The deletion of passages in a Wikipedia entry about Cherie Blair’s flat-buying scandal and the addition of the phrase “all Muslims are terrorists” were among more than one hundred examples of inappropriate editing apparently made from Whitehall-based computers, it has emerged.
The BBC says it has traced edits made to pages including Muslim veils and Cherie Blair to computers accessing Wikipedia through the two IP addresses known to be used by government machines.
In 2002, Cherie Blair publically apologised after she bought two flats at a discounted price with help from convicted fraudster Peter Foster.
The broadcaster says that paragraphs about the incident in Mrs Blair’s Wikipedia page were removed by a government machine in October 2005, although there is no suggestion that Mrs Blair has any knowledge of the changes.
The edits were reverted by a Wikipedia volunteer who said that details of the scandal were “relevant to the subject’s reputation”.
An inflammatory change made in October 2006 to the entry for ‘veil’ added: "It should be noted that the word Veil, when the letters rearraged [sic], spells evil.
"Since the Veil is mostly worn by Muslims, and all Muslims are terrorists (with the argument for this being that all terrorists have been Muslim), this fact should be dually [sic] noted by all."
The comment was removed by a Wikipedia user six minutes later.
The BBC also claim that Whitehall computers were used to add homophobic insults to the pages of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and newspaper columnist Richard Littlejohn.
In edits described as “entirely unacceptable” by the Cabinet Office, the article for former Prime Minister Tony Blair was deleted in its entirety and replaced with the words “he should be assassinated”.
And Whitehall PCs allegedly inserted links to popular conspiracy theories to a page about the 7/7 bombings.
According to the BBC, the edits came from two IP addresses - 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 - known to be connected to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI), the system which gives Whitehall machines secure access to the web.
It is possible to mimic an IP address to give the impression the connection comes from somewhere else. However, the BBC notes that many of the controversial edits were made before government IP addresses were disclosed to the public in 2008.
The Cabinet Office has condemned the changes as “sickening”. A spokesman told the BBC: "The amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening. The behaviour is in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code. It is entirely unacceptable.
"The Civil Service Code applies at all times, and we take breaches very seriously. We have already announced an investigation to examine offensive edits to Wikipedia, and will look at other concerns raised."
The charity that represents Wikipedia in the UK also condemned the changes as “appalling”.
Stevie Benton, from Wikimedia UK, told the BBC: "Edits of this nature are removed very quickly by the volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia, often in a matter of minutes”,
And Nasima Begum, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC that changes made to the page on Muslim veils were “shocking.”
"It is these types of attitudes that create an unnecessary climate of fear and hostility,” she said.