The Russian Government’s 7,000 Wikipedia Edits

 The Russian Government’s 7,000 Wikipedia Edits

Wikipedia logo. Photo: Wikipedia.

When it comes to Wikipedia, the Russian government’s computers are busy bees. Over the past ten years, IP addresses belonging to various Russian state agencies are responsible for almost 7,000 anonymous edits to articles on Wikipedia’s Russian-language website.

A Norwegian programmer named Jari Bakken recently produced a complete list of the Russian government’s 6,909 anonymous edits to Wikipedia. Bakken has published similar lists for Wikipedia edits made on IP addresses that trace back to governments in the United States, Israel, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and Norway, as well as changes by several major oil corporations.

Studying the Wikipedia revisions made on the Russian government’s computers, we can only guess whether the people responsible were acting independently or in service to an organized campaign. Probably, it’s a bit of both.

Bakken’s list includes repeated revisions to articles about Russian politicians, adding accolades and removing damaging information. For instance, IP addresses at Russia’s secret service, the FSO, made 36 edits to the Wikipedia article about Russian Senator Andrei Klishas, whom the US government sanctioned in March 2014 for his role in the annexation of Crimea. The same agency has revised Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s Wikipedia page five times. Government IP addresses have protected the reputations of other public figures, too, including playwright Aleksandr Pudin (25 revisions), philosopher Viktor Vaziulin (30 revisions), Russia’s “Children Ombudsman” Pavel Astakhov (35 revisions), Astakhov’s successor Aleksei Golovan (4 revisions), politician Vyacheslav Tetyekin (36 revisions), and many others.

For all that, not everything looks like a Kremlin conspiracy to whitewash the Internet.

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Written by Kevin Rothrock


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