T Nation

Wikipedia, CIA and Vatican


#1

Since Wikipedia is so videly used here too, I thought this would be interesting. If you are about to edit Wikipedia, be careful where you do it.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6947532.stm


Wikipedia 'shows CIA page edits'
By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The tool detected changes to a page about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
An online tool that claims to reveal the identity of organisations that edit Wikipedia pages has revealed that the CIA was involved in editing entries.

Wikipedia Scanner allegedly shows that workers on the agency's computers made edits to the page of Iran's president.

It also purportedly shows that the Vatican has edited entries about Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

The tool, developed by US researchers, trawls a list of 5.3m edits and matches them to the net address of the editor.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that can be created and edited by anyone.

Most of the edits detected by the scanner correct spelling mistakes or factual inaccuracies in profiles. However, others have been used to remove potentially damaging material or to deface sites.

Mistaken identity

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.

A warning on the profile of the anonymous editor reads: "You have recently vandalised a Wikipedia article, and you are now being asked to stop this type of behaviour."

Other changes that have been made are more innocuous, and include tweaks to the profile of former CIA chief Porter Goss and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.

When asked whether it could confirm whether the changes had been made by a person using a CIA computer, an agency spokesperson responded: "I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers.

"I'd like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work."

Radio change

The site also indicates that a computer owned by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site of right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The changes brand Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic," a "racist", and a "bigot". An entry about his audience now reads: "Most of them are legally retarded."

We really value transparency and the scanner really takes this to another level
Wikipedia spokesperson

The IP address is registered in the name of the Democratic National Headquarters.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Party said that the changes had not been made on its computers. Instead, they said that the "IP address is the same as the DCCC".

The DCCC, or Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is the "official campaign arm of the Democrats" in the House of Representatives and shares a building with the party.

"We don't condone these sorts of activities and we take every precaution to ensure that our network is used in a responsible manner," Doug Thornell of the DCCC told the BBC News website.

Mr Thornell pointed out that the edit had been made "close to two years ago" and it was "impossible to know" who had done it.

Voting issue

The site also indicates that Vatican computers were used to remove content from a page about the leader of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams.

The edit removed links to newspaper stories written in 2006 that alleged that Mr Adams' fingerprints and handprints were found on a car used during a double murder in 1971.

The section, titled "Fresh murder question raised" is no longer part of the main online encyclopaedia entries.

Wikipedia Scanner also points the finger at commercial organisations that have modified entries about the pages.

One in particular is Diebold, a company which supplies electronic voting machines in the US.

In October 2005, a person using a Diebold computer removed paragraphs about Walden O'Dell, chief executive of the company, which revealed that he had been "a top fund-raiser" for George Bush.

A month later, other paragraphs and links to stories about the alleged rigging of the 2000 election were also removed.

The paragraphs and links have since been reinstated.

Diebold officials have not responded to requests by the BBC for information about the changes.

Web history

The Wikipedia Scanner results are not the first time that people have been uncovered editing their own Wikipedia entries.

Earlier this year, Microsoft was revealed to have offered money to trawl through entries about document standards it and other companies employ.

Staff at the US Congress have also previously been exposed for editing and removing sensitive information about politicians.

An inquiry was launched after staff for Democratic representative Marty Meehan admitted polishing his biography

The new tool was built by Virgil Griffith of the California Institute of Technology.

It exploits the open nature of Wikipedia, which already collects the net address or username of editors and tracks all changes to a page. The information can be accessed in the "history" tab at the top of a Wikipedia page.

By merging this information with a database of IP address owners, Wikipedia Scanner is able to put a name to the organisation and firms from which edits are made.

The scanner cannot identify the individuals editing articles, admits Mr Griffith.

"Technically, we don't know whether it came from an agent of that company, however, we do know that edit came from someone with access to their network," he wrote on the Wikipedia Scanner site.

A spokesperson for Wikipedia said the tool helped prevent conflicts of interest.

"We really value transparency and the scanner really takes this to another level," they said.

"Wikipedia Scanner may prevent an organisation or individuals from editing articles that they're really not supposed to."

BBC News website users contacted the corporation to point out that the tool also revealed that people inside the BBC had made edits to Wikipedia pages.



#2

That's no solution to the problem. It won't dissuade them one tiny bit.

The power of the Wiki stems from the millions of scrutinizing eyes. Intelligence agencies are well aware of that, and there's no doubt in my mind that they have recruited people at very early stages of the project. This came to light recently with the scandal surrounding User:SlimVirgin and Linda Mack.

