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Wikipedia is only as anonymous as your IP

Virgil Griffith, a good friend and fellow hacker, reminds us today that anonymity on the internet does not really exist. With his newly released search tool Wikiscanner, you can search an index of 35 million Wikipedia edits by IP, allowing you to find edits coming from within organizations like the CIA or the EFF (bonus if you can find something about Kevin Bankston smoking).

Finding out that someone from the Fox News network changed this:

The lawsuit focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken’s book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the [[National Public Radio]] program ”[[Fresh Air]]” on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox’s case against him was “literally laughed out of court” and that “wholly (holy) without merit” is a good characterization of Fox News itself.

into

The lawsuit focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken’s book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the liberal [[National Public Radio]] program ”[[Fresh Air]]” on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox’s case against him was the best thing to happen to his book sales.

is quite amusing.

Time for crowdsourcing to find the gems in there and report them over at Wired’s wikiwatch.

tags:
  • http://www.legalbugle.com Ajeet Khurana

    Inviting crowdsourcing should have one benchmark rule — did something slip through the cracks and stick to wikipedia for some time?

    Otherwise, on pages that I frequent (and feel like I own), I have occassionally found ridiculous edits. But, they just vanish. So, those are not the gems anyone is looking for.

  • http://www.crawlspacemedia.com/blog jharr

    Crowdsourced ‘facts’ should never be taken at face value. There is a cadre of anonymous, power drunk people trolling wikipedia as if it’s their personal information space, when in reality it should belong to everyone. We are only seeing the point of view of self-appointed librarians who have the time to waste constantly silencing contrary points-of-view. This tools simply helps to confirm that. Crowdsourcing doesn’t equal an open democratic system, it serves to harbor the views of a specific crowd and is by no means a representative landscape.

  • m

    Pretty funny that Fox would try that, but it only lasted eight minutes.

  • http://robsnotebook.com Rob

    Looks like that edit didn’t make it in. By reading the current Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Franken), it currently states:

    Fox News sued, claiming infringement of its registered trademark phrase, “Fair and Balanced.” Fox was unsuccessful, with the federal judge finding the lawsuit to be “wholly without merit.” The debacle with Fox focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken’s book, and is credited with enhancing its sales. Reflecting back on the lawsuit during an interview on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air on September 3, 2003, Franken said that Fox’s case against him was “literally laughed out of court,” and added that the judge’s comment that the case was “wholly without merit” was a good characterization of Fox News itself.

  • http://darwinweb.net/ Gabe da Silveira

    jharr- that sounds distburbingly like Fox News’ own accusations of all media being liberal. It’s also like a crazy person saying everyone else is insane. You can use that kind of argument to discredit anything. But let me just say that though no person is without some bias, Wikipedia editors in general have a pretty high regard for accuracy and facts. Something which Fox News certainly does not.

  • RJ

    Crowdsourcing has an upside and a downside.

    As a positive, it allows incredible responsiveness of the resource, allowing for fast updates based on new information. It also allows more targeted information, where a resource like WikiPedia can have many more entries than any other available encyclopedias and the average user has an easier time finding the information they are searching for.

    As a negative, policing is largely community-based volunteerism, allowing for false or incredibly bad information to pass through the filter and sometimes putting into question the biases of the volunteers themselves.

    The solution, as one professor told me, is to use WikiPedia as a deep-search tool instead of as an encyclopedia. The information it has, even when containing numerous errors and a distinct slant, can help to put into context the one thing it has that truly is of value – the citations. Those are where you will branch out of the random edits and really start learning the information on which the Wiki article is “supposed” to be based. Plus, a professor won’t get mad if you cite a legitimate article that you just happened to “find” on a Wiki.

  • cyboman

    As far as I can tell Fox is a propaganda outlet [pause for gasps]. For what its worth you can see everything that user has done by going here in case you weren’t aware.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/12.167.224.228

  • Jim

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/12.167.224.228

    Wow. Everyone should check out that list. These are edits clearly not done for reasons of clarity, but for the purpose of advancing an agenda.

