Someone's Been Vandalising Wikipedia Pages From Government IP Addresses

By Gerald Lynch on at

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is "made of clay". Tony Blair "should be assassinated". "All Muslims are terrorists". Or so you would be lead to believe if a number of Wikipedia edits made by users of Government computers were left untouched.

The BBC has found that two IP addresses linked with the Government Secure Intranet have been used to make offensive edits to numerous pages on the crowd-sourced web encyclopedia, running the gamut from homophobic insults to racist remarks.

As well as edits made to the pages of Arsene Wenger, Tony Blair and the racially charged comments aimed at Muslims on a page about veils, pages for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and newspaper columnist Richard Littlejohn were left littered with homophobic language, while pages on the London bombings had been edited to put greater emphasis on a number of wild conspiracy theories. Insults or plainly invented "facts" were also added to the pages of footballer Wayne Rooney, Irish politician Christopher Byrne, BBC presenter Peter Levy and indie band The Libertines, all traceable back to the government addresses.

Though it is possible that the edits were made by a "spoof" account imitating the two and IP addresses in question, some edits were made ahead of the Government addresses being disclosed back in 2008.

"We find this kind of vandalism appalling," Wikimedia UK's Stevie Benton told the BBC.

"Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. This openness has led to an enormous reference work of great value. While vandalism does occasionally happen we are grateful to the many thousands of volunteers who write, edit and organise the content."

An investigation into who may have used the computers to make the changes is now underway. The Cabinet Office offered a statement saying that it found the amendments "sickening" and "in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code".

"The Civil Service Code applies at all times, and we take breaches very seriously" it added. "We have already announced an investigation to examine offensive edits to Wikipedia, and will look at other concerns raised." [BBC]