For the heck of it

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Free Speech? My A***

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what Wikipedia is. It's THE best and FREE encyclopedia you can ever lay your hands on. It's the biggest multilingual free-content encyclopedia on the internet, and contains over 7 million articles in over 200 languages - which is still growing on everyday.

Virgil Griffith

Most of the content on Wikipedia is user generated - so you can imagine the size of its content database. Users log on to the web site to contribute new entries and edit and update existing entries, too. With power in the users' hands, it's no brainer that people who already have an entry on their name on Wikipedia, will jump on the editing bandwagon, to make themselves look good.

So, to identify these people, Virgil Griffith - a student and a hacker - created a software program called Wikipedia Scanner, which discovered that Wikipedia entry editors included giants such as Microsoft, Coca Cola, Apple, FBI and the Vatican. These entities altered text on Wikipedia, which showed them in bad light.

Wikipedia Scanner

This list shows some of the things, Griffith's software managed to find out:

  • Apple adds negative comments to entries about Microsoft.
  • The Vatican edits Irish Catholic and IRA leader politician Gerry Adams’ page.Exxon Mobil edits text that highlights environmental damage in the oil spillages article.
  • Scientology removes criticism and negative articles from the Scientology page.
  • Al Jazeera TV station adds that the foundation of Iraq was just as bad as the Holocaust.
  • Amnesty International removes negative comments about its working.
  • Social networking website MySpace removed paragraphs when their website was hacked.
  • MSN Search is “a major competitor to Google”. That’s what MSN added to their page.
  • Dog breeding association deletes whole paragraphs about fatal attacks by dogs on humans.
  • Portuguese government removes entries about Prime Minister’s scandals.

This is just the tip of an iceberg. To find out, who's been editing what, check out Wikipedia Scanner.