Someone has been making subtle, and not-so-subtle, changes to the text in the Wikipedia entries for Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, and other victims of police brutality, and that someone is doing so from a computer assigned to the New York City Police Department (NYPD), Ars Technica is reporting.
Wikipedia touts itself as the encyclopedia that “anyone can edit,” meaning that anyone can make any changes to any Wikipedia entry. However, those changes are logged, categorized, scrutinized, and subject to review. And more importantly, the I.P. address from which those changes are made are also logged, and displayed for anyone to see.
That means that anyone with a little tech savvy, like, say, Capital New York reporter Kelly Weill, can determine with certainty that the Wikipedia user who changed the words “Garner raised both his arms in the air” on the Death of Eric Garner Wikipedia entry to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke” did so from an I.P. address assigned to the NYPD.
Other changes to Garner’s Wikipedia entry coming from NYPD computers include changing the words “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited,” and adding the words “Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them” to the narrative.
Eric Garner’s Wikipedia entry isn’t the only Wikipedia article subject to attempted changes from NYPD computers. In the entry for Amadou Diallo, the line “Officer Kenneth Boss had been previously involved in an incident where an unarmed man was shot, but remained working as a police officer” was changed to “Officer Kenneth Boss had been previously involved in an incident where an armed man was shot.”
Other changes were made from NYPD computers to entries on Stop-and-Frisk, the entry on the NYPD itself, and entries of various people involved in NYPD’s leadership.
The matter of public figures, or agencies, attempting to change unflattering Wikipedia entries about themselves is so common that at least one Twitter account, @Congressedits, automatically updates whenever a change to a Wikipedia article is made from an I.P. address assigned to the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.
Campus police Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/e8n84LqFKP
— congress-edits (@congressedits) March 13, 2015
According to this Inquisitr report, @Congressedits has documented a range of attempted Wikipedia edits from Congressional computers, from trying to sanitize the entry on the U.N. Torture Report, to making mundane changes to entries on subjects ranging from Baby Farming to The Lord of the Rings.
When contacted about the attempted Wikipedia edits coming from NYPD computers, an NYPD spokesperson stated only that the matter is “under internal review.”
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images/Andrew Burton]