US Congress Blocked from Editing Wikipedia, Again

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Earlier this summer, Wikipedia blocked congressional computers from editing pages on the site for 10 days. This week brought news of yet another ban, thanks to controversial edits made from an IP address associated with the House.

Recently, users with the House-associated IP address have been making changes on various Wikipedia pages relating to transgender people, reports The Hill. The ban was instituted after someone edited the “Orange is the New Black” page from “‘Orange Is the New Black’ contains the first ever women-in-prison narrative to be played by a real transgender woman,” to “‘Orange Is the New Black’ contains the first ever women-in-prison narrative to be played by a real man pretending to be a woman.” The citation was changed from an article published in LGBT magazine The Advocate to one from the conservative magazine The National Review.

This time around, however, the ban only applies to anonymous editors.

From the Wikipedia talk page on Transphobia:

What is your obsession with the users from this shared IP address? I don’t know what part of my statements would make you think that I am a man. There’s nothing illegal about editing Wikipedia to promote official business that has been explicitly authourized by the Representative. When you have other Representatives trying to push for laws such as ENDA, or when you have the EU using neocolonialist methods to impose transgenderism on the nation of Georgia through a visa agreement, it’s all the more important.

Besides ripping off us American taxpayers, you are a barefaced liar. I defy you to name the Representative who has “explicitly authorized” you to promote official business by vandalizing Wikipedia, as in this case where you tried to link to an article that its own community ostracized as “hateful or abusive content.” If it’s official business, why remain anonymous—other than to abuse the position to which you’ve been entrusted?

@congressedits, a Twitter bot that keeps track of congressional edits to Wikipedia, documented the kerfuffle:

Gender identity disorder Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/z0JXcd04tR

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 18, 2014

Transphobia Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/74DMTxrhuq

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 18, 2014

Talk:Transphobia Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/SUnkpK7RGO

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 18, 2014

Camp Trans Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/qCPnV3TmP5

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 19, 2014

Body integrity identity disorder Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/tqE21CHm2b

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 19, 2014

Tranny Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/SkIIKhDxBu

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 20, 2014

Orange Is the New Black Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/dIeJefU2KV

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 20, 2014

User talk:143.231.249.138 Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/KHGCn29OtH

— congress-edits (@congressedits) August 21, 2014

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Wikipedia Blocks US Congress’ ‘Persistent Disruptive Edits’

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Wikipedia editors have blocked computers from the U.S. House of Representatives for making “persistent disruptive edits” to Wikipedia pages. Page edits from House computers have been banned for ten days, largely due to the “actions of two or three,” one staffer told the BBC.

The Twitter account @congressedits has been monitoring changes to Wikipedia pages coming from congressional computers. In an attempt to maintain the site’s integrity, bots like these alert editors by sending out a tweet each time an edit is made from government-owned IP addresses.

The bot brought attention to rouge edits made to the pages of businesses, politicians (the biography of former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an “alien lizard who eats Mexican babies”), conspiracy theories and events like the Kennedy assassination — in particular an edit saying that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting “on behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro.”

The ban, however, was instated after a round of edits were made to the page of news site Mediaite, which has reported about similar acts of vandalism originating from congressional computers in the past. Edits from a House IP address said the blog “automatically assumes that someone is male without any evidence” and described the site as “sexist transphobic.”

The creator of @congressedits Ed Summers said the account was not created for fact-checking anonymous editing by government sources. Summers wrote in a blog post, “The truth is, @congressedits has only announced a handful of edits, and some of them are pretty banal. But can’t a staffer or politician make a grammatical change, or update an article about a movie? Is it really news that they are human, just like the rest of us?”

But Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told the BBC that the bot account may have been unproductive:

There is a belief from some of the [Wikipedia] community that it only provoked someone — some prankster there in the office — to have an audience now for the pranks, and actually encouraged them rather than discouraged them.

Maybe someone at the House of Representatives better think about their IT staff – they might be hunting them down this very moment.

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