  • http://www.thegreathive.com Andrew

    Unfortunately, this just means that people at Diebold now know to go home and do their dirty work. It doesn’t actually solve the problem.

  • JOHN FOX

    THE INTERNET IS LIBERAL MEDIA LIES!!!!1

  • Andrew Hill

    Has anyone found any anti-evolution organization altering sites yet? I know anti-evolution individuals at least are some of the most persistent vandals I’ve seen. I’m just curious if there are some organizations behind any of it.

  • Carol

    Is that an anti-librarian slur with an antiquated shushing reference?!? I thought it was fairly well known that librarians are generally in the forefront of free speech matters. You might want to look for a better metaphor, jharr…

    >We are only seeing the point of view of self-appointed librarians who have the time to waste constantly silencing contrary points-of-view.

  • John

    Carol, lighten up honey…..take off those glasses and have some fun!

  • http://www.anonymous.org Anonymous

    thats what the hell are anonymizers for.

  • bob

    Many of the changes brought to light by wikiscanner are very scary but this one really doesn’t rate.

    Just because the person changing the entry was on the Faux News’ network doesn’t mean that it was “FOX” tampering with the entry. Chances are it was some intern just screwing around . . .

  • Jay

    All media outlets have an agenda; wikipedia is open to edit by the public, and this includes the media. Don’t see what the big hutzpah is all about

  • http://freetube.110mb.com Live TV

    Its not necessarily a high up Fox member, possibly low level grunt employee that’s either very supportive of the company, or just some angry employee.

  • http://muvy.org Joe

    USA = police state; view the evidence

    http://home.comcast.net/~plutarch/PoliceState.html

  • benjamin

    Al Franken should be happy for any publicity he gets. Nobody even cared enough to keep Air America solvent.

    The hysteria is pretty funny though. “Oh dear! The conservatives at Fox aren’t content to be the most popular cable news network — now they’re coming for Wikipedia! How are we going to maintain our propaganda?”

  • Zorro

    Most organizations do not use a static IP address but dynamic IP addresses which change based on the release time via DHCP. Therefore tracking anyone by its IP address is INVALID. Even if you could relate the IP address to the real computer/host address (MAC address) you cannot guarantee who is using the computer. It’s amazing how the technical imposters can convince the masses but not the experts.

  • Rus

    Benjamin, you obviously don’t understand the purpose of wikipedia if you think it’s some sort of propaganda site. Also, Air America IS solvent. Are you hearing this from right wing radio that it is insolvent? It changed ownership, and the previous owner turned out to be full of crap about his finances. Did you also know that right wing radio took almost 10 years to become solvent? It was losing money hand over foot for many years before it finally caught on.

    The bottom line here is that Fox news is trying to insert propaganda into fact, and that is an abuse of wikipedia in and of itself. There’s no hysteria here, we just think it’s hilarious that they’d even try to pull such a stupid stunt. They have their own news channel to do that already, why would they be so paranoid that they’d need to muck about in someone else’s yard?

  • Kilaina

    Thought you guys might find this interesting:

    Fox News Changes Wikipedia To Smear Rivals; Comprehensive List of Changes

    http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2007/08/14/fox-news-changes-wikipedia-to-smear-rivals-olbermann-and-franken-comprehensive-list-of-changes/

  • r

    He who controls the past controls the future.

  • http://wiki.com zorro

    @zorro – you’re all kinds of wrong. your cable modem at home may occasionally change IP’s, but any big business network is very likely to be static.

  • JC

    I believe Zorro pointed it out well. Not to mention, most organizations own a good bit of IP space allocated to them so just because some user in the organization has internet access and falls in Fox News IP space or any other IP space decided to edit an entry on Wikipedia doesn’t mean that it’s the offical views of that organization or that it was sanctioned. You have absolutely no idea who made that edit, it could have been a janitor using some random computer (I’m sure about everyone of them has internet access) for all you know. Granted, they are held responsible for their employee’s actions in many cases, but lets get the facts straight. I personally can’t stand Fox news but this is just a shenanigan.

