25 Apr 2014

Wikipedia controversy: re-editing history

The insertion of derogatory comments into Wikipedia entries about the Hillsborough disaster is the latest in a series of controversies involving the website.

Johann Hari

Two years ago the former Independent journalist Johann Hari was forced to apologise after admitting to sockpuppetry on the Wikipedia accounts of rival writers. Many of the edits were carried out under the name of “David Rose”.

Grant Shapps

The Conservative party chairman admitted in 2012 to altering his entry on Wikipedia, though he claimed he simply made “corrections” to exam results he achieved and incorrect claims that he was a Jehovah’s Witness.

Chuka Umunna

A Wikipedia entry comparing the shadow business secretary to President Obama was traced to a computer at the law firm where the MP once worked. Chuka Umunna was unable to deny that he was the source of the additions, which were published in 2008 before he entered parliament.

Joan Ryan

The former Labour MP, who stepped down in 2010, was connected with attempts to remove information about her expenses claims, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported. Ms Ryan admitted to having altered some information, but said: “I’ve altered it whenever there’s misleading or untruthful information been placed on it.”


The clue was probably in the name. Nonetheless, last November a Texas-based public relations company found itself answerable to Wikipedia after nearly 300 “sock puppet” accounts were traced back to the firm. Wiki-PR denied wrongdoing but acknowledged that mistakes had been made.