FLASHBACK: WIKIPEDIA Edited by the CIA

“I cannot confirm that the traffic you cite came from agency computers.

CIA Spokesperson (15/08/2007)

On this day eight years ago, OMNI (OhmyNewsInternational) published a piece regarding suspicious edits made to certain articles on Wikipedia. As I was researching a piece on the Lockerbie tragedy, I noticed that some information regarding a Palestinian terrorist group had been erased. Upon closer inspection, I came to the conclusion that Intelligence agencies were editing sensitive information on Wikipedia.

wikipedia-CIA-FBI-logos

The piece received quite a bit of attention. The article posted on OMNI was accessed by more than 100,000 readers, reposted and translated in several languages. The allegation was quickly denied and ridiculed by WIKIPEDIA founder Jimmy Wales and several Wikipedia administrators.

Amazingly, in just a matter of weeks, the allegation was proven to be absolutely correct. Thanks to the work of a Caltech student, it was possible to track the origin of the edits. OMNI published the 297 edits made by CIA computers.

The story has been debated on many website. I particularly enjoyed the piece of a Russian journalist, writing for Computerra Magazine. (The article – Spies in Wikipedia – could be accessed in English.)

”Whenever the work of intelligence services is punctured, the most important information for analysis appears in the first days and hours after the event. Those who know something inadvertently reveal superfluous information, while those who are directly involved are either keeping silent, or refute everything through quick and flagrant misinformation. In the case of Linda Mack, it is impossible to determine who knew what in the upper echelon of Wikipedia, but their reaction fits all the characteristics of espionage leaks.

SlimVirgin slipped into a state of unconsciousness and has not shown any signs of life for thirty hours. This is very unusual, because she is known as an administrator with inhuman capacity for work. Over the past year, she edited nearly 35,000 articles, about 100 every day, without holidays and weekends.

The same SlimVirgin also holds a record of continuous editorial work lasting 26 hours, with the longest break in editing not exceeding 40 minutes. These statistics from Wikipedia’s editing records suggests either a supernatural ability, or more likely that SlimVirgin is a convenient smoke screen for an entire team of specialists editing Wikipedia articles on behalf of intelligence services.

The “god-king” of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, rushed to protect the honor and dignity of SlimVirgin, declaring the article by De Braeckeleer as “really spectacular nonsense.” A bit later in a special message to readers of Slashdot, he stated:

“This story is demented and broken on so many levels, it is quite difficult to know where to begin, even. Here we have an excellent Wikipedia administrator who has been victimized by lunatic conspiracy theorists, a private person who has absolutely no relation to the wild stories that this article promulgates. Slashdot, you have been trolled.”

But participants in the discussion were able to prove from the records of Wikipedia that certain administrators, contrary to their own rules, had completely removed editing evidence. Jimmy Wales had to admit that yes, this is sometimes done, but only to protect the identity of administrators or editors, who are often threatened with physical violence.”

Clean Up at Wikipedia

After a while, a page titled “Internet brigades” appeared on Wikipedia. In a section named “Internet Brigades in Wikipedia?”, the text used to contain the following information.

“A nuclear scientist and reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer suggested that intelligence agents may have been infiltrated Wikipedia to remove undesirable information from Wikipedia articles The design and application of WikiScanner technology proved such suspicions to be well founded” (CNN iReport)

PS: The CIA could not confirm the edits but Dr Jim Swire could confirm the following story to a member of the Wikipedia Review team member:

“I can confirm that the lady then calling herself Linda Mack was a Cambridge graduate and attempted to infiltrate an early meeting between our group (UK Families-Flight 103) and the American families in London. We had her thrown out when we discovered that she was ‘wired’ with a microphone under her coat.”

Reference 

BBC News 15/08/2007: Wikipedia ‘shows CIA page edits’

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