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United States Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia

united states congressional staff edits to wikipedia the free, united states congressional staff edits to wikipedia english
Some edits to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia by staff of the United States Congress have created controversy, notably in early to mid-2006 Several such instances, such as those involving Marty Meehan, Norm Coleman, Conrad Burns, and Joe Biden, received significant media attention Others, such as those involving Gil Gutknecht, were reported but received less widespread coverage

Biographical information on various politicians was edited by their own staff to remove undesirable information including pejorative statements quoted, or broken campaign promises, add favorable information or "glowing" tributes, add negative information to opponents' biographies, or replace the article in part or whole by staff-authored biographies


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Incidents
    • 21 Norm Coleman
    • 22 Joe Biden
    • 23 Gil Gutknecht
    • 24 US Rep David Davis and Tennessee Rep Matthew Hill
    • 25 US Rep Mike Pence
    • 26 Edward Snowden
    • 27 Laverne Cox
    • 28 Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture
  • 3 CongressEdits
  • 4 Proponents
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


On January 27, 2006, The Sun of Lowell, Massachusetts, published an article entitled "Rewriting history under the dome", which revealed the editing by Congressional staff members of Congressman Marty Meehan's Wikipedia entry

Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, said that he had authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker

Further investigation by Wikipedia editors discovered over a thousand edits by IP addresses allocated to either the House of Representatives or the Senate Wikipedia editors considered most of the edits were considered to be in good faith, but a minority of edits were considered improper At least one of the addresses involved was prohibited from further editing

Yesterday's story, "Rewriting history under the dome," accurately reported that in July of 2005 an intern in my office responsible for updating my biography also updated my online Wikipedia entry I did not know that this change was being made at the time and was only made aware of it yesterday when informed that The Sun had inquired about it Though the actual time spent on this issue amounted to 11 minutes, according to server logs, I do not consider it time well spent or approve of it in any way It was a waste of energy and an error in judgment on the part of my staff to have allowed any time to be spent on updating my Wikipedia entry I thank The Sun for bringing it to my attention

— Congressman Marty Meehan, Lowell Sun


Norm Coleman

Later in January 2006, Senator Norm Coleman's chief of staff, Erich Mische, verified that Coleman's staffers had edited his page "to correct inaccuracies and delete information" Mische stated: "What's to stop someone from writing in that Norm Coleman was 7 feet 10 inches, with green hair and one eye smack dab in the middle of his head That's about as silly as this gets When you put 'edia' in there, it makes it sound as if this is a benign, objective piece of information"

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said, "It appears to be a major rewrite of the article to make it more favorable"

Joe Biden

The Wikipedia investigation found that Biden staffers had removed and modified descriptions of incidents of alleged plagiarism and had recast discussion of a possible Biden 2008 presidential candidacy in a more favorable light In February 2006, The Washington Post quoted Biden spokesperson Norm Kurz as saying that the changes that were "made to Biden's site by this office were designed to make it more fair and accurate"

Gil Gutknecht

On August 16, 2006, the Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune reported that the office of Representative Gil Gutknecht tried twice—on July 24 and August 14, 2006—to remove a 128-word section in the Wikipedia article on him, replacing it with a more flattering 315-word entry from his official congressional biography Gutknecht's office used the account "Gutknecht01" for the first edits on July 24, which was then notified of Wikipedia policies against self-editing For the second set of edits on August 16, his office used an anonymous Congressional IP address

Most of the removed text was about the 12-year term limit Gutknecht imposed on himself in 1995, as Gutknecht had run for re-election in 2006 He broke his promise and was subsequently defeated, though not specifically as a result of this pledge A spokesman for Gutknecht did not dispute that his office tried to change his Wikipedia entry, but questioned the reliability of the encyclopedia

US Rep David Davis and Tennessee Rep Matthew Hill

In August 2007, US Rep David Davis's press secretary Timothy Hill at first denied—and later acknowledged, during a second press interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel—that he had used a congressional office computer and resources to edit Wikipedia in June 2007 His edits were to delete blocks of information termed as "blanking vandalism" about his employer and his brother Tennessee Representative Matthew Hill from their respective Wikipedia biographies The information that was deleted "concerned political contributions to both his brother and Davis by former King Pharmaceuticals CEO John Gregory, as well as other ties to the Gregory family"

US Rep Mike Pence

In August 2011, a writer for the Huffington Post discovered that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence had been editing his own Wikipedia page to make the Congressman look more flattering

Edward Snowden

On August 2, 2013, an editor using an IP address linked to the US Senate edited the Wikipedia page of whistleblower Edward Snowden to change his description from "dissident" to "traitor"

