WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People using CIA and FBI computers have edited entries
in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on topics including the Iraq war and the
Guantanamo prison, according to a new tracing program.
The changes may violate Wikipedia's conflict-of-interest guidelines, a spokeswoman
for the site said on Thursday.
The program, WikiScanner, was developed by Virgil Griffith of the Santa Fe
Institute in New Mexico and posted this month on a Web site that was quickly
overwhelmed with searches.
The program allows users to track the source of computers used to make changes
to the popular Internet encyclopedia where anyone can submit and edit entries.
WikiScanner revealed that CIA computers were used to edit an entry
on the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A graphic on casualties was edited
to add that many figures were estimated and were not broken down by class.
Another entry on former CIA chief William Colby was edited by CIA computers
to expand his career history and discuss the merits of a Vietnam War rural pacification
program that he headed.
Aerial and satellite images of the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were removed using a computer traced to the FBI, WikiScanner
CIA spokesman George Little said he could not confirm whether CIA computers
were used in the changes, adding that "the agency always expects its computer
systems to be used responsibly."
The FBI did not have an immediate response.
Computers at numerous other organizations and companies were found to have
been involved in editing articles related to them.
Griffith said he developed WikiScanner "to create minor public relations
disasters for companies and organizations I dislike (and) to see what 'interesting
organizations' (which I am neutral towards) are up to."
It was not known whether changes were made by an official representative of
an agency or company, Griffith said, but it was certain the change was made
by someone with access to the organization's network.
It violates Wikipedia's neutrality guidelines for a person with close ties
to an issue to contribute to an entry about it, said spokeswoman Sandy Ordonez
of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's parent organization.
However, she said, "Wikipedia is self-correcting," meaning misleading
entries can be quickly revised by another editor. She said Wikimedia welcomed
WikiScanner can be found at wikiscanner.virgil.gr/