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Heh.
January 30, 2006 3:45 PM   Subscribe

editors from the range of IP addresses belonging to the United States Congress have been banned from wikipedia.
posted by delmoi (59 comments total)

 
Members of congress distorting the truth??? What???? O. M. G.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:48 PM on January 30, 2006


LOL!
posted by quonsar at 3:49 PM on January 30, 2006


That's awesome.
posted by brundlefly at 3:50 PM on January 30, 2006


Great, I say let's wall up D.C. and ban them from having any influence over anyone or anything. This is a good start.
posted by mk1gti at 3:51 PM on January 30, 2006


Oh, here's some more background, etc.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on January 30, 2006


You don't suppose you could have posted this information into this thread from two days ago, could you?
posted by crunchland at 3:57 PM on January 30, 2006


Allowing Congress to edit the truth deemed "bad". Film at 11.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:57 PM on January 30, 2006


correction, yesterday.
posted by crunchland at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2006


That's damn funny. Wow. Like Van Helsing bringing out the cross and driving off Dracula. Man that's great.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:04 PM on January 30, 2006


Excellent. Give them a taste of their own medicine.
posted by Rothko at 4:05 PM on January 30, 2006


Whatever, they'll just tell their junior staff to go home and do it from their home computers. You can't bar every IP address in D.C. It's a nice message but it has no teeth.
posted by spicynuts at 4:08 PM on January 30, 2006


That's actually a WRONG move, imho. If you ban the Congress from deleting part of WIki (which you can restore easily) who will notice they are infested with low lifes, scoundrels and well-2-do-screw-u people ?

Like honeypots for black hat hackers, free publicity for politicians :)
posted by elpapacito at 4:08 PM on January 30, 2006


You think any congress persons actually log in and edit Wikipedia?
posted by sourwookie at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2006


Just for kicks, I did an IP search of the 1.2 million comments to MeFi, and there was one member that posted many times using an internal (house) congressional IP. Thankfully, they never posted in any political threads, so it seems like just a bored staffer killing time on breaks or something.
posted by mathowie at 4:11 PM on January 30, 2006


I'm found out!
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:13 PM on January 30, 2006


[in Nelson's voice]

HA HA!
posted by clevershark at 4:15 PM on January 30, 2006


Right now, calls are being made to the NSA. . .

"John, I need you to set up an SSH tunnnel, get me inside that commie datafuck."
posted by The Jesse Helms at 4:15 PM on January 30, 2006


1.2 Million comment ? Jeeeezuz
posted by elpapacito at 4:16 PM on January 30, 2006


Big Brother is Watching
posted by jne1813 at 4:21 PM on January 30, 2006


Waha! That rules. Probably won't keep them out for more than a few days, but it's a great gesture.
posted by cmyk at 4:24 PM on January 30, 2006


Your tax dollars at work
posted by Max Power at 4:26 PM on January 30, 2006


Which is why this is comment 1191534 or so.
posted by delmoi at 4:27 PM on January 30, 2006


er, close.
posted by delmoi at 4:27 PM on January 30, 2006


This is a very very interesting time for Wikipedia. Shutting off IP addresses won't fix anything -- the staffers making these changes can log in anywhere.

So, in the first corner we have:

A) Wikipedia, which allows anyone to edit any page, any time.

And in corner B we have:

B) Congressional staffers, who are paid to modify, monitor, and re-modify Wikipedia pages on an ongoing basis.

It's interesting to watch. In a lot of ways it's a replay of the arrival of spam on Usenet, with the exception that they actually can clamp down Wikipedia (the Metafilter $5/posting delay deal would work fine) without destroying its usefullness.