On August 5, 2014, an editor using an IP address linked to the US House of Representatives edited the Wikipedia page of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to describe Edward Snowden as an "American traitor"

Laverne Cox

On August 21, 2014, an editor using an IP address linked to the US House of Representatives edited the page on the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black to describe actress Laverne Cox as a "real man pretending to be a woman"

Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture

On December 9 and 10, 2014, an anonymous user using an IP address registered to the US Senate edited the article on the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, removing a sentence characterizing the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" as "torture"


Main article: CongressEdits

@congressedits is an automated Twitter account created in 2014 that tweets changes to Wikipedia articles that originate from IP addresses belonging to the United States Congress The changes are presumed to be made by the staffs of US elected representatives and senators Previous to this, the best information about what congressional staffers were editing was found in the article for the US Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia, as well as in the Wikipedia project page for congressional staffer edits, both of which are manually updated


In August 2014, the Cato Institute suggested that Congressional staffers should spend spare time editing Wikipedia A panel hosted by the institute endorsed the idea so that congressional staffers could use their time to write neutral and informative articles about proposed legislation to better educate the public Experts on the panel considered the two main obstacles to doing this as being skepticism towards Wikipedia and the history of biased editing from Congressional staffers The Cato Institute suggested one way to overcome these issues would be for the staffers to create user accounts and user profile pages disclosing their connections with Congress


  1. ^ Williams, Walt 2007-01-01 "Burns' office may have tampered with Wikipedia entry" Bozeman Daily Chronicle Retrieved 2007-02-13 
  2. ^ a b c Nate Anderson January 30, 2006 "Congressional staffers edit boss's bio on Wikipedia" Ars Technica Retrieved 2008-04-28  The activities documented included:
    • rewriting Norm Coleman's article to make more favorable, said to be "correcting errors";
    • removing from Conrad Burns' article quoted pejorative statements he had made, and replacing them with "glowing tributes" such as "the voice of the farmer"; and
    • removal of unfavorable information from Joe Biden's article
  3. ^ a b c d Evan Lehmann January 27, 2006 "Rewriting history under the dome" The Lowell Sun MediaNews Group 
  4. ^ Wikipedia editors made a fairly extensive survey of edits from Congressional IP ranges: "Wikipedia:Congressional Staffer Edits" Wikipedia Retrieved June 22, 2006 
  5. ^ a b c "Web site's entry on Coleman revised Aide confirms his staff edited biography, questions Wikipedia's accuracy" St Paul Pioneer Press Associated Press  Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Blakely, Rhys February 9, 2006 "Washington's politicians edit Wikipedia" The Times London 
  7. ^ a b Noguchi, Yuki February 9, 2006 "Wikipedia's Help From the Hill" The Washington Post 
  8. ^ a b Diaz, Kevin August 16, 2006 "Gutknecht joins Wikipedia tweakers" Star Tribune Archived from the original on August 21, 2006 
  9. ^ "Gil Gutknecht" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 
  10. ^ Gutknecht01
  11. ^ Knoxnews article Entries on Wikipedia edited by Davis aide published August 11, 2007
  12. ^ knoxnews article Lawmaker's office awaits panel's verdict on aide's act published August 15, 2007
  13. ^ Carter, Zach August 18, 2011 "Did Mike Pence's Office Edit His Wikipedia Page To Make It More Flattering" Huffington Post 
  14. ^ Ryan Gorman August 3, 2013 "Someone within the US Senate edited Edward Snowden's Wikipedia page to change his description from 'dissident' to 'traitor'" Daily Mail Retrieved October 5, 2013 
  15. ^ Julian Hattem August 5, 2014 "House staffer edited Wikipedia page to label Snowden a 'traitor'" The Hill Retrieved August 6, 2014 
  16. ^ Meija, Paula August 23, 2014 "Anonymous House of Representatives User Banned for Transphobic Wikipedia Edits" Newsweek Retrieved August 31, 2014 
  17. ^ Bobic, Igor December 12, 2014 "Senate Staffer Tried To Scrub 'Torture' From Torture Report's Wikipedia Entry" The Huffington Post Retrieved December 14, 2014 
  18. ^ Schwab, Nikki August 18, 2014 "Cato Institute Experts Call on Staffers to Edit Wikipedia" US News & World Report Retrieved August 18, 2014 

External links

  • David Mehegan Bias, sabotage haunt Wikipedia's free world The Boston Globe, February 12, 2006
  • Government of the United States portal
  • Wikipedia portal

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