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Wikipedia vs Congressional Staffers [Update] 433

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the waiting-for-an-arbitrary-smackdown dept.
There has been quite a bit of recent reporting on the recent troubles between Wikipedia and certain Congressional staffers. In response, abdulzis mentions that "an RFC, Wikipedia's mediation method to deal with 'disharmonious users', has been opened to take action against US Congressional staffers who repeatedly blank content and engage in revert wars and slanderous or libelous behavior which violates Wikiepdia code. The IP ranges of US Congress have been currently blocked, but only for a week until the issue can be addressed more directly."
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Wikipedia vs Congressional Staffers [Update]

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  • by the-amazing-blob (917722) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:37PM (#14601833) Journal
    And now Congress will vote to make freely-editable online encyclopedias illegal. Freedom of speech loses in a landslide. :D

    Or perhaps we can come to an agreement where no one edits other entries for the purpose of skewing information. That would make me smile.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:37PM (#14601841)
    Do we need any further evidence that congress people and their staff have too much time on their hands? I hope in the contentious atmosphere that plagues Washington these days that people from all sides of the political spectrum can agree that Congress is given too many resources to accomplish too little.

    Next they'll be wasting all their time on Slashdot.

  • Re:DUPE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@gmaiCHEETAHl.com minus cat> on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:37PM (#14601844) Homepage
    No, it's called a FOLLOW-UP. This article contains more information than the previous one.

    I mean, the editors screw up enough, why call them out even more than we have to?
  • by deanoaz (843940) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:43PM (#14601916)
    >>> Do we need any further evidence that congress people and their staff have too much time on their hands?

    Maybe not, but think of all the evil they could do if they really applied themselves all of the time. I sleep better at night knowing they waste a lot of their time fiddling Wikipedia entries and blogging, etc.

    "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone." - Bill Cosby

  • by alphamugwump (918799) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:44PM (#14601925)
    Actually, when you think about it, a successful politician is not really that different from a successful troll. The idea with both is to somehow stir up an issue that people are rabid about. In the case of a troll, it is just for sheer fun or whatever, but when politicians do it, it gets them into office.
  • by rnpg1014 (942171) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:44PM (#14601928) Homepage
    What disturbs me more is the idea that the people we elect to Congress behave childishly enough to get Federal IP addresses blocked from a major website. Quite honestly, I move to give literacy tests before giving voting privelidges...
  • by Otter (3800) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:47PM (#14601968) Journal
    DC underlings all hang out together, drink together, live together and brag incessantly to each other about who is the most important. My guess would be that this has nothing to do with the legislators themselves and everything to do with with interns generating ammunition for trash-talking at Lulu's. The Senators themselves aren't organized enough to be doing this in such large numbers, nor do they know what Wikipedia is. It's the 19-year-olds doing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:59PM (#14602091)
    Tis the season to reform i guess.

    What might be more interesting to acknowledge is that Wikipedia is giving the public a glimpse at some of the ugliness of politics. Juvenille name calling, re-inventing the truth, hiding criticism, libel, slander, etc. Some may say that the majority is by junior staffers and even high school level pages and wash it under the rug. More than likely this is just a reflection of the atmosphere that exists in these offices. I say we consider wikipedia a honey pot for catching dishonorable officials :)

  • by plover (150551) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:02PM (#14602133) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, your second statment is the epitome of the "Tragedy of the Commons." There is ALWAYS another troll, someone who wants to maliciously sow dissent just to provoke a reaction. In some of these congressional cases it's a blatant attempt at a "revisionist history", while in others it's been purely "vandalism" -- the posting of the goatse trolls is a good example of that.

    But the problem is that one man's troll is another man's political statement. Google for "santorum" some time, and hit "I'm feeling lucky". Some people consider that a political statement, and some consider it a troll. Both are right! So how do you include both points of view on a description of "santorum"? If you include the gross description, you've trolled Senator Santorum's supporters. If you censor the description, you're invalidating the political position of his opponents. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. And the third choice, eliminating mention of both santorum and Senator Santorum, does an even worse disservice to history by removing his legitimate accomplishments as well as the voice of his opposition.

