Wikipedia administrators have banned edits from within the US House of Representatives after a series of “disruptive” edits promoting famous conspiracy theories.
Changes were made to the page of Lee Harvey Oswald to say that he had assassinated John F Kennedy “on behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro” and the biography of former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was changed to describe him as “an alien lizard who eats Mexican babies”.
The issue of Wikipedia editing by America’s political elite was brought to light after Twitter account @congressedits was set up to automatically tweet pages changes by IP addresses located within the US Congress.
Following coverage of the bot intended to bring to light politicians airbrushing their online reputation, changes to the online encyclopaedia took on a distinctly paranoid tone, with another edit describing Ukrainian politician Nataliya Vitrenko as a “Russian puppet”.
Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales said that the vandalism did not surprise him, telling the BBC that members of the Wikipedia community believed that @congressedits had “provoked someone – some prankster there in the office – to have an audience now for the pranks.”
The 10-day ban instituted by Wikipedia admins is a minor warning and only affects a single IP address – though the vagaries of Congress’ IT system means that this could belong to a number of different computers.
The Twitter account itself was inspired by @parliamentedits, a similar bot set up to monitor changes made from within the UK’s House of Parliament. At the present time the UK bot has stopped working after Parliament changed their IP addresses – a decision that was reportedly made before the bot was set up.