« | »

BBC Raps CIA Wiki Edits, Ignores Own

You may have caught yesterday’s article from BBC News which expressed their outrage that employees of the CIA would tinker with that vessel of truth we call Wikipedia.

It began thusly:

Wikipedia ‘shows CIA page edits’

By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

An online tool that claims to reveal the identity of organisations that edit Wikipedia pages has revealed that the CIA was involved in editing entries.

Wikipedia Scanner allegedly shows that workers on the agency’s computers made edits to the page of Iran’s president…

The BBC kindly went on to explain how lowdown and awful this was for the CIA to do.

Well, it turns out that the selfsame Wikipedia tool turned up more than 7,00 edits on articles by those cherubic government employees at the BBC.

When readers noticed this and complained the BBC courageously responded with this article buried on their “Editors” blog:

Wikipedia edits

Pete Clifton

16 Aug 07, 03:02 PM

There was significant interest in our piece yesterday on the online tool that shows the identity of organisations where employees have changed Wikipedia pages.

The focus of the story was changes the CIA had made to pages, but other organisations – including The Vatican, the US Democratic Party and US company Diebold – didn’t escape our attention.

Words like glass, house and stones spring to mind, because we weren’t exactly sharp about the other obvious question that springs to mind… What about people inside the BBC?

This was an irritating oversight. Some of you have written to complain, others have given the issue a significant airing online and beyond.

I still think it was a good piece to write, but we should have asked the question about ourselves – and reflected it in the report – before it was published. That may be the sound of the barn door closing, but we have now put a line at the end of the story about the BBC and the fact that the Wikipedia scanner shows updates from people at IP addresses traceable back to the BBC.

Some of the examples are pretty unedifying, but for every dodgy one there are many, many more uncontroversial edits where people at the BBC have added information or changed a detail in good faith. The scanner also shows the same kind of results for a wide variety of other media organisations.

So what are my conclusions on all this? People from the BBC interacting with social networking sites seems like an entirely proper thing. We are only part of the web, after all, and we should be willing to freely link off to other places and to engage intelligently with some of them.

You are hardly the brightest button if you choose to make unpalatable updates to Wikipedia when you are sitting at a BBC computer, but policing every keystroke of more than 20,000 staff is impossible. One thing is clear – when BBC staff choose to get involved, they should behave well and not in a way that flies in the face of BBC values or risks bringing the BBC into disrepute.

Having said that, I think I’ve broken the rules once too. Some time back I noticed Wikipedia had the wrong information about who was in charge of BBC News Interactive. So I wrote a couple of paragraphs about myself which is by all accounts not good form in the Wiki world. Whoops, I’ll leave you to go in and edit that one.

Pete Clifton is head of interactive news

Again, those busy beavers at the (formerly biased) BBC have made more than 7,000 edits to Wikipedia.

And, unlike those they chided other for, their “edits” were not corrections of erroneous information. Rather they were blatant and childish vandalism, which exhibited the BBC’s obvious contempt for anyone holding a differing point of view from their own.

Examples of the BBC’s typically juvenile and leftwing handiwork can be found in the edit records of the Wikipedia entries for George Bush and Tony Blair.

Here they changed Palestinian “terrorists” to “freedom fighters.”

And then there is this hilarious “edit” of a Wikipedia entry about the BBC and their recent internal report on their leftwing biases, which clearly struck a little too close to home.

The original:

Criticism of the BBC

The BBC’s “edit”:

Isn’t irony ironic?

Two of the comments to Mr. Clifton’s piece blog admission sum things up nicely:

At 03:56 PM on 16 Aug 2007, Robert Stanfield wrote:


I’m afraid this is not so much the horse bolting as your own petard hoisting you.

I don’t think you even realise how transparent your own excuse sounds:

“The focus of the story was changes the CIA had made to pages, but other organisations – including The Vatican, the US Democratic Party and US company Diebold – didn’t escape our attention.”

In other words, the BBC focussed on malfeasance by three American and one Christian organisations. What a surprise. No chance of you mentioning Al Jazeera’s updating of the Israel entry, was there, let alone your own editing of the entries on Bush and Blair? Evidently they and yourself ‘escaped’ your own ‘attention’.

At least now we can see why the BBC’s bonuses to its staff were necessary. All that extra work put in defacing wikipedia must have been exhausting. And all funded by the British tax-payer. Nice ‘work’ if you can get it.

At 04:26 PM on 16 Aug 2007, MC wrote:

Absolutely everything said here could be applied just as much to the CIA, or the Vatican or any of the other organisations the BBC singled out for bad press.

The problem here is not that the BBC edits wikipedia, or even so much the edits themselves, but the mindset that created them. If people working at the BBC think that editing profanities into George Bush’s name is a right and proper thing to do, should we trust the BBC’s reporting on American politics? If the people who work at the BBC think that the PLA are “freedom fighters” (not an indefensible position, but certainly a political statement with which a great many would disagree) can we trust the BBC’s reporting of the middle east? I certainly don’t think so.

It can’t even be said that the BBC’s employees were biased in different directions – all of the edits concerned were trying to slant articles in favour of the same vaguely left wing viewpoint. It isn’t even as if the BBC denies this. Andrew Marr said the following:

“The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias”

And reports into the BBC’s impartiality have reached the same conclusion. All the evidence suggest that Mr Marr is quite right.

The BBC does not deserve the license fee.

Well said, gentlemen.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, August 16th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

15 Responses to “BBC Raps CIA Wiki Edits, Ignores Own”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

« Front Page | To Top
« | »