Wikipedia has been lambasted since its creation for its use of anonymous contributors. Critics often say that Wikipedia lacks authoritative information because of this structure, giving just about anyone a voice to become a part of online information. In contrast, some studies, including an oft-cited one in Nature, have shown that Wikipedia is actually more accurate than its more prestigious competitors, but they forget a key part of the modern exchange of digital information — dirty politics.
Washington, D.C. councilman Jack Evans has been accused by a group of Wikipedia editors of editing his own Wikipedia page to remove scandals and talk of other unflattering information, reported Washington City Paper. Information nixed from the page includes records that show that Evans used nearly $136,000 of constituent money to purchase sporting event tickets over the last decade, a story first reported on by The Washington Post.
The user who edited the negative remarks out of the post was named evansjack1. He responded to the conflict-of-interest edit allegations in first person.
I am the longest serving Councilmember in D.C. history. I have been a leader in revitalizing our city and have great accomplishment, none of which are mentioned. Just a lot of inaccurate accusations.
While such a statement hardly proves that Evans is actually the one trimming his Wikipedia to flatter himself, other damning information points to the fact the evansjack1 may actually be councilman Jack or someone in his campaign. When contacted by Washington City Paper, his spokesperson Tom Lipinsky refused to confirm or deny that the councilman had taken to cleaning up his Wikipedia image. Additionally, Evans posted a personal cell phone number to one of the other Wikipedia editors who had called him out on his cuts to the page.
Neither of these hints have confirmed the identity of evansjack1, but it wouldn’t be the first time the councilman has been caught up in Wikipedia drama. The D.C. councilman’s interns — or “fellows” as he calls them — had been caught beefing up his Wikipedia throughout his failed mayoral campaign, also according to Washington City Paper. Dry passages on campaign causes like national parks became speech-like quips such as:
Evans believes in the ability of sports to improve communities.
Whether or not the user turns out to be Evans himself or just a rouge poster, Wikipedia chose to ban the account for 48 hours due to a possible conflict of interest. Evans is also facing another scandal this week over allegations from the local Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate that he attempted to cover up unpaid parking tickets after being confronted about them at a press conference.
Jack Evans isn’t the only member of D.C. that has been linked to slanting information on Wikipedia — there’s even an entire Twitter in existence where IP address matches between Washington and Wikipedia editors are posted.