    While it would be nice to think otherwise, it's an impossible fantasy to hope that there will never be web vandals.

  • double standard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:06PM (#14602170) Journal
    Look, I think the political creatures in Washington are essentially pork-feeding, selfish, backbiting wh0res generally, but let's be honest - they are not alone.

    The IP ranges of US Congress have been currently blocked, but only for a week until the issue can be addressed more directly.
    This is simply WRONG. I'd wager that a HUGE number of people posting in Wiki are self-interested, or are grinding some sort of political axe.

    Just because John Smith isn't actually EMPLOYED by the DNC doesn't mean his revision about President G.W. Bush is automatically based on an altruistic desire to post the truth. One minute reading any intarweb forum will tell you that much.

    Roberta Johnson could be posting a revision to the Ted Kennedy article because she's an ardent Republican that hates him. Her edits are somehow more 'valid' than that of a staffer in Cheney's office?

    Wikipedia is an open document. The revisions are clear and publicly visible. Why is it all right to censor and prohibit posters whose motivations are obviously suspect, while completely (naively?) ignoring the gazillions of posters whose motivations are probably no less base, but not obviously so?

    This is wrong.
  • Is it just me? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kevin.fowler (915964) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:06PM (#14602173) Homepage
    Am I the only person who avoids Wikipedia like the plague because of these skewed entries and slanderous edit wars? I know I'm missing out, but after an entry I collaborated was "attacked" by someone who held a different opinion (read: blanked the article until Wiki delete minions got at it) I lost faith in its general ability to harbor legitimate information. I know it's there, but I don't want to have to sift through it. That's what the internet is for.
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:18PM (#14602296)
    And now Congress will vote to make freely-editable online encyclopedias illegal. Freedom of speech loses in a landslide.

    Although it is becoming more the norm to go against the constitution, I believe the system will prevail or there will be a revolution and government overthrow.

    How long did it take for the Supreme Court to figure out that black people and women were people? A long time, but it did eventually take place.

    Or perhaps we can come to an agreement where no one edits other entries for the purpose of skewing information. That would make me smile.

    Wikipedia will always have issues like this, especially with "controversial" content.

    "There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion."

    -- Jeffrey Goines, 12 Monkeys

    Popular opinion always rules. Maybe the Wikipedia code can be modified so that a "hot" article can only have X lines of changes per user per period of time. If congressman X edits a file and others are watching, the others will dominate and keep the popular opinion alive.

  • by bhawbaker (576764) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:19PM (#14602307)
    how about creating 2 separate pages in the wikipedia, one for autobiography and one for biography. The autobiography page would be edited only by that person the page is about (or by those authorized by the said person). The biography would be collaborated by others.
  • by drDugan (219551) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:19PM (#14602308) Homepage

      There is ALWAYS another troll, someone who wants to maliciously sow dissent just to provoke a reaction


    I disagree on "always" ... under our current society rules, yes, but humans will stop making trolls when the purpose for our lives is to create a good and happy life for all people, and not "get all we can for ourself" ruleset we follow now.

  • by jacoplane (78110) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:20PM (#14602316) Homepage Journal
    Some would disagree [catb.org] with you that the tragedy of the commons applies in this case:

    "When people reflexively apply this model to open-source cooperation, they expect it to be unstable with a short half-life. Since there's no obvious way to enforce an allocation policy for programmer time over the Internet, this model leads straight to a prediction that the commons will break up, with various bits of software being taken closed-source and a rapidly decreasing amount of work being fed back into the communal pool.

