Wikipedia Blocks U.S. House for ‘Disruptive Editing’

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One of many Wikipedia articles edited by U.S. House of Representatives staffers Wikipedia

Somebody in Congress has been inserting reports of lizardmen and Cuban spies into Wikipedia entries, and Wikipedia is not amused. 

An administrator for the crowd-edited encyclopedia site has blocked most members of the United States House of Representatives and their staff from anonymously editing the site, Ars Technica reported. The ban will last 10 days, according to Tom Morris, a Wikipedia administrator. Morris cited “persistent disruptive editing” as the cause.

Since July 9, a Twitter bot called @congressedits has been tweeting every time a Wikipedia user edits the site anonymously from the House’s static IP address, which almost all representatives and their staffs use to access the internet. The bot is the brainchild of software developer Ed Summers. “I created @congressedits because I hoped it could engender more, better ideas and tools like it. More thought experiments. More care for our communities and peoples. More understanding, and willingness to talk to each other. More humor. More human,” Summers wrote on his personal blog.

The edits range from the purely banal to the truly outrageous. For instance, one anonymous house staffer added two words to the article on jam-band Phish.

On July 23, somebody edited the article for Wendy’s to reflect that the fast food chain serves french fries. On July 14, someone felt the need to inform readers of the article for Chaco Taco that the sugary treats are available in certain House vending machines.

What precipitated the ban was not edits to articles about jam bands and their fans’ favorite foods, but rather a series of more creative edits that suggested that, among other things, Cuban spies orchestrated the assassination of JFK and a race of hyper-intelligent extra-terrestrial lizardmen has infiltrated the U.S. government, Mediaite said.

Some staffers are upset about the ban and took to Wikipedia to complain. “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,” said one staffer from the House’s IP address.

An anonymous comment from the same IP address, but presumably by a different staffer, asserted that being able to edit anonymously controversial articles is necessary to counter “Russian disinfo agents promoting these conspiracies are all over the place.”

Either way, the House will have to find something else to do for the next 10 days.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the creator of @congressedits was Ed Morris. His name is Ed Summers.

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