Actually, now that I think about it it's amazing that the congress critters got there first: Wikipedia seems like an irrestible target to spammers.
posted by tkolar at 4:28 PM on January 30, 2006


Note to self: at least spell check postings, even if that won't catch your horrible grammar.
posted by tkolar at 4:30 PM on January 30, 2006


I know this won't really stop them, but it's still hilarious and worthy of much applause.
posted by Meredith at 4:35 PM on January 30, 2006


Why limit it to Congress?
posted by brundlefly at 4:41 PM on January 30, 2006


Good point, brundlefly. Surely lobbyists, pacs and other political organizations have an incentive to manipulate wikipedia.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:43 PM on January 30, 2006


So, just hypothetically, how long before wikipedia is no longer a wiki at all? It seems that in the last few months more and more people are exploiting its open structure and that the editors have had to institute more controls. At what point will those controls interfere with the inherent openness of a wiki?
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:52 PM on January 30, 2006


Now if only we could block their access to the press, so that they couldn't distort the truth there, either...
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:54 PM on January 30, 2006


Looks like Peak Wiki to me.
posted by Bort at 4:59 PM on January 30, 2006


elwoodwiles, that sort of degeneration is inherent in any open system. Remember in the early days of the internet where they had those message boards with no registration where you just typed your message and your moniker and posted? And it actually worked because so few people were using the internet?

Moral of the story: assholes ruin everything.
posted by Ndwright at 5:02 PM on January 30, 2006


BushCo promotes the spread of Democracy throughout the Middle-East, then has to break off relations with Palestine because he doesn't like who they elected. Wikipedia creates an encyclopedia that anybody can edit, then is forced to begin enforcing restrictions when "anybody" does.

Boy, freedom sure is a messy business, no? No matter who's version you're implementing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:05 PM on January 30, 2006


Boy, freedom sure is a messy business, no? No matter who's version you're implementing.

It just does not scale well.
posted by prak at 5:11 PM on January 30, 2006


Beat me to it. Gotta love that wiki wars exist even in the highest levels.
posted by FeldBum at 5:13 PM on January 30, 2006


*whose*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:18 PM on January 30, 2006


Just for kicks, I did an IP search of the 1.2 million comments to MeFi, and there was one member that posted many times using an internal (house) congressional IP.

It's only fun if you can edit other people's comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 PM on January 30, 2006


Here is a simple solution: register a Wikipedia nickname, then enjoy the relative privacy. All it takes is five seconds and a free webmail account. From the Wikipedia: Why Create an Account?:

"Your IP address will no longer be visible to other users."*

Problem solved, astroturf away.

*Though the admins will still of course have access to it. Per WP's privacy page, however, it seems like it takes a fairly flagrant violation (or series of them, even) for them to flag you.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 6:23 PM on January 30, 2006


Bill titled HR 9424 Internet Libel "Reform" coming in 5... 4... 3...
posted by rolypolyman at 6:35 PM on January 30, 2006


I think that Schneier hits it right on the head - it's not about anonymity, it's about reputation. If nicknames are attached to wikipedia edits, you can know what someone's biases are and whether or not they should be trusted.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:52 PM on January 30, 2006


mathowie says:
Just for kicks, I did an IP search of the 1.2 million comments to MeFi ...

Many sites log IP addresses, and it's clearly something a user should expect. Yes, there are privacy considerations, but I don't want to get into that just now.

Nevertheless, for the maintainer of a site, there is an excellent argument to be made against logging. When I was a sysadmin at MIT (more than a decade ago), we made a very conscious decision to limit the amount of information we logged, and how long we retained backups of even that limited set.

I've been the guy who had to respond to a subpoena -- as in "We want every file, email, logfile or other record that pertains to the username 'xxx'. ". Satisfying that requirement for one machine and one user took me days of spinning backup tapes. It's a huge pain. Ever looked at the penalties for not complying?

Given the government's willingness to go on fishing expeditions at other people's expense, perhaps the best response is a truthful "We're sorry, sir, but this is all we have -- we don't keep any other records."

