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October 12, 2015

Wikinews interviews painter Pricasso on his art and freedom of expression

Wikinews interviews painter Pricasso on his art and freedom of expression

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Wikinews interviewed Australian painter Pricasso on his unique artwork created using his penis, and how his art relates to freedom of expression and issues of censorship. He is to be featured at the upcoming adult entertainment event Sexpo Australia in Melbourne this November 5 to November 8.

File photo of Pricasso, 2012.
Image: Eva Rinaldi.

Background

Pricasso painting a portrait in Australia at Sexpo (2012)
Image: Eva Rinaldi.

Pricasso is the stage name of Australian painter Tim Patch, in a nod to the artist Picasso while using the word prick. Pricasso has been painting portraits using his penis for more than ten years.

Based in Australia, Pricasso paints his artwork using his buttocks and scrotum in addition to his penis. According to 640 Toronto News, Pricasso markets himself as “The World’s Greatest Penile Artist”.

Cquote1.svg I consider my work as satire just like late night TV, something that gives light relief to a serious subject. Cquote2.svg

Pricasso

He is able to create 20 paintings in one day. Pricasso also practices other styles besides portraits, including landscape painting and nudes. Typically his portraits take him not more than 15 minutes to paint. He told Coconuts TV he chose to specialize in creating artwork in this manner because he felt it was a niche market.

His fanbase is international; Pricasso has journeyed to locations including the United States, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and China to paint portraits for people. Though he is willing to travel to display his talent, Pricasso told In Touch Weekly most of his income is Internet-based.

Wikinews interviewed Pricasso about his artwork and asked for his thoughts on topics of censorship and freedom of expression. We discussed what are considered appropriate forms of parody and satire of public figures — protected in the United States following the Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell.

The interview touched upon a 2013 conflict which arose on our sister site for images and media, Wikimedia Commons, when an image of a portrait of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales painted by Pricasso was uploaded to the site. Wales called it “harassment” and a succession of deletion discussions ensued. We asked Pricasso about this as well as the different reaction from former-Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille, who called his painting of her part of a “free society” where artists “exercise their freedom in unusual ways.”

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Pricasso, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with Wikinews.

Pricasso: Thanks for doing this, great questions.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How long have you been painting in this particular fashion?

Pricasso: I first tried it over 10 years ago and realised it would be possible with practice to get as good with it but in a slightly more impressionistic style than I could with a brush, and I really liked the results, of course at first I had to work out the paint formula and what to paint on which was done by trial and error — and then finding somewhere to practice, which was a problem until I was invited to become a member of a Bondage club in Brisbane, my first patron. There I realised that there were so many people with totally different views on what is acceptable in society, and were always protesting over most censorship issues.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How long can you paint with your penis at one time before it gets too tiring?

Pricasso: At most Sexpo’s and Adult Expos I paint for 13 hours a day in half slots so I paint 20 plus paintings a day. When I am painting I have to concentrate hard and go into a meditative state; I don’t notice much going on around me until I have finished.

Example of Pricasso applying paint before creating a piece of artwork.
Image: Pricasso.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Other than your penis, what other parts of your body do you use in the painting process?

Pricasso: I quickly worked out that I could speed it up by using my testicles and butt cheeks to cover large areas in no time at all, but only recently do I paint the edges using my butt-crack, I call it the credit card swipe!

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How did you come up with the name Pricasso?

Pricasso: That was the heading they christened me with in the Picture Magazine interview in 2006. I realised it was Gold and took out the website and trademark.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What’s the most positive reaction you’ve had to one of your paintings?

Pricasso: It is always satisfying to get applause when a painting is finished; at most adult shows this happened all the time; but I do like painting disabled people. I have painted several people with severe cerebral palsy and they are over the moon with the result; this gives me the most pleasure, as I do realise that they are still sexually active people and everyone should realise this.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Have any of your paintings been featured in a gallery somewhere?

Pricasso: I have entered the Bald Archy Exhibition in Australia every year and sold a few. Also at an exhibition of politicians in Australia, and last November I went to Miami for the Art undressed exhibition and also painted 15 minute portraits there which was fun.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you consider it a form of freedom of expression to create your artwork in the way you do with your penis?

Pricasso: When I first thought of the idea I was really thinking I could get invited to a few parties as the entertainment which I do regularly, but now I am getting a good style about my work and want to take it to the next level and be accepted as an innovator.

Cquote1.svg A free society throws up these kinds of people, who exercise their freedom in unusual ways. Cquote2.svg

—Cape Town former-Mayor Helen Zille

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In 2008, prior to a Sexpo event in South Africa, you uploaded a video to the Internet of yourself painting a portrait of then-Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille. Why did you decide to do this?

Pricasso: No particular reason on my behalf, it was the organisers of the Sexpo who got me to paint it mainly for publicity. But also to have a portrait on my stand, who people in Cape Town would relate to as I now know she is very popular and has a great sense of humour.

Cape Town former-Mayor Helen Zille
Image: Helen Zille, Democratic Alliance, South Africa.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille commented of your portrait painting of her: “This is a free country. A free society throws up these kinds of people, who exercise their freedom in unusual ways. And if this is how he wants to do it, I must accept his constitutional right to do so.” — what are your thoughts on her reaction?

Pricasso: Sounds a bit formal but that is how politicians usually talk, guarded and a totally correct response, the trouble is that if they spoke from the heart it might come back to bite them one day, but I did talk to one of her aides privately and she said they were all really impressed and loved the concept, I really should have offered to paint her too but I was probably flat out all day — I always am at the South African shows.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Mayor Zille further commented about the quality of your painting of her: “[Pricasso] has achieved a good likeness and I can’t imagine how he painted it without brushes or conventional equipment.” — what do you think of this assessment?

Pricasso: Most people are impressed when they see it done, skeptical at first but after the initial shock they all usually stop to watch until I finish that particular painting, usually they take about 15 minutes.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png If you could speak to Mayor Zille, what would you say to her about her reaction to your painting of her?

Pricasso: I would say I was impressed with her response, mostly girls are much more impressed than guys only a minority of guys I might add, lots of them love it and me too!! But in general she gave a responsible and educated reply and was not at all offended by the experience.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In 2011, one member of the Gold Coast Sculptors’ Society quit in protest due to your participation in the ‘Exotic Erotic’ show — how do you feel when people react to your artwork in this way?

Pricasso: I guess I could say; This is a free country. A free society throws up these kinds of people, who exercise their dissaproval in various ways. And if this is how she wants to protest, I must accept her constitutional right to do so. There was that politically correct enough? Or maybe the silly old B***ch — but her reaction did get heaps of publicity for the show and they had record numbers coming through the doors so there was a silver lining. But obviously it is a bit confronting and not everyone’s cup of tea but if they could just see it before they get on their high horse they might have a different point of view.

The painting of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, the uploading of which Wales called “harassment”. 2013.
Image: Pricasso.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png You painted a portrait of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales in 2013; a picture and a video file of the making of this painting were uploaded to Wikipedia’s sister site for images and media, Wikimedia Commons. Shortly thereafter, the files were nominated for deletion and a deletion discussion ensued — what are your thoughts on this discussion?

