IP addresses belonging to congressional offices have been issued a 10-day ban from editing Wikipedia. The ban follows a series of suspicious edits coming to a wide range of subjects on Wikipedia from Donald Rumsfeld to Choco Taco.
The edits are considered acts of vandalism by Wikipedia and have happened before, resulting in similar bans. This time the IP addresses appear to belong to the House of Representatives.
A twitter handle, @congressedits, posts every edit made by a computer with a government-owned IP address.
One of the edits caught by the Twitterbot was an edit to the page for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was changed to say that Lee Harvey Oswald was an agent of the Castro regime. The moon landing was changed to claim that it was “promoted by the Cuban government” and so on, according to the BBC.
On the other end of the spectrum, some of the users on Capitol Hill are crying foul, stating that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. They argue that the more than 9,000 staffers that are currently blocked are being punished for the actions of a select few.
At first, it may seem that the editing Wikipedia could be an underhand trick for controlling public opinion on matters. However, the haphazard way these edits seem to be administered coupled with the disruptive substance of the tweets amount to little more than online trolling. Few suspect that members of Congress are actually behind the edits.
Regarding the Twitterbot, some see it as a watchdog that highlighted suspicious activity and will help lead to its conclusion. Others see it as potentially egging on an online troll.
Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, told the BBC, “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.”