The CIA spokesman made it pretty clear in his statement: "I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers. I'd like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work."

Still, even a hundred full-time cabal on the ISI or Mossad's payroll is no match for the determination of the millions of people concerned about fairness and neutrality of the collaborative tool.

The Mahmoud Ahmadinejad page was literally a diatribe up until a few months back. It's far from balanced (relative to any controversial presidential figure), but we're working on it. A request for mediation was filed in June, and it is moving slowly but surely towards a better format which would fit encyclopedic standards and not just present him as the root of all things evil. But I digress...

This whole scanner thing they implemented is just a gimmick to give confidence to the layman. Everybody knows that an agency as mighty as the CIA won't have the least bit of a problem to circumvent it. Heck, my 15 year old nephew could pull it off. If that wasn't enough, remember that the CIA and other government agencies are granted access to the source codes of Cisco or Microsoft.

The other flaw in this "protection" is the lack of transparency of whois servers in many countries. This can only be fixed if the US breathes down their necks and displays some good faith with net neutrality.

Bottomline, this story is not much news. Anyone remotely familiar with Wiki edits have knows that it's been happening for years. And the solution put forth by the foundation is BS.


#3

What if I'm not even remotely familiar with wiki edits? It is no wonder that you piss people off. You should step down from your imaginary podium and mingle with common people.

I recently read somewere, that Wikipedia is approximately as accurate/inaccurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. Might have been on this forum, I don't remember.


#4

I apologize if anything I wrote sounded condescending. Such abuses are inherent to the nature of the project, and people have been dealing with them since the Wiki's inception. I just assumed everyone knew that by now.

Of course, mechanisms were put in place to curtail these.

That particular study showed Wikipedia had less mistakes that Britannica. The Wiki has literally millions of people reading the entries, cross-checking the references, and correcting the mistakes. It beats the hell out of a handful of "experts".


#5

Your regular diatribe for "power of the people."

Yeah. One of the original instigators in the American Embassy hostages taken in Iran back in the 1970's. That guy sure has been misrepresented. He's been identified both by eye witness as well as voice. It doesn't surprise me that you are in the camp with hostage takers, lixy.

Mmm, mmm! I sure do love a conspiracy theory first thing in the morning. US is an inernet hegemony, too? lixy, if you went outside and walked in the park all day, you'd find the forces that really influence your life.

And this is why wiki is not a source I'd ever use.


#6

Wiki sucks for anything political/controversial. A motivated group can change "reality".

It is funny that silly edits can be tracked by the CIA but that is a small part of the problem.


#7

kroby, are we to have it that the people are to have no power? You appear to be one of these counterinsurgent types and you're telling us the people deserve no power? That would make you .. an insurgent?!

You don't suppose this very forum is viewed as some indicator of public perpective by the agency in question? (here we go) Are you kroby, working for that agency? LOL Even better yet, JeffR, Barrister step forth, declare your covert affiliation, Come Out, as they say!! LOL Out!

LOL


#8

Shoot, the Dems better win the next election, I'd love to work for the CIA!


#9

In a September, 2005 interview of Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow on the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations, discussed his opinions on the above allegations, stating:

[i]"There is no evidence to suggest that Ahmadinejad was one of the captors during the 1979 hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran; the CIA itself has suggested he was not part of it. But here you get into a tricky position because the Bush administration is unwilling to contradict the American hostages.

Five of the hostages have claimed that Ahmadinejad was one of their captors. The CIA, after a laborious investigation, has not accepted that claim. But politically, it's difficult for the Bush administration to take a position different from those who suffered 444 days of captivity."[/i]

http://www.cfr.org/publication/8831/takeyh.html

But I'm sure you know better than the CFR...

Yipee! More bandwidth for us.


#10

A slightly better piece on the topic.


#11

He was not an original hostage taker but he appears to have been involved in interrogation etc. Stop mincing words.


#12

I don't know if you'd want that, vroom, their work is never done, you know, like a woman's? LOL

Here it's been over an hour since I called both "Out" and neither has responded. Barrister is too busy devising new, yet-more-crude eye-catching avatars like "Hippies used to get me off, now they Just Won't Do It.".

Jeffy, of course is staring at himself in the mirror, abusing himself, calling himself "elephantine" and "enormous", preparing his face-fucking responses for T-Nation, his assignment with the "Agency".

Not the sort of life-transforming changes one should seek.


#13

Hey, when you say "we're working on it." Who's "we"? You and the Guard, or you and the Militia?


#14

Well, this is interesting. Why did BBC hold back the following?

