Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-02-12/More government editing

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U.S. government agencies discovered editing

By Michael Snow, 12 February 2007

Although it has reached neither the scale nor the public attention of the congressional staff edits to Wikipedia, agencies of the U.S. federal government continue to be identified editing Wikipedia articles about themselves and their activities.

The latest to be traced was someone at the Department of Energy editing the article about a nuclear security clearance. Reports have also appeared that the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, was involved in editing the article about itself last year.


Clearance to edit?

An IP address assigned to the Department of Energy has been discovered trying to remove an image from the Q clearance article. The image was of a badge designating that the bearer has such a clearance, and the editor claimed several times in edit summaries that it was illegal to display the badge. These edits were soon reverted. Other editors tried to open a discussion on the talk page, asking how the image (taken from a publicity photo and not useful for realistic copying) could be unlawful, but got no response there. The original source image, from Los Alamos National Laboratory, was later edited to censor out the badge photograph.

There are actually two IP addresses that have been repeatedly removing the image from the article since it was added by Fastfission on January 9. WHOIS reports for the first IP address were not as clear, as it belongs to MCI, but the customer appeared to be the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (the IP address edited that article immediately prior to editing Q clearance). The DNFSB is an independent agency created to oversee the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex, and thus would have a direct relationship to Q clearances as well.

The science of PR

While the efforts to remove the Q clearance image were relatively obvious, the edits by the National Institute on Drug Abuse took longer to clear up. The edits were made in August and September of 2006, but apparently were not discovered until January, even though the talk page for the IP address has been marked as registered to NIH since last May (presumably shared by multiple users, it has been warned several times about vandalism). The activity was first reported in The Politico, a fledgling print/web periodical aiming to provide a journalist insider's perspective on Washington and national US politics. A spokeswoman for NIDA said the changes were made "to reflect the science."

The edits removed sections discussing "controversial" research and cannabis growing, replacing them with a more public relations-oriented text. An initial try was reverted as vandalism, so the editor returned with a slightly altered version. This was removed as "advertising copy", but the other material was not restored until after The Politico's report. For several months, the article remained a brief two paragraphs.


Also this week: — Government edits

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