    In fact, it is empirically clear that the trend is opposite to this. The trend in breadth and volume of open-source development can be measured by submissions per day at Metalab and SourceForge (the leading Linux source sites) or announcements per day at freshmeat.net (a site dedicated to advertising new software releases). Volume on both is steadily and rapidly increasing. Clearly there is some critical way in which the ``Tragedy of the Commons'' model fails to capture what is actually going on."
    -- Eric Raymond [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:double standard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by interiot (50685) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:21PM (#14602328) Homepage
    There's biased material, and then they're outright vandalism [wikipedia.org]. Calling someone a douche? Are congressional staffers adults, or middleschoolers? [2] [wikipedia.org]
  • by j_f_chamblee (253315) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:22PM (#14602334) Homepage Journal
    Between this article and previous articles concerning the locking of Wikipedia pages [vnunet.com], I can't help but wonder if what is happening amounts to some kind of evolution. Depending on how Wiki solves this, what we may see is the system evolving to include some form of the old fashioned, but sometimes maligned [slashdot.org] model of peer review. Maybe I'm wrong, but it is an interesting process to watch -- especially for somebody (like me) who thinks peer review is good thing [slashdot.org].
  • by Moofie (22272) <lee&ringofsaturn,com> on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:24PM (#14602350) Homepage
    You forgot the hugs and bunnies.

    Your utopia sounds great. Too bad it'll never, ever happen.
  • www.merkeylaw.com (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:24PM (#14602354)
    www.merkeylaw.com is calling for congress to revoke ection 230 of the communications decency act in order to hold Wikipedia accountable for online libel and harassment.

  • Sad of Affairs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cal Paterson (881180) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:27PM (#14602387)
    It's a sad state of affairs when we have to block our own goddamn house of government for vandalising public property.
  • by monkeydo (173558) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:29PM (#14602407) Homepage
    Have you ever watched CSPAN?
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:32PM (#14602428) Homepage Journal
    It's not that they have too much time on their hands. They consider this a big enough priority to spend time on it instead of other tasks. A politician's first priority is usually their public image. Legislative tasks come second. That's the real problem.
  • This is choice... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:32PM (#14602431)
    Wikipedia is using a democratic process against the US Government. I'll be laughing extra hard next time I hear them defending American freedom and values.
  • by Have Blue (616) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:33PM (#14602442) Homepage
    "There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion."

    -- Jeffrey Goines, 12 Monkeys
    I am obligated to point out that the character you are quoting to back up your argument is a lunatic.
  • by ka9dgx (72702) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:37PM (#14602475) Homepage Journal
    Can we add the IP blocks to the real-time blackhole list? The Internet Death Penalty for people who can't play nice, if I understand it.

    Refusing to route their packets would be a good corrective measure, and even patriotic!

    --Mike--

    Don't tread on my IP

  • by rdmiller3 (29465) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:53PM (#14602595) Journal
    Any system which depends upon unrealistic expectations will doom its maintainers to an endless, futile battle.

    Wikipedia has some really cool content, but the more generally appealing it becomes, the more it will attract the attention of vandals, propagandists, scammers, spammers, compulsive liars, and other pushers of misinformation.

    The takers far outnumber the makers.

  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:03PM (#14602676) Homepage Journal
    Money comes first. Votes come second, but only because the best way to get votes is money. Image comes third. Paying off your rich friends who got you into office comes 4th. Legislative tasks are somewhere behind "Task #17: Donuts"

  • Let them try (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 99luftballon (838486) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:21PM (#14602806)
    Wikipedia is a valuable resource, but its value will increasingly become tied to the credibility of its authors. Traceability is key to this credibility, and if that means authors must stand or fall on what they write. That may mean authors lose a right of privacy but so be it.
  • by sbrown123 (229895) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:37PM (#14602895) Homepage
    Some people consider that a political statement,

    Yes, it is a political statement. But it's by some guy who doesn't like Sen. Santorum. Stopping that page would be like taking away his right to free speech.

    eliminating mention of both santorum and Senator Santorum, does an even worse disservice to history by removing his legitimate accomplishments as well as the voice of his opposition.

