Wikipedia:Press releases/Editing by congressional staffers

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January 31, 2006, St. Petersburg, Florida. Media reports indicate that staffers for U.S. Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA) were responsible for editing Meehan's biography on Wikipedia in July 2005. The changes significantly expanded the article, but dropped references to a 1992 pledge by Meehan to serve only four terms. Information about Meehan's campaign pledge was restored by another editor last November. Edits by the staff of Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) have also been reported.

Wikipedia is a freely available encyclopedia that anyone can edit. However, questions have previously come up about whether it is appropriate for people with a personal stake in a subject to edit the Wikipedia article about that subject. As an alternative, each Wikipedia article has an accompanying "discussion" or "talk page" where editors can discuss changes to the article.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, "Posting a message on a Talk page is an excellent and appropriate way to request an update to Wikipedia." Following his advice, the communications director for one Congressman posted an official biography to his article's talk page and Wikipedia editors promptly incorporated the information into the article.

Edits to Wikipedia from the House of Representatives network have been happening since at least June 2005. The network has occasionally been blocked from editing for brief periods due to inappropriate contributions, but many of the edits have also added content or made corrections. It is clear that several different people have used this network to edit Wikipedia articles. Some edits have also reportedly been identified as coming from government networks in other countries, such as the German Bundestag and the Canadian House of Commons.

When Wikipedia editors choose not to register a freely available account, their changes are identified with an Internet protocol (IP) address, a technical identification number provided by the user's computer network. This number may be reassigned to a different computer or it may represent the entire network, so cumulative contributions from an IP address may represent the work of many people.

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