Pricasso: I did not think Wikipedia censored anything as on Jimmy Wales’ Twitter account his banner heading is: “Wikia guy. Free speech activist, entrepreneur.” Either this is misleading in the very least or blatantly untrue.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The deletion discussion at Wikimedia Commons resulted in keeping the photograph of your portrait of Jimmy Wales, but deleting the video of your making-of-the-portrait — do you consider a video of your portrait painting to be offensive?

Pricasso: Not in the least; it’s pure performance art.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png During the deletion discussion, Jimmy Wales commented “I encourage people to go to commons and work to explain to the community there some of the concepts behind Hostile environment sexual harrassment. I encourage everyone to seriously consider whether it is appropriate behavior to upload a clearly non-notable film of someone using his penis to paint a picture of a Wikipedia volunteer. It is harassment, it is trolling, and I am deeply disappointed to have to point this out to some people.” What do you think of his response to your artwork? Do you feel your paintings constitute harassment?

Pricasso: Harassment is when one continually annoys someone, over and over again; I only painted the one painting of him and it to my mind was not offensive, I consider my work as satire just like late night TV, something that gives light relief to a serious subject. There are many examples of political cartoon images on Wikipedia, so why are they still up there or is it just the things Jimmy Wales doesn’t like get taken down? By the way anyone who has not seen the offending Video can view it on Vimeo under Pricasso: http://vimeo.com/user10315938/review/68837137/893b31ca54

I paint about 1000 portraits a year and get paid by the sitters or a close friend of them to do so. I had a request to paint a portrait, to do [this] portrait of Jimmy Wales with a video of me painting, by Russavia (who is an editor at Wikipedia), something I do all the time and I have great feedback as to how funny the videos are; I had no idea who Jimmy Wales was at the time of the request, but painted him only once so it can’t be called Harassment. Is he just using his position of power to cut and censor … It took me a lot of effort and time to put this together so I was pretty upset. And would really like it to be republished next to the portrait as originally it was before Mr Wales had it removed.

[Editor’s note: Accusations of harassment focused on the uploader, rather than the artist; the successive heated discussions, over about six months, that ultimately led to the video’s deletion from Commons may be read here. Jimmy Wales expressed his position elsewhere and did not directly participate in the discussions themselves.]

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How do you compare the reactions by Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille who said your portrait painting of her was a product of a “free society” and a reflection of how people “exercise their freedom” with the comment by Jimmy Wales calling the publication of your artwork “harassment” ? Which of these individuals do you feel is correct, Mayor Zille or Wales, and why?

Pricasso: I think Helen got it. They in South Africa are struggling with change from being suppressed to one of freedom as she said “a free society”. Jimmy Wales on the other hand although promoting himself as The Free Speech Guy is censoring things he does not agree with and calling it Harassment, not a good look Jimmy!!

I did put the video of Helen Zille being painted on YouTube. It was there for a few months but they too delete my work quite regularly so it’s probably long gone.

She is an experienced politician and would weigh up the fors and against before she acted, obviously the fors had it.

Mr. Wales on the other hand has probably not seen a lot of my work; if he had he would know I do it for fun and not really to be taken too seriously, it’s a comedy performance, but he could not see the unique talent of someone who has cornered the world market of penis portraits painting with no imitators for the past 10 years, so before too many people could have a small chuckle at his expense he had it deleted, I’m sure there would be many others who would like to remove things on Wikipedia but don’t have the muscle to do so.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Have you experienced censorship or attempts by others to limit your freedom of expression? How so, and what was your reaction?

Pricasso: As I said before YouTube is always deleting my videos when someone complains, sometimes even when there is no genitals visible. Once one was taken down because the guy I was painting had the word (fuck) on his tee shirt; I mean how many films have this word in the dialogue. Also in Macau at the adult show, the people who make the rules make me perform inside an enclosed area, and people are wary of coming in through the door so is a bit slow there; and the guys that run the show are so polite and passionate trying to change China slowly, making it more open, that I keep on returning year after year.

Signed painting of a French Bulldog, by Pricasso. 2013.
Image: Pricasso.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you consider some of your art pieces to be forms of parody or satire of famous people?

Pricasso: Oh yes I love creating something topical and painting a spoof on famous people, and painting with a penis really lends itself to this form of art, but I just painted a normal portrait of Jimmy Wales, as I said before I had no idea who he was before I googled him. And found this heading [on] his Twitter account (seems to me he has a few double standards) “Jimmy Wales
 Verified account
‪ @jimmy_wales You know, the ‪@Wikipedia and ‪@Wikia guy. Free speech activist, entrepreneur.”

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are you familiar with the U.S. Supreme Court case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell ? How do you feel after reading about the unanimous decision protecting parody as a form of freedom of speech in that case?

Pricasso: Thanks for sharing that with me, I had no idea about this case and it’s good to know that freedom of speech is alive and well in America. Actually I was a bit taken aback by the parody and slightly offended that I have been put in the same category, my painting is pure performance art and I don’t go out of my way to offend. And I am totally against censorship. It’s a shame the same is not true about Wikipedia and Mr. Wales.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Pricasso, thanks again for doing this interview with Wikinews, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Pricasso: Not at the moment. I’m exhausted! Thanks.



Related news

Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Pricasso
  • Commons-logo.svg Pricasso
  • Wikiquote-logo.svg Pricasso
  • Wiktionary-logo.svg Pricasso

Sources

Wikinews
This article is a featured article. It is considered one of the best works of the Wikinews community. See Wikinews:Featured articles for more information.
Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

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May 29, 2009

Church of Scientology indefinitely banned from editing Wikipedia

Church of Scientology indefinitely banned from editing Wikipedia

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Friday, May 29, 2009

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Contributors to Wikipedia, the self-described free, online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, have voted to block the Church of Scientology from editing the encyclopedia. The arbitration committee voted to block the Church with 10 supporting the ban and 1 against it.

“All IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates, broadly interpreted, are to be blocked as if they were open proxies. Individual editors may request IP block exemption if they wish to contribute from the blocked IP addresses,” a statement on Wikipedia’s website explained.

The ban comes after an arbitration case that lasted six months, beginning in December 2008. The case was opened after contributors discovered that the Church had been editing Scientology-related articles and removing or adding information to promote the Church’s studies.

“Editors [have been] openly editing [articles related to Scientology] from Church of Scientology equipment and apparently coordinating their activities,” added Wikipedia. The committee says that the edits were damaging Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy.

A “host of anti-Scientologist editors” were also banned from working on Wikipedia’s Scientology-related articles. The committee concluded that both sides had “gamed policy” and resorted to “battlefield tactics”, with the encyclopedia’s articles on living persons among the “worst casualties”.

Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw said some of the encyclopedia’s articles had been “hateful and erroneous”. She added: “We hope all this will result in more accurate and useful articles on Wikipedia.”

Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis said church members were only “confronting inaccuracies” on the internet: “The story that’s being missed is there were people who were doing non-stop attacks on the church and using Wikipedia to do it. Those people have been banned.” He said there had been no orchestrated campaign by church leaders to have members change Wikipedia articles: “The church is huge. Scientologists are going to say what they’re going to say about their own religion.”



Sources

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

May 6, 2009

Congressional computers continue to be used to vandalize Wikipedia

Congressional computers continue to be used to vandalize Wikipedia

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

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Wikinews contributors have discovered that members of the United States Congress or members of their staff have recently been making questionable edits to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia anyone can edit. This continues the trend identified by four exclusive Wikinews reports over a four-year period exposing questionable and fraudulent edits made beginning in 2005 by Congress members or staff.

