Wikipedia blocks anonymous edits (and trolling) from a congressional IP address

(Wikipedia)
(Wikipedia)

A Wikipedia administrator has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" edits being made by someone located in the House of Representatives, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation confirmed.

These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by the Twitter account @Congressedits which was set up to automatically tweet changes to Wikipedia pages made from within the Capitol.

But the news media coverage, including this story written by The Post, seems to have emboldened the congressional staffers editors.

The changes have become almost troll-like. Pando Daily reported that @Congressedits revealed a "Moon landing conspiracy theories" edit coming from a Congressional IP address; the congressional staffer editor blamed the Cuban government for spreading Apollo 11 conspiracy theories.

Making matters worse, when the change was covered by Mediaite, someone from a Congressional IP address promptly changed Mediaite's Wikipedia page to add that the site was a "sexist transphobic" publication that "that automatically assumes that someone is male without any evidence."

That was the last straw for one of Wikipedia's 1,400-some administrators, who have been approved by the Wikipedia community to monitor the site for abuse, vandalism and trolling.

The Wikipedia community was notified of the block Thursday morning, according to Katherine Maher, chief communications officer for the Wikimedia Foundation.

In a statement sent to The Post, Maher said the "temporary, 10-day block on the IP address associated with the U.S. Congress [was] due to disruptive editing originating from that address."

The Wikimedia Foundation does not set editorial policy for Wikimedia projects, including English Wikipedia. Each project (such as English Wikipedia, German Wikipedia, etc.) has its own volunteer community, which collectively sets the editorial policies and guidelines for that project. The members of the community then work to uphold those policies and guidelines.

In this case, this decision was made by a member of the English Wikipedia community. According to the entry for Disruptive Editing, it is a "pattern of editing" that disrupts the process of "improving an article or building the encyclopedia."

The 10-day block is a minor warning -- or punishment for people who abuse the system, as some on the Hill seem to be doing recently.

And it only affects one IP address, which could potentially be used by different users within the Capitol.

After the block, someone in the House protested the punishment on the Wikipedia page for the affected IP address:

Out of over 9000 staffers in the House, should we really be banning this whole IP range based on the actions of two or three? Some of use here are just making grammatical edits, adding information about birds in Omsk, or showing how one can patch KDE2 under FreeBSD. 143.231.249.138 (talk) 16:27, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

We'll keep you posted on how this shakes out.

 

Have more to say about this topic? We take your questions every week in our weekly livechat, Switchback, Fridays at 11 a.m. ET. The comment box is open, so submit your questions now.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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