Who's Behind the Wikipedia Scandal?

Dennis Faas's picture

Wikipedia, known as the "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit," allows users to correct false information and further develop informative articles. But, there is a flip side to anonymous edits, and one program is now showing just who's behind some of these critical changes.

Virgil Griffiths created WikiScanner, a tool that identifies which IP addresses are making Wikipedia edits. WikiScanner has revealed that many top companies have been using Wikipedia to bash rivals while downplaying their own fumbles.

Although WikiScanner cannot identify which people are making the edits, it can trace an edit to a specific computer. The tracing has caused embarrassment for some political parties and top corporations, but Griffiths does not seem to be troubled by that in the least. "[I wanted] to create minor public relations disasters for companies and organizations I dislike," he wrote on his website. (Source: cbc.ca)

And he certainly has done just that.

Even governments have been exposed. Edits were traced back to Canadian government IP addresses, including the House of Commons, Environment Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs. In the United States, an FBI computer removed aerial images of Guantanamo Bay. (Source: cbc.ca)

Companies' public relations departments have also been hard at work. Exxon-Mobil downplayed the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Dell removed spyware accusations, and McDonald's and Starbucks have deleted unfavorable remarks about their companies. Meanwhile, Apple and Microsoft have been busy attacking each other with negative comments. (Source: zdnet.com)

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales applauds Griffiths' efforts. "It is fabulous and I strongly support it," Wales said. (Source: cbc.ca)

Griffiths insists that WikiScanner is intended to preserve the integrity of Wikipedia. "For controversial topics, Wikipedia can be made more reliable through techniques like this one," he wrote on his website. "For any sort of 'open' project, I strongly prefer allowing people to remain anonymous while also doing various back-end analyses to counteract vandalism and disinformation." (Source: cbc.ca)

Griffiths' creation does make sense. But even more interesting is seeing so many institutions caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

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