Beginning in 2006, Wikinews reported that members of Congress or their staff were vandalizing Wikipedia by removing critical information in various articles, or adding false or offensive information. These edits were and continue to be done using computers owned or operated by the United States government.

Cquote1.svg Sorry–House of Reps IPs should not be editing Wikipedia, even other office’s pages on lunch break. Cquote2.svg

—Congressional IP address 143.231.249.138, January 14, 2009

In this new investigation, Wikinews has found that at least two of the three major Internet Protocol Addresses (IP) attached to computers used by members of the U.S. House of Representatives and their staff have been the source of Wikipedia edits for several years. As recently as April 2009 they have been adding or removing false and/or offensive information from articles related to political figures or members of Congress.

Although the IP addresses belong exclusively to the U.S Congress as a whole, they are linked to many different computers throughout the U.S. which are used by many different House representatives or their staff members. In response to an edit, another Wikipedia contributor posts a message on the user discussion page for the IP address, advising anyone that may view the page that the address belongs to Congress.

In January, one individual using a Congressional computer removed a source in an article. Five minutes later, using the same congressional IP address, someone replaced the source with an apology saying, “sorry–House of Reps IPs should not be editing [Wikipedia], even other office’s pages on lunch break.” Despite the advisories, Wikinews has found that the individuals continued to make vandal-like edits to the encyclopedia.

In one instance, Wikinews found that someone with one of the IP addresses, 143.231.249.141, began to edit the Wikipedia article for Steve Austria, the Republican representative for Ohio’s 7th congressional district. The individual began to edit on March 18, 2009 at 23:32 UTC. He or she used the official House of Representatives gateway to remove a section of information relating to inaccurate comments Austria made about The Great Depression. Austria stated in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch in February that Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal in 1933 caused the U.S. to go into a depression.

“When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. … He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history,” said Austria during the February 11 interview. He later admitted that his statement was wrong, saying Roosevelt’s spending “did not have the desired effect,” which caused the depression. Exactly two minutes later on March 18, the same IP address removed information relating to bloggers accusing Austria of plagiarism in 2008. They accused him of taking credit for a column that was published in his name in the Xenia Gazette on September 2, 2008. Bloggers had discovered that the column was a direct copy of a report on the history of Labor Day originally published by the U.S. Department of Labor. The edits were reverted, the last being over four hours after the information was removed. Despite some constructive edits, such as correcting the spelling of Wisconsin congressman Steve Kagen‘s name and correcting grammatical errors, the same IP removed the information in both sections a total of six times from March 18 to April 24, 2009.

Steve Austria.
Image: U.S. Congress.

After seeing the suspicious edits, Wikinews examined the edit history for Austria’s article to see if any other suspicious edits were made. After a brief search, Wikinews discovered that the IP address 65.189.244.162 removed the same information just 15 days earlier on March 3, being the first address to remove the information. Only one edit has been made to Wikipedia from that IP address so far. After tracing the address, Wikinews discovered the person who made the edits lives in or near Fairborn, which is located 8.5 miles from Beavercreek, where Austria currently resides. Austria also grew up in Xenia which is located just 12 miles from Fairborn and only 8 miles from Beavercreek.

Another individual, with the IP address 75.187.63.132, also removed the allegations of plagiarism from Austria’s article in February. The individual removed what they called “Politically Motivated BS [bullshit]” from the article of Deborah Pryce, former congresswoman for Ohio’s 15th congressional district. The information was related to fundraisers between 2001 and 2004 that were held at restaurants belonging to convicted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After tracing the IP address, Wikinews found that the edit was made from a computer located in Columbus, Ohio, the location of Pryce’s offices and one of the cities in Pryce’s district. Wikinews contacted Austria by e-mail for a statement, but so far there has been no response.

Following those discoveries, Wikinews investigated another IP address used by the U.S. House of Representatives. On April 30, 2009, the address 143.231.249.138 made an edit that listed Devin Nunes, the representative for California’s 21st congressional district, as being a member of the Nazi Party. The address also made less questionable edits, but after investigating further, it was discovered that the IP address removed critical information on April 29 from the article of Gregory Meeks, the representative for New York’s 6th congressional district. The information removed was related to a column by the the New York Times which stated that Meeks initially supported former 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the race for the White House. According to the Times, Meeks changed his support to Obama because he was part of “a young black political class [which was] seeking to assert the neighborhood’s power against what it sees as an older establishment, based in Harlem, that has long exercised disproportionate influence in New York City.”

The address 143.231.249.138 was also responsible for adding highly biased statements to articles related to abortion. On March 16, 2009 it altered the Wikipedia article Crisis pregnancy center, adding that the centers were “abortion mills, which exist only to kill people, also present themselves as medical facilities.” On March 20, the IP changed the Project Rachel article to include, “millions of women have deep regrets and, often, suffer psychological problems after undergoing an abortion–a fact the abortion industry and mass media will not admit.” 143.231.249.141 also added racial slurs and references to gay pedophilia into William A. Donohue‘s article in February, saying he has “participated in the controversial act of ‘tabeling’, in which he takes a small child, places him upon a table, and ‘puts the lord inside him.'”

In an attempt to find out where the edits were being made and by whom, Wikinews contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation to receive advice on how to file an information request with the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The request would have been made to release the names of the individuals and offices responsible for the edits. However, according to Marcia Hofmann, a staff attorney for the EFF, who specializes in FOIA related matters, the U.S. government is not required to provide the information.

“None of the U.S. open government laws extends to records in the possession of members of Congress or their employees. Put differently, it’s not so much a question of what the information is (identities of congressional staff) as where the information is (in congressional offices, which aren’t covered by open government laws),” said Hoffmann in an exclusive interview with Wikinews. She also added that “FOIA [requests] cover records in executive branch agencies and departments” only.

Suspicious and/or fraudulent edits to Wikipedia made by Congress and other government entities were first reported by Wikinews in February 2006, after the U.S. government engaged in Wikipedia vandalism and other forms of perceived biased editing of articles. The House of Representatives IP addresses were briefly banned from editing Wikipedia articles in the wake of the initial controversy. A few days later, Wikinews reported that staff members of the offices of United States Senators, using Senate-linked IP addresses, also edited Wikipedia, in some cases, removing facts and sourced material from articles. In 2008, Wikinews also reported that staff members for then 2008 candidates for U.S. president Barack Obama and John McCain made questionable edits to Wikipedia.



Related news

  • “Staffs for US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama caught making questionable edits to Wikipedia” — Wikinews, August 26, 2008
  • “U.S. House Ethics Committee to examine congressional press secretary vandalizing Wikipedia articles with government computer” — Wikinews, August 19, 2007
  • “Wikinews investigates Wikipedia usage by U.S. Senate staff members” — Wikinews, February 7, 2006
  • “United States Department of Justice workers among government Wikipedia vandals” — Wikinews, February 2, 2006
  • “Congressional staff actions prompt Wikipedia investigation” — Wikinews, January 30, 2006

Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive report features first-hand journalism by one or more Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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September 1, 2008

News agencies suggest that campaign operative for Republican Party edited article on vice presidential nominee

News agencies suggest that campaign operative for Republican Party edited article on vice presidential nominee

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Monday, September 1, 2008

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Multiple news agencies, including the New York Times and CNET yesterday suggested that a campaign operative for Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, worked on the Wikipedia article on her in the 24 hours before the vice presidential candidate was announced. Wikinews has investigated the claim further, after seeing these allegations.