Just for kicks aside, is there any real reason to keep IP address information for more than the two weeks, say, that is necessary for most actual troubleshooting?
posted by nickp at 7:11 PM on January 30, 2006


That's not a bad point, Afroblanco. However, the problem is that upon reading any given article, it’s not immediately apparent what portion of it was edited by a malicious user.

In other words, let’s say that I go and register the nickname “PP” on Wikipedia, and then go on an editing spree of the biographies of congressmen I happen to favor. Let’s also say that the edits I add are not blatant (e.g., “Lantos for PRESIDENT because he’s so rox0r!”), but much more subtle - scrubbing unflattering quotes, massaging the facts a little, and the like. Now, if you already know that I am likely to engage in these types of edits, you can just look up my posting / editing history and dismiss my edits as crap. However, this is far from obvious to a casual visitor who looks up Tom Lantos’ bio. He doesn’t know my name and he doesn’t know my reputation; further, he doesn’t get to see the disagreeable bits I’ve scrubbed and cleaned up *unless* he already knows that I am a malicious user and also knows how to look up the edits that I made.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 7:17 PM on January 30, 2006


True. However, nicknames combined with increased moderation seems like a winning combination. If you have people keeping an eye out for such things, it shouldn't be too hard to screen out the spammers.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:21 PM on January 30, 2006


Awesome
posted by destro at 7:35 PM on January 30, 2006


I am all for a Wikipedia moderation system a la Slashdot (i.e., introducing the concept of "Karma," and allowing users to moderate fellow users with meta-moderation thrown in to prevent abuse). Most people argue that such a system would run counter to the egalitarian project they are trying to accomplish, though. Oh well.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 7:48 PM on January 30, 2006


Just for kicks aside, is there any real reason to keep IP address information for more than the two weeks, say, that is necessary for most actual troubleshooting?

Good question. What is the point of keeping it?
posted by mrgrimm at 7:53 PM on January 30, 2006


I tried posting in the appropriate thread, almost an hour earlier than delmoi's new FPP...
posted by emelenjr at 7:59 PM on January 30, 2006


1.2 Million comment ? Jeeeezuz

That was just amberglow alone probably? ;)
posted by terrapin at 8:16 PM on January 30, 2006


I'm glad this was posted as it's own thread. I probably would have missed it otherwise.

This is awesomeness to the nth. "Heh. You guys wanna fuck around and be lying, good-fer-nuthin' grabasses? Yeah?" *bans IP range* "Yeah, that's what I thought. Congress-person who? Sorry, can't hear you. Don't know, don't care."

Though, as mentioned above it's a little more than a slap on the wrist. But how often do nerds get to slap the Federal Gov. on the wrist for bad, bad behavior?

Sheesh. About 9 out of 10 odd times I've actually bothered to write a real, individual letter to my reps over issues important to me, all I ever got in return was a form letter. That and the bonus gift of a never ending stream of spam from each of them, like I actually wanted to hear about their campaign drivel or something.

Also:

MetaFilter: That commie datafuck.
posted by loquacious at 8:59 PM on January 30, 2006


Congressional staffers are propagandists?!
posted by stbalbach at 10:49 PM on January 30, 2006


The product of liberty and security is a constant. Complete liberty gives you no security, and vice versa.

Wikipedia is experiencing this effect now, and it will be interesting to see if they can come up with an effective solution.
posted by moonbiter at 10:50 PM on January 30, 2006


We have all paid our $5 to Metafilter for use of their services. How many people out there use Wikipedia and have not given them a cent? If there is anytime that they could use a few bucks it would be right now. Anyway, it's what Wikipedia stands for that makes supporting them all the more worthwhile.
posted by kurtrudder at 10:56 PM on January 30, 2006


1. Wikipedia's different from usenet because (among other things) anybody can remove pov-pushing/astroturf/spam; it's not a task left to a few administrators (a model that doesn't scale)

2. There's no good technological enforcement mechanism for this kind of thing -- humans are great at gaming systems run by computers (or progamming computers to game those systems for them). The best enforcement systems are social (and that includes the offline social systems, including the legal system. I want to see some staffers' careers ruined; that'll put a chill on the political wikiturf pretty quickly.

