Congressional staffer edits to Wikipedia

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For the internal account, see Wikipedia:Congressional Staffer Edits

The Congressional staffer edits to Wikipedia refers to a number of edits by Congressional staffers to the Wikipedia biographies of their candidates or opponents, and the controversies surrounding them, mostly in early to mid-2006. In several instances, the edits became controversial and received media attention, such as for Marty Meehan, Norm Coleman, Conrad Burns, Joe Biden, and others.


[edit] Background

On January 27 2006, the Lowell Sun of Massachusetts published an article [1] entitled "Rewriting history under the dome". This story unveiled the editing by Congressional staff members of Congressman Marty Meehan's Wikipedia entry.

"Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker."

Further investigation by Wikipedia members discovered well over a thousand edits by IP addresses allocated to the US House of Representatives and Senate. While most of the edits were considered to show good-faith by Wikipedia editors, a minority were considered improper. At least one of the addresses involved was blocked from further editing.<ref>Wikipedia editor made a fairly extensive survey of edits from Congressional IP ranges: Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Marty Meehan

Congressman Meehan responded to the the Lowell Sun article [2]:

Yesterday's story, "Rewriting history under the dome," accurately reported that in July of 2005 an intern in my office responsible for updating my biography also updated my online Wikipedia entry. I did not know that this change was being made at the time and was only made aware of it yesterday when informed that The Sun had inquired about it. Though the actual time spent on this issue amounted to 11 minutes, according to server logs, I do not consider it time well spent or approve of it in any way. ... It was a waste of energy and an error in judgment on the part of my staff to have allowed any time to be spent on updating my Wikipedia entry. I thank The Sun for bringing it to my attention.'

[edit] Norm Coleman

Later in January 2006, Senator Norm Coleman's chief of staff, Erich Mische, "confirmed that the senator's staff had done so...the editing was done to correct inaccuracies and delete information".<ref name="twincities">Template:Cite journal</ref>

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said "it appears to be a major rewrite of the article to make it more favorable."<ref name="twincities" />

Mische stated: "What's to stop someone from writing in that Norm Coleman was 7 feet 10 inches, with green hair and one eye smack dab in the middle of his head? That's about as silly as this gets ... [W]hen you put 'edia' in there, it makes it sound as if this is a benign, objective piece of information." <ref name="twincities" />

[edit] Mid-2006: end of the trend?

As of mid-2006, there have been no additional reports of improper editing from congressional sites. After a congressional staffer emailed Mr. Wales to ask about the appropriate way to request an update to Wikipedia, he suggested that she post information to the article's "talk" or discussion page. [3]

[edit] Gil Gutknecht

On August 16, 2006, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported that the office of Representative Gil Gutknecht tried twice -- on July 24 and August 14, 2006 -- to remove a 128-word section in the Wikipedia article on him, replacing it with a more flattering 315-word entry taken from his official congressional biography. Most of the removed text was about the 12-year term-limit Gutknecht imposed on himself in 1995 (Gutknecht is running for re-election in 2006, breaking his promise). A spokesman for Gutknecht did not dispute that his office tried to change his Wikipedia entry, but questioned the reliability of the encyclopedia. <ref>"Gutknecht joins Wikipedia tweakers", Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, August 16, 2006, accessed August 17th, 2006</ref>.

Gutknecht's office used the account Gutknecht01 for the first edits on July 24;[4] that account was then notified (via its talk page) of wikipedia policies against self-editing. For the second set of edits on August 16, his office used an anonymous Congressional IP address.[5]

[edit] Notes


[edit] References

Congressional staffer edits to Wikipedia

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