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Wikipedia Bans Congress

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-01-30

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A one-week ban on IP addresses associated with the US Congress will stay in effect until the Wikipedia Foundation can collect comments on abuses of Wikipedia by Congressional staffers.

Jimmy Wales and the Wikipedia Foundation have brought the boot down hard on abusive Congressional staffers from both the House and the Senate who have been treating the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as a personal battleground, fighting turf wars and repeatedly altering content about Congressmen listed on the site.

Wikipedia opened a request for comments about the situation. After Wikipedia editors discovered over a thousand edits performed by visitors coming from IP addresses associated with the House and the Senate, Wikipedia banned those addresses for a week.

The Foundation commented further on the abuses of the system, as noted by an editor who opened the request for comments:

I am opening this RFC in order to centralise discussion concerning actions to be taken against US Congressional staffers who repeatedly engage in revert wars, blank content, engage in libelous behavior or violate WP:NPOV, WP:CIV. The editors from these IP ranges are rude and abrasive, immature, and show no understanding of Wikipedia policy. The editors also frequently try to whitewash the actions of certain politicians. They treat Wikipedia articles about politicians as though they own the articles, replacing community articles with their own sanctioned biographies and engaging in revert wars when other users dispute this sudden change. They also violate Wikipedia:Verifiability, by deleting verified reports, while adding flattering things about members of Congress that are unverified.

The editors are currently blocked, but only for a week, so I feel this RFC is needed for the community to comment. I feel that a 1 week block is not enough.

News of the egregious Wikipedia edits by Congressional staffers came to light when a Massachusetts newspaper, the Lowell Sun, reported confirmed abuses of Wikipedia by staffers under House member Marty Meehan (D-Ma). From the article:

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.

The change deleted a reference to Meehan's campaign promise to surrender his seat after serving eight years, a pledge Meehan later eschewed. It also deleted a reference to the size of Meehan's campaign account, the largest of any House member at $4.8 million, according to the latest data available from the Federal Election Commission.

While Meehan may eschew his term limit pledge, voters may choose to hold him to it anyway. The Sun noted that Meehan's Congressional district has found his pledge-breaking a controversial issue. Meehan may be in for an interesting race on Election Day.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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