3. Casual users are at a disadvantage. But lots of people read and edit wikipedia obsessively; someone coming in and simply removing sourced information information that they don't like acts as a red flag, and these people will revert that edit before many people see it.

Seriously -- as long as congressional staffers are making edits as utterly, utterly retarded as the ones they've made, they can be spotted from miles away. And really trying to slip under the radar means adopting more wikipedian modes of editing -- it takes cunning, and intelligence, and generally more trouble than it's worth. And assuming political operatives did manage to becoming invisible POV-pushers, they wouldn't be any worse than honest partisans (they couldn't, or they'd stop being invisible), and wikipedia already keeps those well in check.
posted by Tlogmer at 12:05 AM on January 31, 2006


Caveat: self-correction doesn't just happen. Add local politicians to your wpedia watchlist.
posted by Tlogmer at 12:07 AM on January 31, 2006


Just for kicks aside, is there any real reason to keep IP address information for more than the two weeks, say, that is necessary for most actual troubleshooting?

users with at least 5 accounts who use them to start shitstorms on a daily basis, just for kicks, all from the same IP address. maybe that didn't happen at MIT ten years ago, but it happens now around here though.

posted by matteo at 12:24 AM on January 31, 2006


here's my question ... if they can't be trusted to behave themselves on a website, WHY THE FUCK ARE WE TRUSTING THEM WITH OUR COUNTRY?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:36 AM on January 31, 2006


We have all paid our $5 to Metafilter for use of their services.

Speak for yourself, latecomer.
posted by beth at 2:47 AM on January 31, 2006


Pontius Pilate: "I am all for a Wikipedia moderation system a la Slashdot (i.e., introducing the concept of "Karma," and allowing users to moderate fellow users with meta-moderation thrown in to prevent abuse). Most people argue that such a system would run counter to the egalitarian project they are trying to accomplish, though. Oh well."

This is a bad, bad, bad idea, and not because it would damage egalitarianism. Wikipedia is far from complete on a huge number of topics. In fact, Wikipedia's so-called "systemic bias" means that only in a few subject areas (science, history, math, etc) is it a reasonable encyclopedia. If half of the current Wikipedia effort was not on correcting the errors and expanding content, but rather on rating the quality of other users' edits (or rating the correctness of other users' ratings), the whole process might grind to a halt.

Some sort of system of rating a user's "goodness" on Wikipedia would be neat. But so much of how trustworthy a user is depends on social aspects that are very complex and hard to automate (or even to learn at-a-glance). Revert wars aren't always fast. Disagreements over policy aren't always in a single place. And users can always logout and be an anonymous IP, or go to the library and be a different anonymous IP. I don't think that some sort of User Helpfulness Quotient (I coin the term UHQ) would damage egalitarianism, but I do think that incorporating it would change Wikipedia drastically. Policies like RFCs and Arbitration would have to have programming behind them, instead of being simply social community discussion processes.

Also, Slashdot isn't exactly a paragon of factual accuracy (although, granted, the comments there were never really intended to be any more definitive than the threads here). But modelling a karma system after theirs would be awkward.
posted by Plutor at 6:44 AM on January 31, 2006


Beth: 1k users represent!

CongressCritters and their staff: the internet is very resilliant to spin and fluff and outright lies. The fact that we're all here means that your jobs are going to get a lot tougher.

Nobody's mentioned the fact that congressmen and women (and their staffers) are paying attention to wikipedia and that it is in some very real sense, a resource of record on the web. Wow. Color me impressed. I'm not a big wikipedia hater, but I never thought it'd get so big, and be so often used, as to make it worthy of spamming by those in power.
posted by zpousman at 6:47 AM on January 31, 2006


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