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Web Tool Outs Wikipedia Manipulators

Caltech graduate student creates WikiScanner which apparently exposes previously thought anonymous Wikipedia entries created by corporations and organizations.

By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

Caltech graduate student creates WikiScanner which apparently exposes previously thought anonymous Wikipedia entries created by corporations and organizations.

wikipediaAccording to information on the Wikipedia about us page, the website is described as is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project, that is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. The about page states that with rare exceptions, articles on wikipedia can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet, simply by clicking on a “edit this page” link. Some visitors to Wikipedia create user accounts in which they do their editing, and others edit pages anonymously, resulting in display of the user’s IP address.

Since nearly all Wikipedia pages can be edited by anyone, there is great potential for individuals, corporations and organizations to manipulate content, run reputation management campaigns, and whitewash data, much of which can appear to be done anonymously.

Enter the WikiScanner created by self-proclaimed “Mad Scientist. Disruptive Technologist.” Virgil Griffith. The Tool, known as Wikipedia Scanner, is the brainchild of the young Caltech graduate student. Virgil has built a search tool that traces the IP (Internet protocol) addresses of those who are making Wikipedia changes.

Disruptive indeed! The tool he has created offers users a searchable database which can connect millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where the edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits against pools of data on who owns the associated blocks of Internet IP addresses.

Virgil’s wiki scanner page was down when I checked it, probably due to massive amounts of traffic coming in from people reading about this and similar stories.

As of today, the wiki scanner allows you to search by an organization’s name and or location, followed by clicking on a button that reads “reveal my potential victims!” For example, one can input the name “National Institute of Health,” “Wal-Mart” or “Pfizer” and get results that apparently come from locations where those organizations have registered IP addresses.

There is already a growing list of user submitted organizations which so far includes organizations such as DaimlerChrysler, Apple, IBM, the US House of Representatives, and Hewlett-Packard. Along the right side of the wiki scanner web page, are a number of “editor’s picks” which include US government offices, the Democratic Party and Republican Party, corporations such as Amgen and Diebold, news organizations such as Fox News Channel and the New York Times, and even miscellaneous locations such as the Vatican.

One can also do a search by blocks of IP addresses known as an IP range. That’s not going to be as easy as entering a corporate or organizational name for the average user, but it allows one to dig deeper and potentially target geographical areas based on IP ranges. I would imagine one could look at IP blocks for entire cities and see what sort of anonymous wikipedia edits are coming out of those areas. It will be a mess at first but someone will likely figure out how to better organize the data.

You can also search specifically choosing a wikipedia page entry but that may take a bit of time. I went to use the tool and that feature is currently disabled, at least until traffic on the web site decreases. While this method may be the most time-consuming, it will likely be the fastest way to find out which organizations are potentially editing wikipedia terms you may be interested in.

This tool and Virgil Griffith are certainly going to get a lot of attention over the next week! @ 10:10 am | Article ID: 1187111456


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