An unknown person or persons working on computers at New York Police Department’s headquarters allegedly have been altering Wikipedia articles about controversial events that NYPD has been involved in over the years, including the death of Eric Garner, according to a report from Capital.
Reporting by Capital found that the IP addresses of computers located at 1 Police Plaza had made changes to pages regarding the death of Mr Garner and a number of other high-profile, officer-involved events.
Mr Garner died after police accosted him last summer for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. His death prompted national protests, intensifying after police killed another man in Ferguson, Missouri.
Often the Wikipedia changes appear to have been made to make the incidents seem less severe than they may actually have been, or to add context intended to sway the reader’s opinion on the event.
Read some of the most alarming changes below:
• “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”
• “[P]ush Garner's face into the sidewalk” was changed to “push Garner's head down into the sidewalk.”
• “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
• The sentence, “Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them,” was added to the description of the incident.
• Instances of the word “chokehold” were replaced twice, once to “chokehold or headlock,” and once to “respiratory distress.”
• An NYPD computer tried to delete an entire article about the death of Sean Bell, a man killed by NYPD in 2006.
• A user changed the wording in an article of the Sean Bell incident to say he and two other men were “shot at” 50 times, instead of “shot” 50 times.
• Someone using an NYPD computer allegedly deleted 1,502 characters from the “scandals and corruption” section of the NYPD Wikipedia article.
• A user on the NYPD network deleted the entire “Allegations of police misconduct and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)” and “Other incidents” sections from the entry, cutting a total of 25,611 characters.
• On more than one occasion, an NYPD computer edited the section on the NYPD Wikipedia page about police misconduct.
• Often the NYPD computers would edit Wikipedia entries not at all related to the police force, including entries about the Catholic Church and Derek Jeter.
• A full list of alleged changes by NYPD can be found here.
To be clear, it is not illegal to alter or add to Wikipedia entries. That is actually the entire purpose of the website. But for computers belonging to NYPD to be making changes to NYPD entries, especially to controversial events appears questionable.
If we were smart, we'd find a way to use NYPD's editing of Wikipedia entries to help Wikimedia get standing for 702 lawsuit.hyphen; emptywheel (@emptywheel) March 13, 2015
NYPD officials did not respond to calls from The Independent seeking comment on the Wikipedia changes.
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