Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-04-23/Wikidetainment

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Historian detained after his Wikipedia article is vandalized

By Ral315, 23 April, 2007

Editor's note: The Wikipedia Signpost is an independent, community newspaper, and is not affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation. Any comments published on this page are the opinions of their author alone, and do not reflect the opinion of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Turkish historian, sociologist, author and professor Taner Akçam was detained for nearly four hours at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in February. The reported reason, according to Canadian authorities: a vandalized Wikipedia entry that claimed that Akçam was a terrorist.

Akçam's biography has been one of the loci of dispute in an ongoing dispute over the Armenian Genocide. The 1915 genocide, an attempt by the Turkish government to eliminate all Turkish Armenians, resulted in the deaths of anywhere from 300,000 to 1.5 million Armenians. Akçam is one of the few Turkish historians to publicly acknowledge and discuss the Genocide, a position which has made him a source of controversy within the Turkish and Turkish-American communities.

On February 16, 2007, Akçam flew from Minneapolis to Montreal, for a lecture sponsored by McGill University and Concordia University. Upon landing in Montreal, he was detained by Canadian authorities, as detailed in an April 21 article in The Independent:

The Canadian immigration officer, Akcam says, was "courteous" - but promptly detained him at Montreal's Trudeau airport. Even odder, the Canadian immigration officer asked him why he needed to be detained. ... Akcam was given a one-week visa and the Canadian officer showed him - at Akcam's insistence - a piece of paper which was the obvious reason for his temporary detention. "I recognised the page at once," Akcam says. "The photo was a still from a 2005 documentary on the Armenian genocide... The still photo and the text beneath it comprised my biography in the English language edition of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia which anyone in the world can modify at any time. For the last year ... my Wikipedia biography has been persistently vandalised by anonymous 'contributors' intent on labelling me as a terrorist. The same allegations has been repeatedly scrawled, like gangland graffiti, as 'customer reviews' of my books at Amazon."[1]

Akçam, citing the unlikely possibility of the Canadian government finding a two-month-old, reverted copy of his Wikipedia biography, suggested that enemies may have forwarded a copy to the Canada Border Services Agency: "It was unlikely, to say the least, that a Canadian immigration officer found out that I was coming to Montreal, took the sole initiative to research my identity on the internet, discovered the archived version of my Wikipedia biography, printed it out on 16 February, and showed it to me - voilà! - as a result."[1] Upon again arriving at Trudeau International Airport on February 18 to return to the University of Minnesota, Akçam was again detained, this time by the United States Department of Homeland Security. He was allowed to leave after waiting an hour, but was cautioned not to travel until the situation was sorted out with customs.

The story was first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 21, but received little attention (the original article is not available online, but excerpts are available here). The story was publicized by professor Juan Cole in a April 14 blog entry. On April 15, DragonflySixtyseven semi-protected the article; the protection was removed by Omegatron on April 22, and re-added by Ral315 on April 24.

It is believed that the original vandalism was introduced by Ahmetcoxall in a series of edits around December 24, 2006; all of Ahmetcoxall's edits were reverted in 10 hours or less. The edits, since deleted, claimed that Akçam was "a member of an extreme leftist terrorist organization". Ahmetcoxall was blocked indefinitely by Eloquence on April 23, nearly four months after his last edit.


  1. ^ a b Fisk, Robert. Robert Fisk: Caught in the deadly web of the internet, The Independent, 21 April 2007
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