    Wikipedia is meant to represent a non-biased view of people, places, and things. The anti-Santorum page you mentioned does not even try to make you believe that it is a fair and balanced view of Sen. Sanotorum. If I were to research Sen. Sanotorum for some reason, I would not use the page you mentioned but rather expect to find honest, non-biased information about him in Wikipedia: good and bad. Removing truthful information about Sanotorum that could be seen as negative by him or others is attempting to revise history or hide the truth.
  • by MoneyT (548795) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:47PM (#14602956) Journal
    Without having looked to deeply into the depth of his methods an increase in the volume of new open source projects does not nessesarily imply that the overall ammount of work being fed into the communal pool is increasing. If everyone is writing their own web browser from scratch, that would be less work overall than everyone working on a few web browsers. Tragedy of the Commons must be applied to an individual common, that is any one project at a time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @07:07PM (#14603078)
    I think the public (i.e., us) is already well aware that politics is quite ugly. Political slander and mudslinging have existed far longer than Wikipedia has.
  • Re:double standard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by npsimons (32752) on Monday January 30, 2006 @07:47PM (#14603294) Homepage Journal

    Roberta Johnson could be posting a revision to the Ted Kennedy article because she's an ardent Republican that hates him.

    So when she does, she can be blocked as well.

    This is wrong.

    No, this is exceedingly fair and open-minded, considering that the blocks will be removed in a week's time. They abused the system; therefore their access to abuse that system has been denied. It happens all the time, and not just to congress, but to most of the idiots abusing the system [wikipedia.org]. Besides, it's their toy, they can do what they want with it.
  • Future of Wiki (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ecumenical_40oz (914889) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:14PM (#14603426)
    I predict that this type of thing is going to happen a LOT more in the future, as Wikipedia becomes more popular and used as a resource by the mainstream public. What celebrity or political figure is going to sit by and have negative details posted at their entry? Corporations will certainly make sure that their pages are squeaky clean. How long before the page for "Microsoft" or "McDonalds" is being checked daily or hourly by paid staff to alter any critical material as soon as it is posted?
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:57PM (#14603972) Journal
    I disagree on "always" ... under our current society rules, yes, but humans will stop making trolls when the purpose for our lives is to create a good and happy life for all people, and not "get all we can for ourself" ruleset we follow now.

    Right. Shortly after Doctor Donut perfects cold fusion in his Licorice Lab on Lollipop Lane.

    Pardon me if I don't hold my breath waiting for the overthrowing of human nature.
  • Re:Sad of Affairs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MonkeyBoy (4760) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:12PM (#14604037)
    Which changes things how?

    Spray painting swastikas on government buildings is bad, but spraying them on a neighbor's garage door is somehow different?

    The original comment has merit - our public officials shouldn't let their minions get away with stuff like this. The responsible thing for them to do is sh*tcan the individual(s) performing these borderline activities on public dollars, thereby sending a message to the rest of their staff.

    But that'd require congresscritters to actually work for a living, so it'll never happen - if anything I can see some of them encouraging this kind of activity.
  • by Rich Klein (699591) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:38PM (#14604181) Homepage Journal
    The IP ranges of US Congress have been currently blocked

    I'm not sure what good that'll do; they'll just make their edits from private IP addresses.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:02AM (#14604658) Homepage
    Never is a very long time you thinker from the shallow end of the gene pool and if people can't manage it then you never know, given sufficient time and evolution the bunnies might just make it ;-).
  • by sbrown123 (229895) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:10AM (#14604703) Homepage
    Wikipedia is a wiki editable by those who follow its stated policy. Otherwise, you can be banned.
  • Business as usual (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Associate (317603) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:43AM (#14604852) Homepage
    Congress declares trolling illegal.
    Congress trolls internet.
    Congress breaks the law.
    Profit.
    It's business as usual in the swamp known as DC.
  • by funkcicle (928975) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:56AM (#14605271) Homepage
    Pardon me if I don't hold my breath waiting for the overthrowing of human nature. Looking back at our social evolution how many characteristics that might once have been considered "human nature" are now considered barbaric? How much of this human nature is influenced by our surroundings? There are plenty like myself and grandparent who naturally recognise that a better life for everybody is more important than "more possessions for myself", even here in america where the exact opposite mindset is so ingrained into academia, government, and society that people such as yourself are able to percieve it as human nature.
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @06:18AM (#14605759) Journal
    Looking back at our social evolution how many characteristics that might once have been considered "human nature" are now considered barbaric?

