7 Aug 2014

Twitter bot will monitor government Wikipedia changes

Want to know if Wikipedia is being edited from government computers? Follow the new Channel 4 News Twitter bot, which will monitor every time anyone makes a change from those machines.

The “bot”, a piece of code that automatically post tweets as @Whitehalledits, is being launched by Channel 4 News after an investigation found government computers made edits that sought to minimize high-profile killings.

Channel 4 News found that edits made from government computers added a slur and inaccurate information to the page of Mr de Menezes, and separately made edits that downplay the murders of Damilola Taylor and Lee Rigby.

Damilola Taylor’s father Richard Taylor told Channel 4 News: “I feel very upset and disgusted by the action of this person or group of workers. This is an illegal act which we do find unacceptable.”â??

One anonymous user on a government network made edits to the entry for Damilola Taylor to change the phrase “was murdered” to simply read that he had “died”.

The vast majority of edits made from the government secure network are not malicious, but there have been a large number of changes being made. 25,000 such edits have been made in total, with 1,250 made this year alone.

On average anonymous users on British government computers networks make eight edits while at work each day.

The first “bot” monitoring government-linked edits was set up by Tom Scott and coded by Ed Summers, to monitor edits made from parliament, called @ParliamentEdits.

Similar Twitter bots have since been set up for edits eminating from the US Congress, the Canadian government and Swedish parliament, with entries such as that on the “right to be forgotten” being edited.

It is not possible to calculate how many users are making non-anonymous changes from government computer networks using their private user accounts.

Click here to see what the @WhitehallEdits bot has tweeted and to follow the account