A US hacker's homemade program to pinpoint origins of Wikipedia edits indicates that alterations to the popular online encyclopedia have come from the US CIA and the Vatican.
Virgil Griffith's "Wikiscanner" points to CIA computers as the sources of nearly 300 edits to subjects including Iran's president, the Argentine navy and China's nuclear arsenal.
A CIA computer was the source of a whiny "Wahhhhh" inserted in a paragraph about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plans for the office.
"While I cannot confirm whether any changes were made from CIA computers, the agency always expects its computer systems to be used responsibly," CIA spokesman George Little said in response to an inquiry.
Anyone can make changes to the Internet encyclopedia. Wikipedia's founders believe people who know better will quickly correct inaccurate or misleading data.
Griffith says his software matches unique "IP" addresses of computers with Wikipedia records regarding which machines are used to make online edits.
"I came up with the idea when I heard about congressmen getting caught for whitewashing their Wikipedia pages," the graduate student and self-described hacker explains on his Web site.
Most edits listed at Wikiscanner involve minor changes such as spelling. Some alterations involve removing unflattering information, adding facts or inserting insults.
Wikiscanner's roster indicates that a Vatican computer was used to remove references to evidence linking Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to a decades-old double murder.
Someone at the US Democratic Party's congressional campaign committee changed a description of conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to replace "comedian" with "bigot" and dub his listeners "legally retarded."
"We don't condone these sorts of activities and we take every precaution to insure our network is used in a responsible manner," committee spokesman Doug Thornell said.
A Republican Party computer purportedly was used after the US invasion of Iraq to change "occupying forces" to "liberating forces" in a Baath Party entry.
A UN computer is identified as the source of an edit that calls a respected Italian journalist a promiscuous racist, while someone using a US Senate computer altered a profile of veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas to complain she "interrupts" and is annoying.
An edit traced by Wikiscanner to the BBC changes causes of former UK prime minister Tony Blair's heart palpitations from strong coffee and vigorous gym workouts to vodka and exertion in the bedroom.
Wikiscanner also identified a BBC computer as being used to change US President George W. Bush's middle name from "Walker" to "Wanker." A computer belonging to Reuters news service is listed as adding "mass murderer" to a Wikipedia description of Bush.
Griffith said it appears common for political figures to "whitewash" entries by replacing negative adjectives with flattering ones and that corporations seem inclined to insert criticism of competitors and both show similar tendencies to remove critical information. He still considers the collaborative open Wikipedia model reliable.
"Overall -- especially for non-controversial topics -- Wikipedia already works," he said. "For controversial topics, Wikipedia can be made more reliable through techniques like this one ... to counteract vandalism and disinformation."
REACHING OUT: President Tsai expressed condolences to the deceased man’s family and wished a speedy recovery to those who were wounded in the shooting The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) on Monday called on the US to label organizations associated with the suspect in the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church shooting as domestic terrorists, following accusations that he was a member of a group backing unification with ties to the Chinese government. David Wenwei Chou (周文偉), 68, was arrested on Sunday and is being held in lieu of US$1 million bail at the Orange County Intake Release Center over a mass shooting at the California church that left one dead and five wounded. Local police suspect the shooting was politically motivated after they found notes in
NO CONSENSUS YET: Local governments and the CECC have agreed to change the ‘3+4’ self-isolation policy, but are still mulling what to replace it with The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and local governments have agreed to ease restrictions on close contacts of COVID-19 cases, although the details are still being discussed, the center said yesterday. The discussions follow Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Saturday approving a proposal to shorten the “3+4” policy — three days of home isolation followed by four days of self-disease prevention — for close contacts who have received booster doses. “We did not reach a consensus on how to revise the current restrictions, but we all agreed that the administrative burden must be reduced and the intensity of restrictions must be eased,
LIVING WITH COVID-19: Close contacts with a booster shot would no longer follow the ‘3+4’ policy, instead practicing ‘0+7,’ or self-disease prevention for seven days Close contacts of COVID-19 cases who have received a booster shot no longer need to isolate at home, but should practice seven days of “self-disease prevention,” effective today, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that starting at 12am today, close contacts — people living in the same household — of those confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 are exempt from home isolation if they have received a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Data from other countries show that people who have received a booster shot are
‘TOO RESTRICTIVE’: Ending US sales of weapons that do not fall under the category of ‘asymmetric’ would hamper Taiwan’s defense against China, two business groups said Taiwan’s weapons procurement decisions are made based on its needs, and are not influenced by individual arms dealers, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday after two US business groups questioned a US official’s comment on arms sales to Taiwan. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security Mira Resnick told the business groups via video link on Saturday that Washington would adjust the types of weapons sold to Taiwan and end “most arms sales to Taiwan that do not fall under the category of ‘asymmetric.’” The American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan and the US-Taiwan Business Council on Monday