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Sun Jul 1 19:24:19 UTC 2007

Ministry of Defence and Aberdeenshire Council, this newspaper has
established precise numbers, times and details of how employees used work
computers to anonymously edit Wikipedia articles, often to spread abuse,
bigotry and outright nonsense.

Among the biggest Wikipedia timewasters in the UK appear to be MoD
employees, who were responsible for more than 4,600 anonymous edits in the
past four years.

They included 100 entries about Formula One, contributions about the 1970s
cartoon series Captain Caveman and several disparaging references to Scots
Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus.

MoD computers have been used to edit the entry on the Faslane Peace Camp,
claiming the submarine base was vital to the local economy and that if the
nuclear base left, the campaigners would find something else to complain

Wikipedia was founded in 2001 and currently has two million English
articles, all of them written and edited by computer users around the world.
The site has always been vulnerable to abuse and last week it emerged the
CIA had edited articles including those relating to casualty levels in Iraq.

Many malicious editors of Wikipedia try to mask their identities, but using
sophisticated scanning software, Scotland on Sunday has traced thousands of
edits back to hundreds of organisations, several of which last night
launched investigations to track down those responsible.

Computers operated by Scotland's local authorities were used in 16,190
Wikipedia edits in the past four years.

Top of the league is Aberdeenshire with 2,004 changes. They were used to
make no fewer than 12 entries about Jaffa Cakes, along with a comment that
all "neds" are "gay".

In second place was South Lanarkshire Council, which recorded 1,505 Wiki
edits, including obscene and bigoted remarks about Celtic FC and Rangers
owner David Murray.

Perhaps one of the most surprising sources for anonymous Wiki editing is
Clarence House, the home of the Prince of Wales. An enthusiastic linguist at
the royal residence added a paragraph on the usage of the Australian
greeting "G'Day", while another remarked on the sexuality of a Surrey

In addition, a computer on the network of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review
Commission was used to make comments about Rangers, calling them "the
world's most bigoted football club". And a Scottish Parliament computer was
used to change Tory MSP Phil Gallie's date of birth to 1839.

British Airways computers have been used to make anonymous edits about the
2005 Helios air crash north of Athens, which killed all 121 on board.
Meanwhile, a BBC computer was used to remove criticism of its iPlayer

Computers at the Law Society of Scotland have been used to make anonymous
edits which removed a paragraph which was critical of them.

Wikipedia is also being used as a weapon in disputes within organisations.
Lesley Hinds, chairwoman of NHS Health Scotland, was criticised in an
anonymous, ungrammatical and misspelt Wikipedia posting which came from an
NHS Health Scotland computer.

It said: "Health Scotland is under the relocation review which will most
likely see it being moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Lesley Hinds appears to
support this which is surprising since she is meant to represent the
interests of Edinburgh in her Lord Provost role. When this policy was
released it was expected she would of resigned is [sic] protest but instead
has continued working in both jobs."

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser with the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, said: "Most employers would expect anyone wanting
to edit Wikipedia to do it at home and in their own time. Employers are not
Attila the Huns who will ban everything and they accept a little bit of give
and take, but it is hard to see how vandalising Wikipedia pages is
acceptable. A ringleader for this kind of activity could even find
themselves being dismissed."

Andre Coner, a consultant with computer security firm Commissum, said: "It's
a myth that everyone is anonymous online. They're not. In order for you to
send and receive information, the various servers need to know where your
computer is."

Spokeswomen for both the MoD and the Scottish Parliament said they were
aware of the issue and were looking into the origin of the offending edits.
A BA spokesman said it was also looking into the issue.

And South Lanarkshire Council pledged "appropriate action".

However, a spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council suggested that most of the
edits would have come from youngsters using school computers and members of
the public using library machines.

A spokeswoman for the Law Society of Scotland said it had removed inaccurate
and outdated criticism and that since the number beside the edit could be
identified as belonging to the Law Society it could not be construed as
Cut and run

January 31, 2006, 6.58pm

A user going by the name of Sjharte, who identifies himself as being an
Edinburgh-based lawyer, added the following paragraph to the Wikipedia page
on the Law Society of Scotland.

"There has been criticism of the Law Society of Scotland from some sections
of the Scottish public citing the level of complaints by members of the
public against Scottish solicitors. The Scottish Executive has instituted
studies into regulation of the Scottish legal profession."

February 8, 7.11pm

An anonymous writer deletes the paragraph. The edit can be traced to a
computer on the Law Society of Scotland network.


Another Wikipedia editor, under the name of ALoan, restores the critical

February 17, 1.22pm

Again an anonymous writer deletes the paragraph of criticism. Again from a
computer on the Law Society of Scotland network.

February 19, 10.17pm

"Sjharte" edits the page to bring back the paragraph.

February 23, 5.27pm

Again an edit is made from a Law Society computer.


"Sjharte" puts the critical paragraph back in.

March 24, 3.18pm

Anonymous but traceable. The Law Society computer is used to wipe out the
paragraph again.


Sjharte has another go, adding the critical paragraph and branding the
anonymous edits as "vandalism".

April 13 ,2006, 10.56am

Resistance is useless. Again the criticism is blanked out. Again the edit is
anonymous. Again it can be traced to a Law Society of Scotland computer.

Wikiscanner allows users to hunt for anonymous edits which came from
computers at the networks of various organisations.

This is the basic Wikiscanner link, enjoy:

This is the link which takes the user to all the anonymous edits originating
with computers on Ministry of Defence networks:

This is the link which takes the user to all the anonymous edits originating
with computers on British Airways networks:

This is for the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission:

*This article:*

*Last updated:* 25-Aug-07 00:56 BST

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