Wikipedia Edits From Government Computers Sought To Downplay Killings Like Jean Charles de Menezes

Wikipedia Edits From Government Computers Sought To Downplay Killings
Wikipedia screengrabs
Wikipedia screengrabs
Simon Galloway/EMPICS Sport

Government computers edited Wikipedia articles about the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, Stop the War coalition, and the murder of Damilola Taylor, to make them appear less damaging to the government, it has emerged.

Channel 4 reported that a computer which activists claim was part of the government's IT system amended the entry on Damilola Taylor to remove the description that he "was murdered" and to say that he "died".

Another amendment said the Stop the War coalition believes "that terror attacks on Britain are justified because of the UK's involvement in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein".

The shooting of Brazilian de Menezes received detailed attention, highlighting his immigration status and with a paragraph added to say there was a "public backlash against Menezes, with British tabloid newspaper in particular protesting that he has received more publicity than any of the 52 people who died in the bombings.

"'Anti-war' groups who champion Menezes case, ignore the fate of the victims of the bombings, other then to 'understand' why the attacks occurred due to the UK's role in Iraq."

On the Independent Police Complaints Commission Wikipedia entry, an entire section on de Menezes was deleted.

A government spokesman said in a statement: "Government takes these matters very seriously. We have recently reminded civil servants of their responsibilities under the civil service code and any breaches of the code will be dealt with.

"We will shortly be issuing fuller guidance on using the internet and social media to all departments."

Asad Rehman, a spokesman for the de Menezes family, told Channel 4 News: "Like all ordinary members of the public, I'm shocked. This is yet one more smear and attack on the family.

"We've seen over many years lies, misinformation and smears during the family's attempt to find the truth and justice and answers about how an innocent young man on his way to work was gunned down by police officers."

The investigation comes after a Merseyside civil servant was sacked for making offensive edits to the Wikipedia page about the Hillsborough disaster, while on government computer.

On Wednesday, Wikipedia hpublished its first transparency report, detailing the number of requests it has received for user data or for content to be removed.

The figures have been broken down into three types of request: user data, content and takedown, and copyright infringements. These are the key figures from the report, which covers the last two years.

  • 56 requests were made for user data, with 15 of those coming from government sources. Information was produced on eight occasions, with 11 user accounts being affected. Four of the total requests came from the UK, and none were granted.
  • In comparison, in the period between July 2012 and June 2013, Google received more than 27,000 requests for user data, of which more than 17,000 saw information produced.
  • In the last two years, the Wikimedia Foundation received 304 requests for content to be altered or taken down. The report states that none of these requests were granted.
  • 32 of the content takedown request came from the UK, with 105 from United States. The English version of Wikipedia was also the most targeted, with 65 requests directed at that version.
  • Between June 2012 and July 2014, 58 requests were made for takedowns relating to copyright. 41% of the requests were granted. Four of the requests came from the UK, but none was granted.
  • In contrast more than half the 31 requests from the United States were granted (17).

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