The user who added the content on Wikipedia was known as Young Trigg, and Wikinews has learned that the account was created at exactly 08:02 UTC on August 28. Just eight minutes later the user made their first edit to Wikipedia. In this first edit the user said that Palin “briefly worked as a sports reporter for local Anchorage television stations, while also working as a commercial fisherman with her husband, Todd, her high school sweetheart”.

In the second edit Palin and her family were described as “avid outdoors enthusiasts.” This edit also said that “Sarah and her father would sometimes wake at three am to hunt moose before school, and the family would regularly run 5k and 10k races”.

Some of the other edits say that Sarah was “brought to statewide attention because of whistleblowing on ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders,” she played in a “championship game despite a stress fracture in her ankle, hitting a critical free throw in the last seconds,” and she won a “scholarship to help pay her way through college.” Young Trigg also noted that “Palin holds a lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association”.

The editor also said that her election of mayor came “despite the lack of support from party leaders and being outspent by her Democratic opponent.” Other positive claims added included the statement that “Palin successfully killed the Bridge to Nowhere project that had become a nationwide symbol of wasteful earmark spending”.

Young Trigg also removed the sentence that said that “critics [of Palin] included the state Republican party’s chairman, Randy Ruedrich, one of her fellow Oil & Gas commissioners”.

This unusual editing pattern aroused some suspicion among other editors of Wikipedia. One of these editors is Justen Deal, who told Young Trigg that “some of yours edits may have affected the article in such a way so as to reflect more favorably on the subject of the article.” He also gave Young Trigg the following message:

Cquote1.svg Information.svg If you have a close connection to some of the people, places or things you have written about in the article Sarah Palin on Wikipedia, you may have a conflict of interest. In keeping with Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy, edits where there is a conflict of interest, or where such a conflict might reasonably be inferred from the tone of the edit and the proximity of the editor to the subject, are strongly discouraged. If you have a conflict of interest, you should avoid or exercise great caution when:
  1. editing or creating articles related to you, your organization, or its competitors, as well as projects and products they are involved with;
  2. participating in deletion discussions about articles related to your organization or its competitors;
  3. linking to the Wikipedia article or website of your organization in other articles (see Wikipedia:Spam); and,
  4. avoid breaching relevant policies and guidelines, especially those pertaining to neutral point of view, verifiability of information, and autobiographies.
Cquote2.svg

Deal described his reason for suspecting a conflict of interest to a reporter for Wikinews. He said that “It was clear to me that an editor very familiar with Wikipedia and the governor had made a single-purpose account that had made a significant number of edits that were universally favorable to the subject of the article. Given the fortuitous timing, it made sense to remind the editor of our conflict of interest guidelines”.

After this message was sent by Deal, Young Trigg said that “I will acknowledge that I volunteer for the McCain campaign.” The user did however state that “I did not know Palin was the nominee when I made my edits,” and “no one instructed me to make these edits. No one knew that I made these edits. I did this on my own ‘becuz’ I like improving Wikipedia articles”.

Below is an extract from Young Trigg’s comment:

Cquote1.svg
  • I am not Sarah Palin. I think it is obvious that I am not the five-month old Trig Paxson Van Palin. I am not a member of Sarah Palin’s family, or even Michael Palin’s family. To my knowledge, I have never even been in the same room as a member of the Palin family.
  • I did not “edit for five hours.” I edited for a couple of hours over a five-hour span while I was reading the Internet. The timing was coincidental. I finished reading the Palin biography that day, went to her page, and saw a lot of “cite needed” places and thought I should improve the article and created an account to do so. There is a huge problem with Wikipedia in that editors are rely exclusively on Google and leave out stuff that can be found in books. Is it so strange that a biographical encyclopedia article should include cites to the only book written about the subject?
  • Ninety percent of the “whitewash” allegations made in the Daily Kos thread were edits made by other editors. The others are legitimate edits. No one has identified a single edit made by me that violates Wikipedia rules or was inaccurate.
  • I was not the person who added the claim that Palin was the vice presidential nominee. A vandal or Palin fan did that, perhaps based on Internet rumors that were going around at the time. The same thing happened on the Pawlenty page, the only difference was that the people editing the Palin page happened to be editing a page that ended up getting a lot of attention the next day.
  • No one instructed me to make these edits. No one knew that I made these edits. I did this on my own becuz I like improving Wikipedia articles. I create SPAs precisely for the sort of reason this to-do came up: crazy people making up conspiracy theories wanting to blame the editor for their own problems, and then huge games of telephone where people who don’t understand Wikipedia blame one person for every edit that happened to an article. Have you seen some of the threats in the Daily Kos comments? One of my accounts is for editing hockey articles; another for articles about history; another for evolution; and so on. (Unlike Sarah Palin, I believe in evolution.) Forgive me that I want to remain anonymous rather than have my family exposed to one of those crazies or have Daily Kos auditing every edit I’ve ever made about the Whiskey Rebellion. (I have not actually edited Whiskey Rebellion, that was a hypothetical example. Don’t waste time crawling through the contirbutors there.) Correction, this comment made me curious, and I just edited Whiskey Rebellion. Sorry.
  • I did not know Palin was the nominee when I made my edits. (According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain didn’t make up his mind until Thursday, hours after most of my edits.) If there’s a politician out there hoping for appointments who want to hire me to edit their articles, maybe they will have the same luck, but I doubt it. (That’s a joke. Again, no one hired or asked me to edit this article.)
Cquote2.svg

Young Trigg made a total of 43 contributions (many on talk pages) and announced they would retire from Wikipedia at 07:58 UTC on August 31. In addition to editing the article on Sarah Palin, the user also asked an anonymous contributor to Wikipedia about that person’s edit that stated that Palin was the VP nominee, before the official announcement:

Cquote1.svg Where did you hear Palin was the VP nominee? I can’t find anything online. Cquote2.svg

Wikinews contacted the McCain campaign a with a request for a statement regarding this issue; and, at the time of publication, had not received a response.



Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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August 26, 2008

Staffs for US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama caught making questionable edits to Wikipedia

Staffs for US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama caught making questionable edits to Wikipedia

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
2008 United States Presidential Election
Wikinews Election 2008.svg
2008 U.S. Presidential Election stories

Wikinews has determined through an investigation that the staffs for 2008 United States presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have been spending some of their time making questionable edits to Wikipedia, the open content online encyclopedia. The investigation also found that Obama’s campaign staff seems to be removing questionable edits more often than they are making them. McCain’s campaign staff in most cases is removing unflattering information in certain articles.

John McCain.
Image: United States Congress.

While using the online internet tool Wikiscanner, Wikinews was able to determine the Internet Protocol Address range for the campaign headquarters for Obama, Obama For America and McCain, mccain08hq.com. After determining the ranges, Wikinews found the individual IP addresses used to edit Wikipedia and cross referenced them to current edits as early as August of this year for both campaigns.

As early as August 1, a staff member from McCain’s campaign using the IP address 12.47.124.18 edited a Wikipedia article titled: Xenophobia, in which the staff member removed a paragraph of information stating that “North America has had a current of xenophobia against black people, especially in the United States.” On November 2, 2007, a staff member using the same address removed information that criticized Liberty University. Staff members also performed other edits on articles that favor McCain which can be considered a conflict of interest.