"Little Green Footballs readers have located some telling edits on Wikipedia, by someone using an IP address belonging to the BBC. For example, here is the entry for George W. Bush, where it is almost certainly an anonymous BBC employee who changed the W as follows:"


#15

Then, there appears to be this very interesting change.

"Then we have the entry for D-9 Caterpillars, where a BBC employee changed the word "terrorists" to:"


#16

Something else interesting concerning the "non-biased" BBC. FOX like? Or, maybe just FOX-lite?

[i]BBC forced to remove Jesus "bastard" slur from its website, but anti-Semitic comments remain [Tom Gross]

While regularly censoring criticism of Islamic extremism (see, for example, my post yesterday), the BBC allows highly offensive slurs about Christians and even more so about Jews, to remain on its website for weeks at a time, points out the (London) Daily Mail.

But now, after a campaign by the Daily Mail and its sister newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, The BBC has been forced to remove statements from its website referring to Jesus as a "bastard."

The remarks about Jesus were left as part of a discussion about the death of the Archbishop of Paris.

However, the BBC editors have allowed anti-Semitic comments posted by the same person who wrote the Jesus "bastard" remarks, to remain. Among those still up by him on the BBC's publicly-funded, award-winning website are "The jews in much remembered concentration camps had even better qualitity of freedom that these palestinians have."

The Daily Mail wanted to test whether the BBC would disallow remarks critical of Muslims, while allowing anti-Semitic remarks. So one Daily Mail reader posted: "No one can surpass the Muslims for denial of their role in Terrorism and Suicide bombing." The post was "almost immediately deleted by the BBC," reports the Mail.

The Mail points out that the BBC has, by contrast, allowed "anti-Semitic posts" to remain on its website for over a month now. Among these is: "Zionism is a racist ideology where jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud... which allows jews to lie as long as its to non-jews."

Even after the official Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote a polite letter to the BBC pointing out that the comment had been lifted from a notorious 19th Century anti-Semitic text, "The Talmud Unmasked," which is still sold by neo-Nazi booksellers in London, the BBC has refused to remove it, citing freedom of speech.

The Daily Telegraph today runs a lead editorial criticizing the week-long refusal of the BBC to remove the Jesus "bastard" remark and says that the BBC's continuing refusal to make public the independent Balen Report (which is widely rumored to reveal anti-Israel bias verging on anti-Semitism in some BBC Mideast coverage) is "disgraceful."[/i]

Oh, the last couple posts are from: Definitely biased, but they don't pretend not to be.
http://media.nationalreview.com/


#17

LGF? What the hell is wrong with you?

A WHOIS on 132.185.240.120 returns the following:

OrgName: RIPE Network Coordination Centre
OrgID: RIPE
Address: P.O. Box 10096
City: Amsterdam
StateProv:
PostalCode: 1001EB
Country: NL

How's that BBC?


#18

Again, provide some proof that the IP is connected in any way to the BBC.


#19

So now, they're not only anti-American but also anti-Semitic?

Those sneaky Al-Qaeda sure have done a good job at infiltrating the global media.


#20

IP address 132.185.240.120, according to RIPE is:

132.185.0.0 - 132.185.255.255
netname: BBC
descr: British Broadcasting Corporation
descr: *******************************************************
descr: * This address space is used for BBC Staff members *
descr: * accessing the internet. In case of any problems *
descr: * with users of this address space (spam, attacks, *
descr: *
descr: *******************************************************
country: GB

http://www.ripe.net/perl/whois?form_type=simple&full_query_string=&searchtext=132.185.240.120&do_search=Search

Also, it is a London address according to another database:

http://www.geobytes.com/IpLocator.htm?GetLocation

And, LACNIC says it is BBC:

http://lacnic.net/cgi-bin/lacnic/whois?lg=EN&query=132.185.240.120

Further, the second IP address offered in the piece (ignored by Lixy) - 132.185.240.13 - checks out as London:

http://www.geobytes.com/IpLocator.htm?GetLocation

And as the BBC, according to RIPE:

http://www.ripe.net/perl/whois?query=132.185.240.13&.submit=Submit+Query

And LACNIC says it is the BBC:

http://lacnic.net/cgi-bin/lacnic/whois?lg=EN&query=132.185.240.13

The ARIN database Lixy is using to show "Amsterdam" is showing the location of the RIPE database being used to conduct the searches - RIPE is the database that tells us specifically that the IP address is BBC.

Oops.

Lixy, if you are going to reject being objective about presenting information, you should at least try to be smart about it.

As for your credibility - think of a number less than zero.