The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Politicians try to manipulate Wikipedia bios

Although Minnesota Congressman Gil Gutknecht (who made the news by abandoning his support for the Iraq war after seeing the country for himself) is the star of the show in this article, there's apparently no shortage of politicians trying to cast themselves and their records more favorably on Wikipedia. This marks the second time Gutknecht has been caught attempting to alter his entry.

Now Gutknecht, in effect, tried to expunge a reminder of a 12-year term-limit he imposed on himself in 1995.

Page histories available on Wikipedia show that Gutknecht's office tried twice -- July 24 and Aug. 14 -- to remove a 128-word entry on him and replace it with a more flattering 315-word entry taken from his official congressional biography.

In both cases, the original entry -- including his term-limit promise -- was restored within hours.

Trying to conceal instances of hypocrisy seems to be the most common reason politicians do this, but a Gutknecht aide had a hilarious response when asked about the attempted whitewashing: Ignore the man behind the curtain.

"We're concerned when anyone looks to Wikipedia for factual information," said Gutknecht spokesman Jon Yarian. "This is the same source that called former Assistant Attorney General John Seigenthaler a murderer in his official Wikipedia entry ... I would encourage people to find a more trustworthy place to do their research."