Seeing Corporate Fingerprints in Wikipedia Edits
By KATIE HAFNER The New York Times August 19, 2007
Last year a Wikipedia visitor edited the entry for the SeaWorld theme parks to change all mentions of "orcas" to "killer whales," insisting that this was a more accurate name for the species.
There was another, unexplained edit: a paragraph about criticism of SeaWorld's "lack of respect toward its orcas" disappeared. Both changes, it turns out, originated at a computer at Anheuser-Busch, SeaWorld's owner.
Dozens of similar examples of insider editing came to light last week through WikiScanner, a new Web site that traces the source of millions of changes to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
The site, wikiscanner.virgil.gr, created by a computer science graduate student, cross-references an edited entry on Wikipedia with the owner of the computer network where the change originated, using the Internet protocol address of the editor's network. The address information was already available on Wikipedia, but the new site makes it much easier to connect those numbers with the names of network owners.
Since Wired News first wrote about WikiScanner last week, Internet users have spotted plenty of interesting changes to Wikipedia by people at nonprofit groups and government entities like the Central Intelligence Agency. Many of the most obviously self-interested edits have come from corporate networks.
Last year, someone at PepsiCo deleted several paragraphs of the Pepsi entry that focused on its detrimental health effects. In 2005, someone using a computer at Diebold deleted paragraphs that criticized the company's electronic voting machines. That same year, someone inside Wal-Mart Stores changed an entry about employee compensation.