    Considering that the usual connotation of "barbaric" is uncivilized, primal, and visceral, that's hardly surprising. However, just because they're "barbaric" doesn't make them any less "human nature." Civilization is all about overcoming primal instincts, not eliminating them.

    The idea of, say, stealing food and killing anyone who would stop you begins looking a lot less "barbaric" and a lot more "necessary" when your family/genetic community is starving to death.

    There are plenty like myself and grandparent who naturally recognise that a better life for everybody is more important than "more possessions for myself"

    That's a philosophical position, NOT a natural one.

    ", even here in america where the exact opposite mindset is so ingrained into academia, government, and society that people such as yourself are able to percieve it as human nature.

    Ignoring the misguided implication that your position is "natural" whereas mine is "ingrained by society," you have the whole thing backwards. There is no evidence in the natural world of any sort of "communist utopia" being anywhere near possible, much less practical, on a macrocosmic level.

    It's simply a human philosophical invention attractive to idealists of a certain stripe.

    Transhumanism might make for some bland SciFi, but as far as reality is concerned, it's a pipe dream.
  • by hesiod (111176) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:53AM (#14615044)
    > The food isn't as good, as a result,

    No, the food people CHOOSE TO EAT isn't as good. If we all demanded good food, then companies who want to stay in business would deliver better food. Other peoples' laziness caused bad food to be the norm, but good food is there for anyone who decides to eat it. Of course, that doesn't apply to places where people are starving, but those places existed 100 years ago too.

    > cancer and heart disease are more popular now.

    Could also be related to the fact that we can actually detect those things now, whereas 100 years ago it was a lot of guesswork, and a lot of cancer patients were misdiagnosed as dieing from things like "old age."

    > There is more misery in 2006 than there was in 1906

    Maybe in the U.S., but worldwide, I seriously doubt that.

    > 100 years ago, the knowledge gap was nothing like it is now

    You are correct, but not in the way you mean. The knowledge gap is SMALLER today. U.S. actual quality of education has declined, but there is a much, MUCH higher percentage of children in school today -- especially females, minorities. Now for the gap, class has very little to do with it, except for the existence of private schools that can sometimes afford to pay their teachers better, sometimes not. Sometimes private schools are worse than their public counterparts, which was the case where I grew up. To put the nail in the "knowledge gap," almost any family today can afford a computer and Internet access. That tool by itself outweighs any possible difference in access to education. Whether or not someone decides to learn is the real problem.

    > The gap between knowledge and class is higher than its ever been due to [...] the high cost of college education.

    Wow, do you actually read what you write? Do you have any idea how many people went to college 100 years ago? 95-100% of them were pretty much rich. Now, just about anyone can get into college if they try, and can afford to go, considering the grants available, and scholarships if they worked hard enough in high school.

    You talk about all these things that we don't have, like underwater housing and flying cars... But none of those things would improve anyone's quality of life in the ways you describe. Or at all. Hell, most of them are terrible ideas because they would be death traps!

    > until you or some politician shows me the plan, I don't think there will be a future.

    So you must wait for your senator to come wipe your ass every time you take a crap? Worldwide cataclysmic events cannot be controlled by legislation. In fact, there is very little that a politician can do, it was foolish of you to make such a ludicrous statement. Continuing that line of thought, your opinion about the future has no bearing on its reality. YOUR cynicism, lack of hope for the future, and need to have the whole thing laid out before you just to agree that we'll exist also will have no affect on reality in the future.

    Also, because you think life sucks today (I agree) doesn't mean life didn't suck 100 years ago. You really need to reevaluate your historical perspective, because it is obviously skewed wildly. Pick up your old history textbook and read through it for those major events. Then go on the Internet to see what was going on in the REST of the world at that time. The problem is that history teaches you individual events, it does not give you any context to it, such as the propaganda governments were putting out at the time to scaremonger. Stop thinking about just the U.S. as the entire world. One country being worse off doesn't make the rest of the world worse off.

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