The Wikipedia editors rumbled as government staffers

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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rugovedits“The plane was shot down by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

That was the Wikipedia entry for flight MH17, the day after the catastrophe.

A couple of hours later, it was edited, to read, simply:

“The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.”

Who made the change? Someone working from a computer within the Russian government, according to the IP address.

That was flagged up by a Twitterbot, @RuGovEdits, an automated Twitter account that crawls the online encyclopedia for such edits. And it indicates “a political battle has broken out on Wikipedia”, according to Matthew Sparkes of the UK Daily Telegraph.

It’s one of a number of similar “Twitterbots”, including the UK @ParliamentEdits and the US @CongressEdits.

The bots are imperfect – they obviously can’t pick up changes made by officials from home, and “possible editors include interns, elected officials, and everyone in between”, notes David Uberti at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Nonetheless, they offer a window into official preoccupations.

Recent changes logged by @CongressEdits, says Uberti, “run the gamut, from pointing out Russia’s annexation of Crimea to recording the availability of Choco Tacos in the Rayburn House Office Building.”

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