Barack Obama.
Image: United States Congress.

Obama’s campaign staff was also participating in editing. One staff member using the IP address 208.116.214.66 apparently did not like Vanilla Ice saying on May 31, 2007, “Most recently, Winkle was the target of an unfortunate assault when, during a concert in Des Moines, Iowa, an Aryan-looking, bi-curious campaign staffer named Tom Vietor hurled an empty bottle at the performer’s skull.” The edit was immediately removed by the same IP address. Vietor’s last registered salary was in April of 2007. On August 6, 2007 another staff member using a different IP address from Obama’s campaign, 208.116.214.67, added “Adam Goldfarb is the biggest liar I know” to the Wikipedia article Liar. Goldfarb is listed as being on the New Jersey staff for Obama’s campaign. Later more recent edits from 208.116.214.66 appear to remove vandalism from articles on Wikipedia while the other stopped editing thereafter.

These edits come just days after a Wikipedia editor alleged the McCain campaign lifted background information from Wikipedia for an August 11 public speech about the Georgian-Russian crisis. McCain gave a warning to Russia stating, “Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin must understand the severe, long-term negative consequences that their government’s actions will have for Russia’s relationship with the U.S. and Europe.”

This discovery occurred at the beginning of the 2008 Democratic National Convention which began on Monday in Denver, Colorado where Obama is accepting his nomination for the presidential bid.

Wikinews has e-mailed both campaigns, but as of publishing this report, there have been no responses.



Related news

  • “Wikinews investigates claim McCain plagiarized speech from Wikipedia” — Wikinews, August 23, 2008

Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive report features first-hand journalism by one or more Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

External Links

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March 14, 2008

Jimmy Wales accused of editing Wikipedia for donations

Jimmy Wales accused of editing Wikipedia for donations

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Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Friday, March 14, 2008 File:P1030255.jpg

Jimmy Wales at a Wikimania event in 2007.
Image: EvgenyGenkin.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been accused of editing pages in the encyclopedia in return for a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation. In an article published Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that former Novell computer scientist Jeff Merkey alleged Wales had made edits to his article on his behalf, in exchange for a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation. The news hit the website Slashdot later Tuesday, where the incident was dubbed “DonorGate”.

According to The Daily Telegraph, Merkey claims that he was told by Wales in 2006 that the Wikipedia article about him could be made more favorable in exchange for a donation. Merkey made a donation of US$5,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation, and Wales made edits to the Wikipedia article about Merkey around the same time. Merkey published his claims on a public Wikimedia mailing list and sent a statement to The Associated Press.

Cquote1.svg Of course I would never offer, nor accept any offer, whereby a donation would buy someone special editorial treatment in the encyclopedia. Cquote2.svg

Jimmy Wales

In a response Wales called Merkey’s statements “nonsense”, saying “Of course I would never offer, nor accept any offer, whereby a donation would buy someone special editorial treatment in the encyclopedia. I do routinely assist people with WP:BLP issues, and I do courtesies for many people. Donations have no bearing on that at all.” WP:BLP refers to Wikipedia’s policy regarding biographies of living persons on the encyclopedia.

After deleting the Wikipedia article about Merkey in 2006, Wales wrote to Wikipedia editors he had done so “because of the unpleasantness of it” and requested that they “be extra careful here to be courteous and assume good faith”. After erasing the article, Wales placed the article under protection with editing access limited to established users. Merkey ceased his $5,000.00 per year payments to the Wikimedia Foundation after reviewing what he called “evidence of diversion and mismanagement of the charities funds by Wales and the Wikimedia Board of Trustees”.

Cquote1.svg The Wikimedia Foundation, its staff and board members, and the users of Wikipedia itself hold the core principles of ‘no conflict of interest’ in the highest regard. Cquote2.svg

Jay Walsh, Wikimedia Foundation

In a statement responding to a post about the incident on the site Techtree.com, Wikimedia Foundation’s Head of Communications Jay Walsh addressed the Foundation’s principles regarding conflict of interest: “The Wikimedia Foundation (the Foundation which operates and maintains Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects) has never solicited or accepted donations for the purposes of making edits or offering protection to Wikipedia articles. Nor has Jimmy Wales ever solicited or accepted donations for the Foundation in this capacity. These allegations are completely false. … Jimmy has been unfailingly ethical and frugal in the use of all Foundation funds. The Wikimedia Foundation, its staff and board members, and the users of Wikipedia itself hold the core principles of ‘no conflict of interest’ in the highest regard.”

After leaving Novell amidst allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets, Merkey was sued by his former employer. He filed a harassment lawsuit against organizations including the website Slashdot in 2005. Merkey filed a suit against Delta Air Lines and Natural Selection Foods in 2006, claiming his son had become sick from E. coli contaminated spinach.

Merkey is banned from editing Wikipedia due to a ruling by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee. The Wikipedia Signpost, Wikipedia’s community-written and community-edited newspaper, reported that a Wikipedia user account used by Merkey was blocked in October 2005 for “Personal attacks, legal threats, harassment, disruption”. Merkey was later allowed to come back to edit Wikipedia in May 2007 under a different account. As the result of a ruling by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committe in a July 2007 arbitration case, Merkey and two users who had harassed him on Wikipedia were banned from editing the encyclopedia for one year.

Last week Jimmy Wales faced accusations by former Wikimedia Foundation executive Danny Wool that he misused the non-profit organization‘s funds, and attempted to expense a visit to a Moscow massage parlor and high-priced bottles of wine. In an interview with CNET TV, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner described Wool as “a disgruntled former employee” and called his claims “a whole bunch of unsubstantiated rumors and gossip”. Wales’s former girlfriend, journalist Rachel Marsden, recently leaked purported instant message transcripts with Wales, which implied Wales had used his influence to change the article about Marsden on Wikipedia. Wales ended his relationship with Marsden and made a public statement to that effect on Wikipedia, and in response Marsden opened an auction for some of Wales’s clothing on eBay.



Related news

  • “Wikipedia founder embroiled in affair and financial allegations” — Wikinews, March 5, 2008
  • “Microsoft offers to pay blogger to ‘correct’ Wikipedia article” — Wikinews, January 24, 2007
  • “Wikinews investigates Wikipedia usage by U.S. Senate staff members” — Wikinews, February 7, 2006
  • Congressional staff actions prompt Wikipedia investigation” — Wikinews, January 30, 2006

Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Jeff V. Merkey
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Jimmy Wales

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March 5, 2008

Wikipedia founder embroiled in affair and financial allegations

Wikipedia founder embroiled in affair and financial allegations

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The implosion of a relationship between Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and journalist Rachel Marsden has resulted in controversy and international headlines. Associated Press and ABC News have also reported on questionable activity by Wales involving Wikimedia Foundation expenses. The Wikimedia Foundation is a donor-supported non-profit organization which runs Wikipedia.

Rachel Marsden in 2008.
Image: poppyott (Chris).