  • http://www.geeksaresexy.net Brian Boyko

    Did exactly what you asked, and made a comprehensive list of the changes.

    They can be found here:
    http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2007/08/14/fox-news-changes-wikipedia-to-smear-rivals-olbermann-and-franken-comprehensive-list-of-changes

  • Drathan
  • Big Mac

    If this is how we are going to associate information with authors, anyone with wifi is doomed. Not that we are not all fucked anyways.

    Now someone walking on to your network and using your IP could get you in a whole lot of trouble.

    It is also pretty good defense if you get busted I imagine as well.

    Now get out there and see how long it takes the FBI/CIA to visit your neighbours house.

  • http://his.who mine

    A “fellow hacker” huh!?

    You must be z00per l33t!!!!!!111!!!!11!!1!11!!one!11

  • Anon

    News Flash… surveys show that people actually believe what they read on the internet.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, because anything you on the Internet while you’re at work is officially sanctioned by your employer. Dumbasses.

  • Seaaight

    Never rely on a single source for information. What I like is that Encarta and the Encyclopedia Britannica can’t pick and choose the information we can find. There is always going to be some conflict of information in an article. And there will always be stuff left out or put in–it is called editing.

  • Jenn

    Wiki was designed to be easy to edit so that it was a constantly evolving benevolent monster of information. However, since it is easy to edit, any moron trying to prove his point of view to the world can change an entry, point the individual(s) he wants to convince to it, and say, “I’m right =P”.
    My english teacher used this to teach the class what a real credible source is. She would edit an entry on wikipedia to say just about anything but the truth about that subject. Then she would have the class research that topic. She usually ended up failing people that brought in wikipedia sources.

  • Dan

    @Jenn

    Your English teacher was quite the troll if she abused a free public resource solely to make a classroom point.

  • http://www.holsterss.com/ E Welch

    Who in the world is Franken and why does he matter?

  • Tom

    It is interesting that people who believe in the freedom of the internet accuse an organization of bad behavior for doing what they do on a regular basis. The individual may or may not be a FOX employee may or may not be acting on behalf of FOX — there is no evidence either way — it could have been a maintenance worker, an intern or some outside — evidence is fact — none have been presented — In a free world like the internet where information is spread quickly — truth and false — we need to be vigilant. In the case at hand there was nothing in the edit that made the story false. It did tone down the emotion in the original post — and that is what I would like to read in Wiki — FACT not emotion

  • mark

    Actually, Tom, there is nothing factual about the word “liberal.” It is an adjective that has many meanings. In this case, the individual who inserted that word seems pretty clearly to have intended it as a slur. So, rather than trying to “tone down the emotion of the original post,” as you suggest, the person who posted that edit was actually making the original post more inflammatory — in an effort, I assume, to discredit Franken and make FOX look good (or better, at least). Moreover, the Franken quote that the poster eliminated was actually a “fact.” In journalism, quotes are facts, regardless of whether you agree with them. So, what have we learned? Adjectives = opinion. Quotes = fact. Keep this in mind next time you read a so-called “objective” news article that uses unattributed adjectives such as “far right” and “conservative” or “liberal” and “progressive.” According to whom, right?

  • noswald

    Someone with the same IP address added this comment to the wikipedia discussion page for “WJCL (TV)”:

    “change by grandson of Lewis’.

    “i ammeded some of the history of the station to make it a little more detailed and less redundant.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:WJCL_%28TV%29&diff=prev&oldid=130207171

    This refers to Julius Curtis Lewis, Jr., the former mayor of Savannah, GA, and the owner of WJCL. If someone can find the name of Lewis’ grandson(s) it should be pretty easy to find out if one of them works for FoxNews.

