WikiScanner tool expands, poses public relations problems for Dutch royal family

In the weeks since the WikiScanner tool was first used, several “minor public relations disasters” have been created by its use. One of the most recent ones involved the Dutch prince and princess, Prince Friso and Princess Mabel. This information first came to light on the Administrator’s Noticeboard for Incidents (AN/I), in this discussion. The Prince and Princess removed a key part of a quote from the Dutch Prime Minister about the scandal surrounding their wedding. The word “false” was cut from a quote saying “…incomplete and false information”. The edit in question was made from Queen Beatrix’s royal palace.

Other salacious edits

An editor using a computer at the CIA was found to have edited the articles about Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Porter Goss (the head of the CIA), among others. The CIA did not admit to editing the articles in question. Also, a computer at the Vatican was used to remove a mention of Gerry Adams’s alleged involvement in a double murder, and an anonymous editor from the BBC changed George Walker Bush’s middle name to “wanker”. Some of these disruptive edits have resulted in blocks; the IP addresses of Netherlands Public Radio and Radio Netherlands Worldwide have been blocked for more than 70 unconstructive edits over a period of more than 2 years. Also, a computer at major U.S. military contractor SAIC was the source of changes to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) article, adding such things as “The ACLU's real mission is to create a Eugenicist Communist society based on principles of Anarchy against the will of the American people.” and “The ACLU is trying to destroy America.”

WikiScanner’s expansion into other languages

WikiScanner is continuing to expand; it has now been translated into three languages besides English: German, Japanese, and French. There are Wikipedia articles for WikiScanner on several Wikipedias, including Spanish, French, Italian, and Polish. The English article has continued to evolve. It has been edited about 11 times a day. Some major contributors to the article are Casey Abell and Hypnosadist.


The general reaction to WikiScanner has remained largely positive. The Wikimedia Foundation’s reaction to its invention has been favorable with Jimmy Wales stating in a article, "It's awesome—I love it … It brings an additional level of transparency to what's going on at Wikipedia … [WikiScanner] uses information we've been making publicly available forever, hoping someone would do something like this." A spokesperson for the Foundation said in a Scotland Sunday Herald article that "We really value transparency and the scanner may prevent an organisation or individuals from editing articles that they're really not supposed to."

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I suggest changing "the Vatican was found to have removed" to "a computer at the Vatican was used to remove" since several people have pointed out that the Vatican Library had public computers or at least network access during the time of the edits in question. The library Rules seem to confirm this, as they prohibit "download from the internal network of the Library onto personal computers any data from the electronic or digital collections of the Library."

I'm going to be bold and apologize in advance if making this correction is against Signpost editorial rules. ←BenB4 05:49, 4 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]

True, thanks for pointing that out! Love, Neranei (talk) 23:08, 4 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]


This article seems to assume that the edits from IP addresses owned by organisations were made by these organisations in line with a deliberate policy of planting missinformation (eg, "The Prince and Princess removed" "The CIA was found to have edited" and "major U.S. military contractor SAIC edited"). Do you have proof that this was the case? - what about the possibility that the edits were made by staff members surfing the internet and don't reflect the organisation's views or policies? --Nick Dowling 01:02, 8 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]

That's perfectly true, however, it does violate COI for a Princess to edit her own article, the CIA to be editing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (as they are involved in Iran), and an anti-ACLU organization to be editing the ACLU article. Thanks for pointing that out! Cheers, Neranei (talk) 01:05, 8 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Yes I agree it is a COI for the Princess or any of her employees to be editing an article, but calling SAIC an "anti-ACLU organization" seems a reach unless you have evidence I am not aware of. SAIC is a big corporation with hundreds of employees. It seems to me far more likely to me that an employee with a strong POV (lots of ACLU haters out there especially among right wingers) happened to use a computer at work to do his/her editing. WikiScanner is a nifty tool, but you need to apply a little commonsense in interpreting the results. I have edited Wikipedia from an employer's computer from time to time over the years because it was convenient for me at the time. That doesn't make the company I was working for responsible for my edits. Rusty Cashman 19:21, 8 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Well, considering that they wrote such things about the ACLU, and that they are a U.S. military contractor, I don't think it's much of a stretch. And you have a valid point, do you think it should be worded differently? The only reason I'm calling it a COI edit is that it was an edit commenting on political issues that were in line with the political leanings of that company, made from that company's computer. Neranei (talk) 19:39, 8 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
You seem to be working from the starting point that any edits from an organisation were made delibererly as a corporate decision. I don't think that this is approach is justified - it would be edited and removed in 'article space'. Do you have a source for SAIC opposing the ACLU? --Nick Dowling —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nick Dowling (talkcontribs) 01:40, 9 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
No, I'm not saying that at all, I'm just reasoning that if someone works for an anti-ACLU company, it is very likely that they agree with that viewpoint, and that may be a violation of COI. How would you like that worded? Love, Neranei (talk) 01:55, 9 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
That seems to involve you assuming that a) the company having a beef with ACLU b) the company deciding to do something about it and c) all individual employees of the company agreeing with this action - it's hardly unknown for people to have different views from their employer! Why not just use the wording which was proposed for the Vatican and state that 'a computer at X' was used for COI edits unless you have some evidence of a deliberate policy which you can cite? --Nick Dowling 04:18, 9 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Fair enough. I will remove it. Thanks for your feedback! Love, Neranei (talk) 04:23, 9 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks, having worked for large and mid sized companies such a couple of times over the years I would hate to see Wikiscanner result in corporate IT departments adopting "no editing allowed" policies for Wikipedia. I suspect that would be a bummer for some contributors.Rusty Cashman 03:53, 11 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Indeed, that would be very bad. Thanks again! Love, Neranei (talk) 21:23, 11 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]


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