CongressEdits

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@congressedits
Type of site
Twitter account
Available in English
Website twitter.com/congressedits
Launched July 8, 2014; 4 years ago (2014-07-08)
Current status Suspended

CongressEdits (or @congressedits) was an automated Twitter 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 staffers were editing was found in the articles U.S. Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia and Wikipedia:Congressional staffer edits, which are manually updated. CongressEdits has been called a watchdog by NBC News.[1] Twitter suspended the account in late 2018.

History[edit]

CongressEdits was written by and was run by Ed Summers, who was inspired by a friend's tweet about Parliament WikiEdits,[2] which performs the same function for the staffers of Parliament of the United Kingdom.[3] It has been credited for inspiring similar bots in other countries.[4] Summers wrote that his "hope for @congressedits wasn't to expose inanity, or belittle our elected officials."[5] 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."[6] 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.[4]

Tweets since November 6, 2017 included screenshots of the specific changes made to the article.[7]

Source code[edit]

The code for the bot itself is open-source software,[8] and can be configured to watch for anonymous edits from any IP ranges or individual IP addresses. It requires Node.js and CoffeeScript.

Controversy[edit]

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."[9]

CongressEdits was credited[10] 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,[11] ranging from commentary on pop culture[12] to inserting unsourced and controversial information about living people[13] to direct communication with followers of the account.[11][14]

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 around 65,000 followers before it was scrubbed from the articles.[15] Following additional doxxing by Congressional IP editors, Twitter suspended the account.[16]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Twitter Watchdog Keeps Tabs on Wikipedia Edits from Congress". NBC News. July 15, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  2. ^ "Parliament WikiEdits". Twitter.com. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  3. ^ Gallagher, Sean (2014-07-11). "@Congressedits tweets anonymous Wikipedia edits from Capitol Hill". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  4. ^ a b Willis, Derek (July 14, 2014). "With Twitter's Help, Watch Congress Edit Wikipedia". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "why @congressedits?". Inkdroid.org. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  6. ^ "@Congressedits Hopes to See More Wikipedians in Congress". TechPresident. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  7. ^ https://twitter.com/congressedits/status/927650736963506177
  8. ^ "anon project, formerly congressedits, at github.com". Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  9. ^ Miller, Joe (2014-07-25). "Wikipedia blocks 'disruptive' page edits from US Congress". BBC. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  10. ^ "Senate staffer tries to scrub 'torture' reference from Wikipedia's CIA torture article". Mashable. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  11. ^ a b "congress-edits on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  12. ^ "congress-edits on Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on 2017-10-17.
  13. ^ "congress-edits on Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on 2018-02-09.
  14. ^ "congress-edits on Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on 2018-09-28.
  15. ^ "Judiciary Committee Members Doxxed During Kavanaugh Testimony". September 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Tully-McManus, Katherine (October 3, 2018). "Tensions Over Kavanaugh Drive Senate Into Tightened Security". Roll Call. Retrieved October 4, 2018.

External links[edit]