Thursday, 16 August 2007

Vatican, Scientologists, Mormons caught editing Wikipedia articles

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A new application that traces the source of changes made to Wikipedia entries has revealed that the Catholic Church, the Church of Scientology and the Mormons have all been doing a spot of sneaky editing. The Wikipedia Scanner trawls through the online, user-edited encyclopedia unearthing the location of computers responsible for edits. It found that users within the Vatican had made changes to entries on Catholic saints and, bizarrely, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. The change to Adams' entry involved removing a link to a 2006 newspaper story which alleged his fingerprints had been found on a car used in a double murder in 1971.

The Church of Scientology has been found to have edited the entry pertaining to its worldwide "spiritual headquarters" in Clearwater, Florida. A passage which suggested that the organisation has at times had a "hostile" relationship with local residents was removed in an edit shown by the Scanner to have come from within the Church. The Mormons have also been found to have removed criticism from their entry.

The must publicised edits came from within the CIA, having made changes to pages as diverse as those of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. Other notable editors include the Rebublican Party, who replaced the term "occupying forces" with the world "liberating" in an Iraq War entry, and Al-Jazeera, who inserted a line into Israel's entry comparing the foundation of the Jewish state to the holocaust.

For a comprehensive list of interesting edits, see the Wired Science blog

7 comments:

goherbal said...

I don't find anything at all surprising or disturbing in this, and find it bizarre that the article seeks to slant it so.

Obviously, the most likely person or persons editing a Wikipedia article would be the most affected by it, and/or those who the article is about.

Paul Sims said...

You're right, it's to be expected that this would happen, and that's why people shouldn't use Wikipedia as a source. There's certainly nothing disturbing about it (unless until now you believed Wikipedia was all true), but I just found it funny that these groups had been caught doing something they thought they could do anonymously. You don't honestly think the Scientologists were making the corrections in the name of truth do you? No, they were slyly altering the details of a major point of reference in the public domain, ensuring there was no criticism of their organisation. It's not surprising they did this, but it's amusing they were caught.

goherbal said...

(Good will disclosure: I'm a Scientologist myself)

Well, I disagree with the way you state opinions as facts.

1) They were "caught doing" is actually "it became known";

2) They were "slyly" ... "anonymously" is a fallacy; all these groups have media and PR people, who of course would police media impressions and any wrongful information about them on the Web, etc.

3) "You don't honestly think they were making corrections in the name of truth, do you" - well, you have to accept it as one of the possibilities. You also have to accept it as a possibility that the ORIGINAL entries may *not* have been posted "in the name of truth" but with a slanderous purpose.

4) "ensuring no criticism" - this is one of the largest fallacies in your position. The Church of Scientology has no beef with a number of critical websites. They fight back when someone posts obviously fallacious info, when the data has provable errors, or when copyrighted, lawfully protected materials are stolen and posted on the public domain.

Which is not to totaly negate your point. Of course any group will tend to protect its own interests. But assuming the flipside is "total truth" would be just as faulty. If someone posted data on me showing me to have qualities I do not, or having done actions I have not, I would of course edit these, both "in the name of truth" and to protect myself.

Sincerely,
Greg
Scientologist and proud of it
http://www.liveandgrow.org

Chris said...

So you found out that people with views opposing your own have been editing Wikipedia pages. In my view this makes Wikipedia no more or less authoriatative than any other website, but it does at least show it to be open.
If you found another, closed site that mirrored your own views then perhaps you would try to vaunt it as trustworthy.

I agree with your views and disagree with the Vatican/Scientologists/Mormons, but to have a go at them because they exercised their right to edit a Wikipedia page is a bit weak.

Iain UK said...

You should note that over 7000 edits were made from the BBC to entries on GWB and former UK PM Blair amongst many others.

This is not in the BBCs remit unlike some of the organisations you mention. Also no quality or quantitys noted. Poor quality article really.

This was not mentioned in the BBC article on this which, like yourself, only mentioned those edits that might make the targets of faux Left prejudice look like the men in black, yet again.

They did not mention the Al Jazeera one either since they have much cross-over in employees and (apparent from their propaganda stance since 2003) in views, judging by their consistent bias to anti-Israel coverage and editorialising. But then the BBC never mentions the strong 'influence' of the Muslim Brotherhood (anti-humanists and rabid antisemites) on AJ either.

Paranoia is a somewhat protective reflex but is diffused by a coherant and comprehensive analysis. You have not done that here.

Articles Blogs Directory said...

You're right, it's to be expected that this would happen, and that's why people shouldn't use Wikipedia as a source. There's certainly nothing disturbing about it (unless until now you believed Wikipedia was all true), but I just found it funny that these groups had been caught doing something they thought they could do anonymously. You don't honestly think the Scientologists were making the corrections in the name of truth do you? No, they were slyly altering the details of a major point of reference in the public domain, ensuring there was no criticism of their organisation. It's not surprising they did this, but it's amusing they were caught.

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K-9Moon said...

Heh goherbal,

Its always amusing to see you Snakes weave your tongues around the written word like Mozart writing a concerto.