Marsden had contacted Wales two years ago about concerns she had over the article about her on Wikipedia, and Wales determined the article was not compliant with Wikipedia’s standards. The tech blog Valleywag revealed Wales had a personal relationship with Marsden, and posted supposed transcripts of their instant message conversations on its site, www.valleywag.com. Wales and Marsden met in February, and The Times reported that “An apparent transcript of their conversations before that meeting suggests that, although Mr Wales had withdrawn from the editing process, he was still influencing the editors.” The Times quoted Wales from the chat logs as having stated to Marsden “The truth is of course a much worse conflict of interest than that; but that will do.” — in reference to his conflict of interest regarding Marsden’s article on Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales in 2005.
Image: Andrew Lih.

Wales posted a public statement on Saturday on Wikipedia addressing the matter, and stated that his relationship with Marsden was over: “First, while I find it hard to imagine that anyone really cares about my sex life, the facts are: I am separated from my wife. I considered myself single at the time of my one meeting with Rachel Marsden on Feb. 9, 2008 … I am no longer involved with Rachel Marsden. Gossipy stories suggesting that I have been in a relationship with her ‘since last fall’ are completely false … I care deeply about the integrity of Wikipedia, and take very seriously my responsibilities as a member of the board and as a member of the Wikipedia community. I would never knowingly do anything to compromise that trust.” With regard to the conflict of interest in Marsden’s article, Wales had acknowledged to a team of Wikipedia editors in February 2008 that he and Marsden “became friends … and that we would be meeting about that,” and stated “I recused myself from any further official action with respect to her biography.”

On Sunday, The Canadian Press reported that Marsden had posted photos of herself on Ebay, and was selling items that Wales had left at her New York City apartment. In her Ebay posting, Marsden stated: “Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex-) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia … It was such a classy move that I was inspired to do something equally classy myself, so I’m selling a couple of items of clothing he left behind, here in my NYC apartment, on eBay. Jimbo was supposed to come visit me in a couple of weeks and pick up some of his stuff, but obviously that won’t be happening now.” Marsden told The Canadian Press “It didn’t really help matters that Jimmy chose to announce the breakup to the entire world via Wikipedia (which apparently now is an online encyclopedia that doubles as a personal soapbox?) rather than to me directly (which he did much later, in an instant message discussion).”

Cquote1.svg I care deeply about the integrity of Wikipedia, and take very seriously my responsibilities as a member of the board and as a member of the Wikipedia community. I would never knowingly do anything to compromise that trust. Cquote2.svg

—Jimmy Wales

Marsden placed a t-shirt and sweater which she said were left at her apartment by Wales up on Ebay, and started the bidding for each at ninety-nine cents, with the auctions set to end on March 12. By Monday, bidding on the t-shirt had reached US$300, and by Tuesday the highest bid had reached $12,200. In an email to The Globe and Mail, Marsden stated “My only focus right now, to be really honest, is on my career and finding a way to get back into print, TV, or radio here in NYC,” she wrote. “All of this other personal stuff is just an unfortunate distraction.”

Jay Walsh, the Wikimedia Foundation’s head of communications, told the San Jose Mercury News that Wales’ actions in relaying Marsden’s concerns about her Wikipedia article to a team of trusted editors was within his “routine” role. When asked by the San Jose Mercury News if Wales’ actions regarding the Marsden article could compromise his role with the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia, Walsh responded “No, absolutely not.”

On Tuesday, ABC News carried a story by Wired News reporter Megan McCarthy regarding allegations of “excessive spending” by Wales, and Associated Press also reported on questions involving Wikimedia Foundation expenses. McCarthy reported that former Wikimedia executive Danny Wool, who had left the foundation last year, criticized Wales’ use of Wikimedia Foundation expenses in a blog post. Wool stated that Wales had tried to expense $300 bottles of wine, a $1,300 dinner for four at a Florida steakhouse, and visits to Moscow massage parlors to the foundation, and that the foundation rescinded Wales’ corporate credit card in 2006. Wool also stated that Wales paid the foundation $7,000, after being short $30,000 on receipts for expenses.

Wool told EPICENTER that “There were occasions where he used [the Wikimedia Foundation] for personal advancement under the guide [sic] of the mission. And, as someone who was in there for the mission part of it, I found that rather distressful.” Wool commented in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle: “Originally, it was carelessness … But as things developed, it became more apparent and obvious that he was taking advantage of the foundation credit card. It was almost like his personal piggy bank.”

Florence Devouard in 2006.
Image: Gus Freedman/Wikimedia Foundation.

Cquote1.svg Jimmy has never used Wikimedia money to subsidize his personal expenditures. Indeed, he has consistently put the foundation’s interests ahead of his own. Cquote2.svg

—Sue Gardner

In an instant message exchange with Associated Press, Wales denied that the Wikimedia Foundation had taken away his corporate credit card, and asserted that he had made the decision to stop expensing business travel for the foundation. Wales highlighted a statement by the foundation’s executive director Sue Gardner: “Jimmy has never used Wikimedia money to subsidize his personal expenditures. Indeed, he has consistently put the foundation’s interests ahead of his own.” In an email to Associated Press, Brad Patrick, a former attorney for the Wikimedia Foundation, stated “Danny seems interested in blogging his way straight to a lawsuit”.

Florence Devouard, who chairs the Wikimedia Foundation, told Associated Press that Wales had been “slow in submitting receipts,” and that the foundation had rejected Wales’ expense at the Florida steakhouse. Devouard told fellow foundation board members in a private email that she had convinced Associated Press that “the money story was a no story,” and told Wales “I find (it) tiring to see how you are constantly trying to rewrite the past. Get a grip!” Wales told Associated Press: “The board, the current executive director, the previous executive director, and independent auditors have reviewed our books and publicly agree that all of my expenses were appropriate and fully accounted for.”

Media reports speculated on how the controversy would end up being represented in Wikipedia itself. On Wednesday, the St. Petersburg Times wrote: “Wales’ Wikipedia page said only this about Marsden: ‘Wales had a brief relationship with Canadian journalist Rachel Marsden.'” An article in The Australian surmised: “History will decide whether Mr Wales broke his own principles, but before that happens there may well be a Wikipedia page devoted to the controversy.”



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Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Rachel Marsden, Jimmy Wales and Wikimedia Foundation on Wikipedia.
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September 5, 2007

FOX News fares poorly in investigation of media edits to Wikipedia

FOX News fares poorly in investigation of media edits to Wikipedia

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Virgil Griffith, creator of the WikiScanner

Virgil Griffith recently made headlines when his new tool, the WikiScanner, was revealed. The tool allows users to search for some edits to several editions of the online free-content encyclopedia Wikipedia made from Internet addresses assigned to particular companies.

The media buzz made Virgil’s tool near-inaccessible as it was swamped with queries. Initially broken by Wired, the articles highlighted edits from network addresses assigned to Diebold and the CIA, and encouraged readers to reveal and share their findings. Mainstream media such as the BBC revealed that edits made from CIA addresses had made changes to the article on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that edits were made from Vatican addresses to Gerry Adams’s article.

Readers of the BBC news website were quick to point out that edits to Wikipedia also originated from the BBC network addresses. Peter Clifton, head of BBC Interactive, confessed to writing about himself and revealed that a prankster within the BBC had edited George W. Bush’s entry to state that his middle name was “Wanker”. The BBC’s Internet address range had a total of nearly 8,000 edits to other various English Wikipedia articles such as Janet Jackson, Super Furry Animals and Freeview.

