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Wikipedia vs Congressional Staffers [Update] 433

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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  • escalation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by usrusr ( 654450 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:46PM (#14601956) Homepage Journal
    so, does this mean the cia will sooner or later deploy botnets for distributed editwars?

    wikipedia might end up as the surprisingly unglamorous battleground of the long-awaited "cyberwarfare"... i mean it's such an inviting target for groups who are out to mess with people's opinions and there's no group that fits that description as good as a gouvernment at war.
  • What is your point? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by loqi ( 754476 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:58PM (#14602085)
    Congratulations, you've pointed out an act of vandalism that once happened on Wikipedia. I wonder what happens if you look at the time-stamp of that edit? Oh, 19:06 Jan 26, and it was corrected 3:25 Jan 27... oh noes, a whole ~8 hrs went with that entry present.

    I've looked at countless Wikipedia pages, and only ever found vandalized content when I was digging through histories or linked to it. -1, Empirical wank-session.
  • Is anyone suprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plopez ( 54068 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:01PM (#14602111) Journal
    Really, politics have always been mean dirty and sometimes life threating. I cannot find the reference but there was a US congressman beaten to death on the floor after making an anti-slavery speech, no suprise that it was done by a southern congressman.

    And do you think it is just coincidence that in the British House of Commons the government and the opposition sit 2 sword lenghts apart and the Speaker carrys a mace?

    We are dealing with politicians here. They are not the result of some miraculous virgin birth (not even the Republicans or the President). One side has something and the other wants it. It is just going to be interesting to see how far they will go to get it or protect it.
  • quarantine? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:04PM (#14602148) Homepage Journal
    Maybe instead of banning them outright, the ip's involved in this matter (or any serious breach of the rules) should not just be banned, but silently rerouted to a server running a different copy of wikipedia. They could make all kinds of 'mistakes' etc there, but only similarly banned ip's would ever see that content. They keep wasting time (and taxpayers money) while the rest of the world would have a chance to do without their contributions to humanity.

    Does anybody know of such a system implemented in any forum/community software? I think it would be quite effective.
  • Re:quarantine? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:11PM (#14602219)
    vBulletin includes such a feature, called "Tachy Goes to Coventry". It lets specified users post to the forums all they want, but they're the only ones who ever see their posts. No clue where the name comes from, though.
  • Re:quarantine? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:15PM (#14602262)
    The something awful forums have a state called "Hellbanning", where a user can read and post in the normal way, execpt that no other users can see their posts - they are effectively invisible.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:24PM (#14602353)

    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.

    I added a contentious bit of information to an extremely contentious article once. It was outright deleted, reverted, spell checked, deleted, grammer fixed, reverted, opened up an enormous discussion with rabid opponents on both sides. Eventually it was split into a separate article that was renamed a few times, with the original article linking to it.

    The quality of the article improved quite dramatically over time, and the POV portions that I didn't even realize I was bringing to the table were quickly killed off. The facts were *heavily* cross-checked and what's left now, despite being nothing like what I originally posted, is a satisfying contribution, even though none of what I wrote exists today.

    Wikipedia rules.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:24PM (#14602360)
    Glad I'm not the only guy to think the blocking could back-fire. Theoretically (and I'm sure someone will correct me), now members of Congress have standing to sue Wikipedia for an equal rights violation (you give everyone rights to edit information, to even possibly slander the politicians, but do not give those people who are theoretically best able to judge the accuracy that right.)

    If they don't watch out, they could find themselves in a free-speech shoot-out with Congress passing laws that wiki owners are responsible for all content posted online, or that hey have a responsibility to get rid of "slanderous" information within a certain period of time.

    So far the whole ISPs being protected because they're only allowing the info to go through them protection is, AFAIK, common law and if Congress starts passing laws saying "nope, that's not true... passing along 'bad content' is just as bad as posting 'bad content', printing it in a pamphlet, going on TV and spreading false information..." and then, if you believe in slippery slopes (I don't, but some people do) then before you know it allowing pirated media to pass through your Wifi connection makes you subject to copyright infringement suits because the argument gets made that you're responsible for whatever harm you allow to go live. Yeah, right now it's got protection in the courts, but passing a law could kill that protection.

    I'm not saying steps shouldn't be taken, but how about a compromise with perhaps an Official Content seal? The Congressman and his aides are able to add a little icon or whatever to indicate that their changes came from them and is accurate or at least endorsed by them. Then the burden is back on the public: Trust what 3rd parties are saying or trust what the politician says it true. It's not going to change anyone's beliefs one way or the other, but at least the politicians will be happy knowing they can put on a PR campaign warning their knowledgable constituants not to trust Wiki content without their endorsement
  • founding parents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:34PM (#14602449) Homepage

    This gonna sound kinda sappy, but reading this RFC, or an EFF suit, or a book by Lessig, or even the GPL, really makes me feel like I'm observing a "Founding Fathers Moment," like when the Constitution was drafted. I'm glad there are large, DIVERSE, collectives of rational people trying to define fair rules.

