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Type of site
|Twitter bot account|
|Launched||July 8, 2014|
CongressEdits (@congressedits) was an automated Twitter bot account created in May 2014 that tweeted changes to Wikipedia articles that originated from IP addresses within the ranges assigned to the United States Congress. The changes could have been made by anyone using a computer on the U.S. Capitol complex's computer network, including both staff of U.S. elected representatives and senators as well as visitors such as journalists, constituents, tourists, and lobbyists. Previous to this, the best information about what congressional staff were editing was found in the articles "United States Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia" and "Wikipedia:Congressional staffer edits", which are manually updated. CongressEdits has been called a watchdog by NBC News. Twitter suspended the account in October 2018.
CongressEdits was written by and was run by Ed Summers, who was inspired by a friend's tweet about Parliament WikiEdits, which performs the same function for the staffers of Parliament of the United Kingdom. It has since been credited for inspiring additional bots for Australia, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Israel, Chile, Italy and Greece. Summers wrote that his "hope for @congressedits wasn't to expose inanity, or belittle our elected officials." He emphasized that he did not see edits to such articles as Step Up 3D, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or Horse head mask as "something to make fun of," and points to "substantial edits like changing a Congressperson's party affiliation from Democrat to Independent." Ultimately, he wanted to see Congressional staffers log into Wikipedia, identifying themselves to use their knowledge of the issues and history to help make Wikipedia better.
On July 25, 2014, Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales told the BBC that the @congressedits Twitter feed may have been counterproductive. Referring to a Wikipedia administrator's 10-day editing block, imposed on July 24 against a shared address within the range assigned to the U.S House of Representatives, for disruptive editing, Wales said, "There is a belief from some of the [Wikipedia] community that it only provoked someone—some prankster there in the office—to have an audience now for the pranks, and actually encouraged them rather than discouraged them."
CongressEdits was credited with bringing to light edits to Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture by a United States Senate shared address on December 9 and 10, 2014, which removed the phrase "(a euphemism for torture)", with revision notes of "removing bias"; however, these edits were soon reverted.
In 2017, the bot revealed many instances of disruptive edits by apparent Congressional interns, ranging from commentary on pop culture to inserting unsourced and controversial information about living people to direct communication with followers of the account.
In September and early October 2018, during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court appointment hearings, Republican senators were doxxed by Congressional IP editors who inserted home addresses and phone numbers into Wikipedia articles. The private information was tweeted to the bot's approximately 65,000 followers before it was scrubbed from the articles. Following additional doxxing by Congressional IP editors, Twitter suspended the account.
A Democratic staffer named Jackson Cosko, who had worked as a systems administrator for senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and had been fired before the incident, used a colleague's key to sneak into the office, install keylogging software, and collect personal information on senators. He was arrested, charged with 7 crimes, and eventually convicted in the court case United States of America v. Jackson A. Cosko. Cosko was sentenced to four years in prison.
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