Without confirmation such as Peter Clifton gave, it is usually impossible to determine from the IP address alone if the edits made from it were even performed by an employee of the organization. While it is likely that the majority of edits are from an organisation’s employees there is the possibility that visitors could be using a company address, or a public-wifi could be on offer. All of this would appear to be edits from the company according to Wikiscanner, and even when the edits do come from employees or representatives, there is no way to tell from the data alone whether the company endorses the edits, or even knows about them.

While Wikipedia advertises itself as the encyclopaedia “anyone can edit”, there are guidelines on the site directing how users may edit the articles—and even, in some cases, who shouldn’t be editing them. None of Wikipedia’s “conflict of interest” policies attempt to limit what people can edit based on the Internet address that they are using.

Wikinews had already started an investigation into just what edits the tool revealed. Hampered by the difficulty getting results due to the traffic load on the web server, we began checking company names and names of media groups. In addition to verifying that the vast majority of edits from network addresses assigned to the BBC were beneficial to the Wikipedia project, the others, CNN, MSNBC, Reuters and AP received a fairly clean bill of health. People using Reuters’ Internet connectivity appeared the first to discover Wikipedia, editing as early as February 2002. Users from AP had made a few edits to articles about the AP, none of which could be considered negative contributions, other contributions included additions to several The Simpsons episodes. However, edits originating at address space assigned to FOX News, and its parent company, News Corporation were more frequently unproductive, many which under Wikipedia and most other Wikimedia project policy, would be considered vandalism and would usually result in a block or ban of editing Wikimedia projects.

The edits from FOX’s address space, now totalling almost 700, start with an edit to the article on FOX which deleted links to websites critical of FOX. Some of the edits could be characterized as an attempt conceal criticism voiced in the documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism which alleges bias by FOX News. This was replaced with a link to the company’s official response and another to a story put out by FOX News questioning the validity of the film’s sources. The same Internet address at FOX News then removed criticism from the article on Alan Colmes.

Other addresses within FOX also edited articles on FOX News employees such as Brit Hume, Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace inserting positive information, highlighting their ratings successes and slogan, “fair and balanced” before going on to describe the New York Times as “left wing” and blanking the quotes section on the article about their columnist Mike Straka. The current version of this article is disputed on neutrality grounds as the entire biography and criticism sections have been removed. Including comments about anti-war protesters – “whom he has denounced as “smelly”, “stupid”, “stinking”, “jobless”, “anti-American” and “traitors”.

More recent edits include downplaying Sean Hannity’s importance to the show Hannity and Colmes by removing the fact that he is the shows executive producer and referring to him as simply “host” or “co-host”. Details of Wendy Murdoch’s previous marriage to the husband from the couple who sponsored her trip to study in the United States were excised by another Fox News address.

Investigation of a wider field of media organisations revealed that the News Corporation subsidiary British Sky Broadcasting has the same history of juvenile and prank edits with insults posted against staff on their payroll as well as UK celebrities. The main proxy server that allows their staff on the Internet currently has a large warning of who the IP address belongs to and a list of block messages and block/edit warnings. Some of the vandalism committed through their proxy has been described as “racist” and “potentially libelous”.

WikiScanner cannot identify the origin of any edit made by a registered user. Users are not required to register an account to edit Wikipedia, and those who do not register have their edits associated with an IP address. Edits from unregistered users are, inaccurately, called “anonymous” edits.

Wikimedia’s privacy policy does not allow revealing the IP address of registered users except as dictated by Wikimedia’s privacy policy. Users of Wikiscanner cannot find out about editing by registered users, even if they are coming from the same IP address as the “anonymous” users who did not register.

Virgil’s conditions for speaking to the media include the format of a link to his website. His goal, to get a Google search for “Virgil” to return his page as the top listing. As of publication he’s succeeded.



Related news

  • “Wikinews investigates Wikipedia usage by U.S. Senate staff members” — Wikinews, February 7, 2006
  • “United States Department of Justice workers among government Wikipedia vandals” — Wikinews, February 2, 2006
  • Congressional staff actions prompt Wikipedia investigation” — Wikinews, January 30, 2006

Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

External links

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January 24, 2007

Microsoft offers to pay blogger to \’correct\’ Wikipedia article

Microsoft offers to pay blogger to ‘correct’ Wikipedia article

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Wikipedia-logo.png
Spoken content icon This article features in a News Brief from Audio Wikinews:

Software giant Microsoft has attempted to correct a Wikipedia article concerning the Microsoft Office Open XML format.

Wikipedia strongly discourages contributors involved with the subject of an article from editing the article, when a conflict of interest is likely. Instead, such contributors are advised to comment or suggest changes to the articles for the broader community of editors to review and implement, if found acceptable. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and administrators have on occasion blocked users thought to have violated these guidelines from editing Wikipedia.

Microsoft Sign on German campus.jpg

Doug Mahugh from Microsoft contacted Rick Jelliffe, who is the top technical officer for Sydney computing company Topologi – and offered to pay him for the time it would take to modify the article.

“Wikipedia has an entry on Open XML that has a lot of slanted language, and we’d like for them to make it more objective but we feel that it would be best if a non-Microsoft person were the source of any corrections,” reads the email Microsoft employee Mahugh wrote to Jelliffe.

One of Wikipedia’s core policies is that articles must be written from a “neutral point of view” or NPOV.

“Would you have any interest or availability to do some of this kind of work? Your reputation as a leading voice in the XML community would carry a lot of credibility, so your name came up in a discussion of the Wikipedia situation today.”

The e-mail also stated that Microsoft would not stop Jelliffe from disclosing the deal and rather encouraged him to post it on his blog at oreillynet.com. It also reassured Jelliffe that Microsoft did not have to approve any changes he made to the article.

“We were very disappointed to hear that Microsoft was taking that approach,” Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said. Wales stated that the proper thing for Microsoft was to write a “white paper” concerning the article, post it on an outside website and then link it to the discussion page of the Wikipedia articles’ discussion forums. “It seems like a much better, transparent, straightforward way,” Wales said.

Microsoft spokeswoman Catherine Brooker said she believed the articles were heavily written by people at IBM, which is a supporter of the rival ISO-approved OpenDocument standard used by two leading Open Source office suites rather than the controversial Microsoft Office Open XML format.

Sources

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Wikipedia has more about this subject:
Wikipedia:Conflict of interest
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February 22, 2006

An interview with Jimbo Wales/Color-free

An interview with Jimbo Wales/Color-free

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Jimbo at Fosdem cropped.jpg

Just five years ago, when Jimbo Wales founded Wikipedia, the project’s goal of 100,000 articles [1] seemed ambitious. Yet today, the project, now one of the top 25 websites in the world according to Alexa, is nearing closer 1,000,000 articles in English, and 3.5 million articles across all languages. This week, we interviewed Jimbo Wales.

Colored version

Wikinews: Raul654 asks: “Recently, there were revelations about organized attempts by US Congressmen to whitewash their articles. What is your take on this, as well as earlier reports of Corporate astroturfing?”

Jimbo Wales: The question is invalid. There were no revelations of organized attempts by US Congressmen to whitewash their articles. Not any evidence of “corporate astroturfing” of which I am aware. There was evidence that some congressional staffers edited Wikipedia in inappropriate ways. But the internal evidence of the type and style of these edits do not suggest “organized attempts”.

WN: Nichalp asks: “Budget permitting, are there any plans to increase the number of Wikipedia servers, specifically into the less developed countries?”

