Archive for the ‘wikipedia’ Tag

Wiki and Gina and cops (oh my!)

Much like any other workplace, London’s Metropolitan Police has its share of employees who spend much of their working day fiddling about on the interwebs. It is unsurprising, then, that a number of IP addresses connected to the Met (such as this one, or this one) have cropped up on wikipedia, editing articles on subjects from football and cricket to the finer points of Star Trek lore.

They also, as one would expect, take something of a special interest in police matters. In April, an editor apparently working for the Met demanded that wikipedia remove a (freely avaialble) chart showing the structure of the force’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) – also known as the riot squad. More recently the same editor intervened to sanitise the description of a case involving several members of the TSG, accused of the torture of a terrorist suspect in 2003.

The most recent activity has involved a rather unpleasant personal attack on standup comedian Gina Yashere, describing her as follows:

Yashere was somehow a finalist in the prestigious Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition in 1996. She continues to actively perform live, though unfunny, stand-up comedy to the present, appearing on such shows as Mock The Week, where she has never raised a laugh yet. She has released two live stand-up DVDs: one in 2006, and one in 2008. Amazingly, people bought them.

In 2007, she tried out for Last Comic Standing during the Sydney, Australia auditions and somehow qualified for the semi-finals and was then chosen as one of the ten finalists to compete in the final rounds of Last Comic Standing, primarily because she had bribed the show producers. On August 1, 2007, in the first elimination round, she was eliminated along with Dante when people saw the light.

Comedy is, admittedly, rather subjective in nature. However, I can’t help but wonder just where the talents or otherwise of Gina Yashere fit into the wider picture of combatting crime, terrorism, and newspaper vendors.

(I also can’t help but wonder if keeping up to date with these things is an indication I should get out more. All signs point to yes.)


Wikipedia Bans Church of Scientology

Wikipedia Bans Church of Scientology

wikipedia-logo-en-bigWikipedia has banned the Church of Scientology from editing any articles. It’s a punishment for repeated and deceptive editing of articles related to the controversial religion. The landmark ruling comes from the inner circle of a site that prides itself on being open and inclusive.

In a 10-1 ruling Thursday, the site’s arbitration council voted to ban users coming from all IP addresses owned by the Church of Scientology and its associates, and further banned a number of editors by name. The story was first reported by The Register.

Self-serving Wikipedia edits are hardly new. readers pulled in an award for discovering the most egregious Wikipedia whitewashes by corporation and government agencies, but this is the first time the site has taken such drastic actions to block those edits.

And the edits are unlikely to stop, now that the user-created encyclopedia has become one of the net’s most popular sites and is often the top result for searches on a subject. Being able to massage an entry about oneself or one’s company has proven difficult to resist, even for founder Jimmy Wales — despite Wikipedia’s official warnings to the contrary.

The Church of Scientology, founded by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1953, has had a long and bloody history on the net — dating back to Usenet groups, where critics maintain that the organization is a cult that brainwashes its members and sucks them dry financially. The Church, which teaches that humans are reincarnated and lived on other planets, says it is a legitimate religion.

The case, which began in December, centers on more than 400 articles about the ultra-secretive Church and its members. Those pages have hosted long-running, fierce edit wars that pitted organized Church of Scientology editors — using multiple accounts — against critics of Scientology who fought those changes by citing their own or one another’s self-published material. In fact, this is the fourth Wikipedia arbitration case concerning Scientology in as many years.

Open publishing: even the Met’s in on it

As reported by Bristle: members of the Metropolitan police have apparently demanded that Wikipedia remove a chart showing the current structure of the Territorial Support Group, or TSG – aka the riot squad. In a message posted to the talk page for the TSG, an officer writes:

Hello, this is a message from the Metropolitan Police Service. We respect your right to postings, but on this occassion may we please respectfully request that you kindly remove the organisational chart from this page.

We have received a request from TSG CO20 for it to be removed as it is somewhat out of date, and contains officers names which could compromise their safety.

If you would to talk to a member of the Metropolitan Police Service Territorial Support Group to confirm this request, we would be happy to contact you, directly.

Many thanks indeed.

In response to a message suggesting a new, more up to date chart be added (in light of police names and numbers being – supposedly – publicly accessible information):

Hello, thank you for your reply. I have asked the MPS Territorial Support Group to write a note to you, and/or to provide an updated chart without names. It is best to err on the side of caution when anybody’s safety could be compromised, and hope you would sympathise. Names and charts etc are fully open to freedom of information requests etc, but posting them globally onto web pages is of course your choice, but cause for some concern amongst the TSG. Many thanks for your kind consideration.

“Some concern” – almost as though they suspect the public might harbour ill will towards them. I can’t imagine why…

The account responsible for the message has apparently been previously identified as belonging to the Met.

In addition to the message on the talk page quoted above, the same account has been responsible for the removal of press coverage critical of the force’s Metcall service. It was also responsible for neutering language used in an article on deaths in police custody.

Porn? On my internets?

Well…no, not really. Not that reality ever got in the way of a good moral panic.

In positive news, the Internet Watch Foundation – an unelected and largely unaccountable body whose goal is to shut down child porn on the internet – has removed its blacklisting of Wikipedia, restoring full access to the site for many users in the UK. The site was blacklisted due to its featuring the cover of Virgin Killer by the Scorpions. The cover features a naked underage girl. Following the blacklisting ISPs in the UK routed access to the site via a proxy server in order to prevent access to the offending article. As a consequence, Wikipedia blocked users from said ISPs from editing “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit.”

While the block has been lifted, the reason was not that the image, which featured nudity but not sexual activity, did not constitute pornography. Rather, in the words of the IWF spokesman: “in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove the webpage from our list.”

In other words, had the picture been taken yesterday and posted to only a handful of places, the chances are the ban would still be in place.

Meanwhile in Australia, a man has been found guilty of possession of child pornography. The image in question? A parody of a Simpsons cartoon featuring sexual activity between several of the child characters. The Judge, Michael Adams, made the following – rather stunning – pronouncement:

Justice Michael Adams said the purpose of anti-child pornography legislation was to stop sexual exploitation and child abuse where images of “real” children were depicted.

But in a landmark ruling he decided that the mere fact that they were not realistic representations of human beings did not mean that they could not be considered people.

The mind boggles.

Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over ‘child porn’ album cover

Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over ‘child porn’ album cover

Six British ISPs are filtering access to Wikipedia after the site was added to an Internet Watch Foundation child-pornography blacklist, according to Wikipedia administrators.

As of Sunday morning UK time, certain British web surfers were unable to view at least one Wikipedia article tagged with ostensible child porn. And, in a roundabout way, the filtering has resulted in Wikipedia admins banning large swaths of the United Kingdom from editing the “free encyclopedia anyone can edit.”

On Friday, Wikipedia administrators noticed that Virgin Media, Be Unlimited/O2/Telefonica, EasyNet/UK Online, PlusNet, Demon, and Opal were routing Wikipedia traffic through a small number of transparent proxy servers as a way of blocking access to the encyclopedia’s article on Virgin Killer, a mid-1970s record album from German heavy band Scorpions.

At it stands, the article includes an image of the album’s original cover, which depicts a naked prepubescent girl. The cover was banned in many countries and replaced by another when the album made its 1976 debut. And apparently, the image is now on a blacklist compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation, a government-backed organization charged with fighting online child pornography in the UK and Europe.

The Virgin Killer article – FWIW it’s displaying the blank page for me at the moment.

The discussion page for (one of?) the Virgin Media IPs can be found here.

Edit: somewhat amusingly, while trying to access the page directly gives a blank, the Snapshot feature provided by certain sites shows it without a problem.