    (BTW, an edit from the same IP adress removed a loofah mention from the Bill O’Reilly page :)

  • Tyler

    noswald,

    I was noticing the same thing… The only lewis I could see was Dana Lewis, a correspondent, but he was born in Canada…

    and Brian Lewis, the Executive Vice President for Corporate Communications. That makes him the primary press contact for Fox News, and he would have been hand picked by Roger Ailes at the time of his hire.

    I’m not saying it is Brian Lewis however, more work needs to be done.

    Looking at some of the other edits on the page one might surmise these possible connections;

    -Milton, Massachusetts

    -Eaglebrook School (Independent junior boarding school in Deerfield Massachusetts).

    -Perhaps knows a Duncan (scott) Sheik.

    -Lynn University

    -Savannah, Georgia

    -Possible Presbyterian

    Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find connections to this Grandson of “Mr. Lewis” and Fox News employees.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_adminship/Crockspot Save Wikipedia

    Yep, I’ve known for some time that the far right wing has a crazed agenda to distort our info much as they pollute our water. This is happening all the time. I’m currently issuing an actionalert for this:

    http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=11656

    Crockspot, a homophobic conservative nazi is being voted in as admin as I post this message. This provides the link to the page in question. Having this cockroach transform from an impotent bottom feeder into a person with power would seriously damage Wikipedia’s reputation. Cockroachspot would go on a facist rampage and ethnic cleansing of anyone who doesn’t distort information into his twisted Bush agenda POV. Go by and vote as soon as possible if you’re a member. If not, registration takes about thirty seconds. If you care about not being misinformed every time you google anything having to do with politics-then don’t just vote but email anyandeveryone you can. Trust me, your friends will show up by the dozens–and we only need a few dozen more to put the nail in his coffin.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_adminship/Crockspot

  • Jimmie Joe

    E Welch:

    Who are you and why are you important?

  • Bruce Denney

    Okay, so Fox are not really “Fair and Balanced” nor is Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia doesn’t claim to be “Fair and Balanced” although it does try to be.

    Fox claims to be “Fair and Balanced” but does it try to be either?

    Given the choice of having to rely on only one of them for truth, I would pick Wikipedia.

  • Joe
  • Carol

    I have more fun with my glasses on. But, as the caveman puts it in the Geico commercial, “What if it said, so easy a *therapist* can do it?!”

    Lightened Up Librarian

    >John [08.14.07 10:34 AM]
    Carol, lighten up honey…..take off those glasses and have some fun!

    >>Is that an anti-librarian slur with an antiquated shushing reference?!? I thought it was fairly well known that librarians are generally in the forefront of free speech matters. You might want to look for a better metaphor, jharr…

    >>>We are only seeing the point of view of self-appointed librarians who have the time to waste constantly silencing contrary points-of-view.

  • benjamin

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/aug/15/wikipedia.corporateaccountability?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront

    Quote> And somebody from a computer traced to Democrat HQ edited a page on conservative American radio host Rush Limbaugh, calling him “idiotic”, “ridiculous” and labelling his 20 million listeners as “legally retarded”.

    I understand that Wikipedia isn’t SUPPOSED to be a propaganda tool, but not everything lives up to its billing. It is a two way street. It isn’t like liberals and Democrats are above these same actions for which they are decrying FOX News. Let’s not pretend that there is a “vast right wing conspiracy” to corrupt the neighborhood of make believe otherwise known as Wikipedia. Wikipedia isn’t necessarily about being correct, it is about who has the most time to waste trying to redefine truth, for those ignorant enough to take Wikipedia as truth.

  • Gomez

    That last quote was an editorial decision to begin with, wasn’t factually relevant and probably shouldn’t have been included.

    Not that Fox News was right to come in and edit the quote, but editorializing in general has no place in something meant to act as an encyclopedia.

  • http://www.myeasytv.com watch tv online

    Well, what else did you expect from Fox tv? It would be interesting to know who did it and if it was his own idea or some boss ordered him to do it.