  • by robf ( 22174 ) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:49PM (#14602566) Homepage
    "I'm glad I don't get all of the government I pay for." -- Unknown
  • Block IP address? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:53PM (#14602594) Homepage Journal
    I guess none of them know how to use TOR.
    You can not have it both ways. You can not everyone edit and contribute except?
    If you look several of the senators pages where vandalized. If data was wrong or flat out lies why shouldn't a member of staff or the person themselves edit?
    Wikipedia is great for a lot of things but as soon as opinion and not facts come into play it falls apart.
  • by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @07:34PM (#14602882) Homepage
    Hey! That speech by Al Gore in Constitution Hall [washingtonpost.com] two weeks ago was great! Okay, I only heard about it because one of my friends works from home and has CSPAN on around the clock.
  • by buraianto ( 841292 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @07:42PM (#14602930)
    A honey pot is used to catch flies, so that you can do something with them. (E.g. throw them away, keep them from your food, dissect them. You know, whatever.) What is going to happen with these congressional staffers? "You've lost your wikipedia privileges" doesn't really sound like it stings too much.
  • by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:12PM (#14603110)
    The trouble with wikipedia is that it only works in reality, not in theory.
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DuranDuran ( 252246 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:13PM (#14603115)
    > because it was a copyright violation, or didn't have any reputable sources to back it up, or it wasn't notable enough to be in an encyclopedia

    Of course those are the formal reasons for reversion or removal. But in reality, the removal reasons extend to:

    "I don't agree with that"
    "This is *my* article, not yours"
    "I am a Wikipedia editor, and hence it is my job to edit"
    "I need to make my 5,000th edit so I can get another star on my user page"
    "I could verify this claim...or I could just remove it"
  • by SwashbucklingCowboy ( 727629 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:31AM (#14604478)
    One of the Congressman involved in this, expressing my displeasure. Here's the reply I got:
    Thank you for writing. I appreciate your taking the time to express your views.

    In July of 2005 an intern in my office responsible for updating my personal biography also updated it in my Wikipedia entry. I did not know that this change was being made at the time and only became aware of it when asked by the news media. Though the actual time spent making the update amounted to less than 11 minutes (according to our server logs), I do not consider it time well spent or approve of it. The internet is a place for the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions. Part of being an elected official is to be regularly commented on, praised, and criticized on the web. Whatever temptation there may be to get involved, this activity is best left to the general public.

    Thank you again for writing. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.


    Marty Meehan

    I suspect they've heard a lot about this and have learned their lesson!

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:18AM (#14604738)
    Human nature is both self destructive, and self healing.

    Right now, death is better than life for the majority of our grandchildren, so we simply will cease to exist as we use up all the earths resources.

    The other option is if we decide to exist and live in a utopia, but this is not going to happen unless people choose that, and right now people would rather die than live like that. Sad but true.

    Humans enjoy being miserable slaves. We like working 40 hours a week, and more importantly, we like making someone else work 80 hours a week so we can feel better about our 40 hours a week. We like hard work as long as someone else has to work twice as hard. We like being happy as long as in the process we make others miserable. We like to accomplish our goals and win as long as others lose and are homeless.

    Lets face it, we like creating the world we are creating, we like it, else we wouldnt be doing it. If we collectively wanted a better world, then why do we collectively like having wars, like creating poverty, like creating ignorance, like to starve children, and eat our young?

    In one sentence, we are cannibals.

    Ok enough bashing my species, on the other side, a small small 10% want to live in peace, take care of each other and survive, but will that 10% be able to survive when all the air, water, food, gives cancer?

    I don't know, but if we want answers, we have to actually be looking for them, and I doubt even the majority of slashdot wants answers beyond profiting and buying a new car.
  • by fferreres ( 525414 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:24AM (#14604760)
    Maybe artciles could come in versions, especially when facts are disputed, or several "biased" sources want to tell a different story. That would be good enough I believe. Especially for political or controversial facts. Wikipedia has no specific bias, so they could easily accommodate different versions of "facts"...

    Just like in trials, you would be allowed to present your side of the story, but not to silence another version, ... unless (maybe) you can factually prove, and there are no opinions involved (just facts). This last I would guess would be problematic...more than one point of view would be best.
  • Take legal action? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anders Andersson ( 863 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @04:03AM (#14605289) Homepage

    I heard that a law prohibiting "annoying speech" on the Internet was introduced recently. Some people argued that it might be abused against websites containing criticism meant for the public eye, while in theory the law is probably meant to mimic similar legislation against telephone harassment aimed at individual recipients.

    Now, if having to repeatedly undo political graffiti sprayed all over your encyclopedic work-in-progress by your elected representatives isn't annoying to you, I don't know what is. If that law is to be used at all, wouldn't it be nice to see it first used in accordance with its purpose, rather than counter to it?

BLISS is ignorance.