Wikipedia: Free disinformation

Wikipedia: Free disinformation

Thursday, 13 August 2009dfmfx7kh_371chwgm9c2_b.jpg

Wikipedia is open to everyone on the Internet who wants to contribute and millions of pages are viewed every day. However, Wikipedia has become subjected to misleading alterations by intelligence services, media organizations, governments and private companies.

Widespread use of the Internet provides open access to “more democratic” resources. On the top of these resources is Wikipedia, publishing in 26 languages, containing about 6 million articles. Everyone with a computer and Internet access can contribute to Wikipedia, however, since identities are kept private, Wikipedia is subject to modification by the secret services, governments and companies.

Placing “October Revolution in Russia” among comments entered under the topic “Gallipoli Campaign (Çanakkale Savaşı)” may be interpreted as innocent mistake, however, obvious misleading changes were made. Examples are topics such as the War in Lebanon, Palestinian People’s Liberation Front, CIA and George Bush.

A contribution made in Wikipedia according to an author in relation to Lebanon War in 2006, starts with “kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and missiles attacking Israel on the same day” and the final outcome of the war is “Israel’s undisputable victory”. With regard to the war in Lebanon, it is impossible even for an author who reads newspapers regularly to write an article like this without referring to any resources, unless of course, it was “intentional”! Another similar distortion is made on pages of the Palestinian People’s Liberation Front. A writer entered a comment that the organisation had close relationship with the Israeli intelligence service, Shin Bet, although changed subsequently. There is a volume of disinformation that can be proved to be incorrect in Wikipedia in addition to anonymously distorted alterations.

WikiScanner captures
A graduate from the Institute of Santa Fe in New Mexico, Virgil Griffith has written a software program called WikiScanner which automatically scans the changes in Wikipedia by connecting to the Internet. The program also shows the numerical Internet protocol addresses (IP) kept anonymously until now, can determine what substances are replaced and by whom. The software developed by Griffith, who is currently studying towards a masters degree at the California Institute of Technology, is also supported by Wikipedia. The software program become well known by uncovering dozens of manipulations so far.

One of the culprits making alterations revealed by the program is a familiar one. The US Intelligence Service, CIA is behind dozens of media manipulations and has changed many titles arbitrarily on Wikipedia. The WikiScanner captured that the writers are making changes on the pages about the invasion of Iraq, Iranian President Ahmedinejad, President George Bush are all connected to the CIA building. WikiScanner also confirmed who entered the information and changes to title of Ahmedinejad the “Wahhhh” as an exclamation or adding “estimated” to the number of US troops died in Iraq.

Another familiar name, FBI, next to changing the paragraphs critical to anti-terrorism laws passed in the United States, removed photographs of the Guantanamo Base from Wikipedia.

Another misleading alteration is connected to the Vatican City, altering the profile of Gerry Adams, the leader of the Sinn Fein, claimed to be the political wing of the Irish Liberation Army. Gerry Adams has a Catholic background. Evidence of news from daily newspapers against Mr Adams’ connection with two murders in 1974 had been deleted from the site.

Previously, it was proven that a team was established to manipulate the information on Wikipedia by the government of Austria.

Nevertheless, alteration to Wikipedia is not limited only to intelligence services. For example, the US media giants New York Times and Wall Street Journal bilaterally made changes to each others’ pages, however, the biggest battle of critical alterations were conducted between Fox TV and MSNBC. The modification on the Wikipedia article for Fox News Political Commentator, Bill O’Reilly was made from computers at the MSNBC. On the other hand, demeaning additions to the profiles of MSNBC correspondents on the site were added by the Fox News.

Known by its hard line towards its employees, WalMart was caught by the WikiScanner when attempting to change criticism about the company. Similarly, manufacturer of electronic voting machines, Diebold in the US has been caught when deleting 15 paragraphs criticizing the company.

Can it be saved?
Although, Internet resources by being open to public access may mean, “self regulation”, it seems difficult for the individual users to deal with corporations or the intelligence services shown in the Wikipedia example. Therefore, identifying the untrue claims such as “the person who killed US President Kennedy had been in the Soviet Union for two years”, becomes extremely difficult for individual users. It is inevitable to question the neutrality policy of the world’s largest virtual encyclopedia which has become a resource of disinformation instead of its resources being used as a “reference”. Moreover, successful examples such as WikiScanner are able to prove some of the disinformation. However, the adequacy of the software is also open to debate. This is because the disinformation can remain as an “innocent error” if it has not originated from the premises of a particular institution.
(soL – News Desk)