endorsed Brown's call for transparency in the use of Parliamentary computers and staff to edit online encyclopaedia.

"Because of the IP address, we don't know whether that is a National Party staffer, or a Labour staffer who is running a disinformation campaign to make it look like a National worker is doing this."

Other editions of the encyclopaedia on Parliamentary computers showed one, 202.22.18.1, displayed an interest in Christian politics, Nandor Tanczos, Maurice Williamson, Salient magazine, and Gerry Brownlee.

And 202.22.23.2 spent "an awful amount of time" editing NZ Cabinet but also had an interest in autonomous building, South Schleswig Voter Federation, Wilson Whineray, Hello Sailor, and fixed up some typing errors on Australian constitutional law.

Slater said 02.22.17.232 "doesn't seem to do any work remotely connected with Parliament as they have edited Villa Farnese, The Misfits, Andrew Penn and Sam Wills", while 202.22.16.246 seemed to enjoy coffee and Spanish swear words, and 202.22.18.242 had an interest in Crusader Tanks, and Panzer III.

"It tells us that there is still plenty of waste going on as these guys are all editing these entries, not simply reading them," said Slater.

- NZPA

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