JW: We are always buying new servers. There are no specific plans to add servers in less developed countries, but we have looked into it as a possibility. We are particularly interested in doing so if it helps increase access and reduce costs for those users.

WN: An anonymous reader asks: “How much of a role do you feel the Wikipedia community (and the communities of its sister projects) should have in the running of the Wikimedia Foundation? Do you see an increasing separation of the organization from the projects? If so, do you regard that as beneficial or a potential problem?”

JW: The community has always been and will always be absolutely crucial to the running of the Wikimedia Foundation. We are increasing the community input and activity in the foundation through a new series of committees to delegate things to community members which have traditionally been handled by me or the Board. I do not see any increasing separation of the organization from the projects, quite the opposite. I consider the increasing integration of the community and the foundation as overwhelmingly beneficial.

WN: ALoan asks: “English Wikipedia is approaching 1 million articles, but less than 1 in a thousand are Featured articles. The list of featured articles English Wikipedia should have has few featured articles, and recent surveys of articles chosen at random show that many articles are poorly written. How can we get from here to an encyclopedia of well-written articles? Or should we not worry too much about coverage and content?”

JW: We should be tightly focused on the quality of our coverage and content. The goal of Wikipedia is to create and distribute a freely licensed high quality encyclopedia. The path to that goal will require us to be flexible and thoughtful. The first steps will come soon with the article review system, which will initially be used simply to gather data. After we have data, we can begin to work on how we will focus our attention to improve quality.

WN: GeorgeStepanek asks: “You’ve said that ‘Wikimedia’s mission is to give the world’s knowledge to every single person on the planet in their own language.’ But very few of the wikipedias in the languages of third-world countries are seeing as much activity as the first-world language wikipedias. Do you have any ideas on how this could be turned around?”

JW: I am a believer in outreach. I would like for the Foundation to raise money specifically to pay one or more minority language co-ordinators. The goal would be to reach out in a more organized way to professors and graduate students and expat communities who have good Internet access, to seed projects for languages where the majority of speakers have poor internet access.

WN: Jacoplane asks: “How do you feel we will be able to reach Wikipedia 1.0? The tools currently available for vetting our articles are crude at best. The Featured article process seems too slow, and the article validation feature seems to have died a quiet death. Are you planning a big push on this front?”

JW: Isn’t that the same question as the quality question? The article validation feature has not died a quiet death at all.

WN: Quadell asks: “Most important decisions on Wikimedia projects are handled with consensus. However, we sometimes have to deal with legal issues, especially related to copyright law. For instance, we as a community may need to decide whether to consider a certain use “fair”, or how to deal with conflicting copyright claims. Dealing with this through consensus is problematic, since we can’t do something illegal even if there is widespread misguided support for it. In general, how can we as a community deal with these issues?”

JW: I don’t think there is any real problem with this. The community is strongly in support of following the law. I don’t know of any particular cases of widespread misguided support for something illegal. In particular cases, there can of course be [dis]agreement, but I have never seen anyone in the community argue that we should not listen to the advice of our legal team.

WN: Raul654 asks: “Where do you see Wikipedia in 10 years?”

JW: I don’t know. My favorite answer to this is to say, the real question is: where will the world be after 10 more years of Wikipedia. 🙂 Seriously, I think we’ll eventually see a tapering off of new article creation in the large language wikipedias as more and more “verifiable” topics are covered. At this point, most changes will be expansions and updates and quality improvements to existing articles. But in 10 years, it seems likely to me that many languages which are now quite small will have very large Wikipedia projects. Our community will continue to become more diverse as more and more people worldwide come online.

WN: Kevin Myers asks: “The values reflected in certain Wikipedia policies (anti-censorship, neutral point-of-view) are problematic in cultures where freedom of expression is limited, as the blocking of Wikipedia in mainland China and arguably the Muhammad cartoons controversy attest. As Wikipedia expands internationally, do you foresee Wikipedia becoming increasingly controversial in countries where “Western values” are seen as a potential threat?”

JW: I don’t think that neutrality and objectivity are really controversial among most people of the world. It is true that the leadership in some places does not value these things, and may actually work against these things, but we can not deviate from our goals to accommodate them.

WN: On a similar topic, Vsion asks: “Are there currently any efforts being undertaken by the Foundation to address the People’s Republic of China’s blocking of Wikipedia or to alleviate its effect?”

JW: Beijing-area Wikipedians are working to have the block lifted. Our position is that the block is in error, even given China’s normal policies. Wikipedia is not propaganda, it is basic information. We expect that the block will be lifted.

WN: David.Monniaux asks: “The Foundation receives daily accusations of libel from semi-well-known people who have an entry on Wikipedia or are mentioned in some Wikipedia entry. What do you propose? Would a strict application of the rule of citing controversial claims suffice, in your opinion?”

JW: Yes. I think that our current systems do a good job of addressing these sorts of complaints, although it is very time-consuming for us here in the office. What really works wonders is a very strict application of the rule of citing controversial claims particularly relating to biographies of living persons. The new policy on biographies of living persons is a very strong step in the right direction.

WN: Tony Sidaway asks: “In the past six weeks the number of userboxes on English Wikipedia has risen from 3500 to 6000 and, despite your appeals for restraint, the number pertaining to political beliefs has risen from 45 to 150. Can the problem of unsuitable userboxes still be resolved by debate?”

JW: My only comment on the userbox situation is that the current situation is not acceptable.

WN: Larsinio asks: “How can Wikipedia effectively explain to the public its open-contribution model without simultaneously worrying the public about inaccurate information?”

JW: I think we do a reasonably good job of that. The best thing is to point to our overall quality while at the same time pointing out that we are currently a work in progress. Over time, this answer will change as we move toward ‘1.0’. At that time, we can point to ‘1.0’ for those who are made nervous by the live editing.

WN: Rob Church asks: “Do you consider the encyclopedia to be ‘finished’? Do you think it ever can be?”

JW: Nothing is ever finished. Human knowledge is always growing.

WN: Raul654 and Pavel Vozenilek both asked, “What kind of cool new features/announcements can we expect to see in the next year or two?”

JW: I think this question is too hard for me to answer. I almost never “announce” anything, and features are developed publicly by the community. I think other people have a better idea than I do what will happen in the next year or two. 🙂 Ask Brion [Vibber].

WN: Celestianpower asks: “If you had not founded Wikipedia, and had just been referred to it by a friend, how active a contributor do you think you would be?”

JW: [I] dream fondly of such a scenario. I might actually get to edit articles then. Instead of spend the morning (this morning) documenting transactions and taking phone calls.

WN: OpenToppedBus asks: “The last fundraising drive was less successful than had been anticipated. Do you see a shortage of money holding back Wikipedia/Wikimedia in the short-to-medium-term, and are there any plans to bring in income from sources other than individual donations?”

JW: The last fundraising drive was more successful than had been anticipated, by a long shot. It was the most successful fund drive in our history. [Regarding a quoted goal of $500,000], Mav wrote something like that somewhere, in a scratchpad kind of way. That number was just a placeholder and had nothing to do with me or the official view of the foundation. He’s apologized repeatedly for it.

WN: Thryduulf asks: “What is your single greatest wish for Wikipedia?”

JW: I would have to just point back to our original goal: a freely licensed high quality encyclopedia for every single person on the planet. That’s what I remain focused on daily.


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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews member. See the talk page for more details. Interviews are translated through WORTNET.

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