July 26 2017 — On this day (July 26 2007) ten years ago, OMNI (Ohmy News International) published a piece regarding suspicious edits made to certain articles on Wikipedia. As I was researching a piece on the Lockerbie tragedy, I noticed that some information regarding a Palestinian terrorist group had been erased. Upon closer inspection, I came to the conclusion that Intelligence Agencies were editing sensitive information on Wikipedia. I was not wrong. PS: Jimmy Wales never apologized… Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
RELATED POST: When the Washington Post rewrites History
RELATED POST: Spooks & The Media
UPDATE (May 31 2021) — According to Wikipedia [Deceased Wikipedians/2021], ‘SlimVirgin’ died in early May 2021.
SarahSV aka SlimVirgin died in early May 2021 after a long illness. Her first edit was in November 2004, her last on 18 April 2021. An administrator since 2005, Sarah made a total of over 170,000 edits.
Sarah was a major contributor to many featured and good articles listed here. Often these articles were on notoriously difficult subjects (…)
In 2006 she proposed the attribution policy to replace Project : Verifiability and Project:No original research. Her first post to the mailing list demonstrated a long-standing interest in such things.
The name “verifiability” had not been the only name for the original policy; Jimmy Wales had called it “confirmability” in 2003, for example. Both names had, and still have, the problem that people confuse “verified” with “verifiable” (and “confirmed” with “confirmable”). SlimVirgin wanted to address this problem with “attribution”. Within 2 days, the proposal had generated 214 Kb of discussion.
Let me be clear. This is just a piece of disinformation. The person hiding behind the ‘SlimVirgin’ pseudonym is alive.
The real question is why it was decided to terminate ‘SlimVirgin’ on Wikipedia? And why now?
On July 26 2007, I published a piece regarding suspicious edits made to some articles on Wikipedia. I came to the conclusion that Western Intelligence Agencies were editing sensitive information on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia administrators reacted angrily to the story. “This article is just wild speculative nonsense,” Jimmy Wales wrote.
On August 14 2007, Virgil Griffith — then a student at Caltech — launched the WikiScanner, a publicly searchable database that linked millions of anonymous edits on Wikipedia to the organizations where those edits originated.
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.” [CIA, FBI computers used for Wikipedia edits — Reuters (Aug 17 2007)]
On August 17 2007, I used the WikiScanner to publish all the CIA edits to Wikipedia pages.
On March 1st 2020, the Swiss Propaganda Research Group (SPR) — an independent nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media — published a story titled: “Wikipedia: A Disinformation Operation?”
The story makes reference to my first article as well as three additional following pieces, including my recent comment regarding the 133,612 edits made in the name of “Philip Cross” in recent years. In recent years, ‘SlimVirgin’ had teamed up with Philip Cross…
PS — On November 28 2019, Griffith was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for providing “highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions.”
END of UPDATE
The piece received quite a bit of attention. The article posted on OMNI was accessed by more than 100,000 readers, reposted and translated in several languages. The allegation was quickly denied and ridiculed by WIKIPEDIA founder Jimmy Wales and several Wikipedia administrators.
Amazingly, in just a matter of weeks, the allegation was proven to be absolutely correct. Thanks to the work of a Caltech student, it was possible to track the origin of the edits. OMNI published the 297 edits made by CIA computers.
The story has been debated on many website. I particularly enjoyed the piece of a Russian journalist, writing for Computerra Magazine. (The article – Spies in Wikipedia – could be accessed in English.)
”Whenever the work of intelligence services is punctured, the most important information for analysis appears in the first days and hours after the event. Those who know something inadvertently reveal superfluous information, while those who are directly involved are either keeping silent, or refute everything through quick and flagrant misinformation. In the case of Linda Mack, it is impossible to determine who knew what in the upper echelon of Wikipedia, but their reaction fits all the characteristics of espionage leaks.
SlimVirgin slipped into a state of unconsciousness and has not shown any signs of life for thirty hours. This is very unusual, because she is known as an administrator with inhuman capacity for work. Over the past year, she edited nearly 35,000 articles, about 100 every day, without holidays and weekends.
The same SlimVirgin also holds a record of continuous editorial work lasting 26 hours, with the longest break in editing not exceeding 40 minutes. These statistics from Wikipedia’s editing records suggests either a supernatural ability, or more likely that SlimVirgin is a convenient smoke screen for an entire team of specialists editing Wikipedia articles on behalf of intelligence services.
The “god-king” of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, rushed to protect the honor and dignity of SlimVirgin, declaring the article by De Braeckeleer as “really spectacular nonsense.” A bit later in a special message to readers of Slashdot, he stated:
“This story is demented and broken on so many levels, it is quite difficult to know where to begin, even. Here we have an excellent Wikipedia administrator who has been victimized by lunatic conspiracy theorists, a private person who has absolutely no relation to the wild stories that this article promulgates. Slashdot, you have been trolled.”
But participants in the discussion were able to prove from the records of Wikipedia that certain administrators, contrary to their own rules, had completely removed editing evidence. Jimmy Wales had to admit that yes, this is sometimes done, but only to protect the identity of administrators or editors, who are often threatened with physical violence.”
Clean Up at Wikipedia
After a while, a page titled “Internet brigades” appeared on Wikipedia. In a section named “Internet Brigades in Wikipedia?”, the text used to contain the following information.
“A nuclear scientist and reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer suggested that intelligence agents may have been infiltrated Wikipedia to remove undesirable information from Wikipedia articles The design and application of WikiScanner technology proved such suspicions to be well founded” (CNN iReport)
PS: The CIA could not confirm the edits but Dr Jim Swire could confirm the following story to a member of the Wikipedia Review team member:
“I can confirm that the lady then calling herself Linda Mack was a Cambridge graduate and attempted to infiltrate an early meeting between our group (UK Families-Flight 103) and the American families in London. We had her thrown out when we discovered that she was ‘wired’ with a microphone under her coat.”
Back to the Future — George Galloway: “I have finally identified ‘Philip ‘Cross’”
May 2018 — Someone going by the name “Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years.
According to former UK ambassador Craig Murray, “Philip Cross” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days.
That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing. 133,612 edits to Wikipedia have been made in the name of “Philip Cross” over 14 years!
Journalist Neil Clark told George Galloway that ‘SlimVirgin’ is back and teaming up with ‘Philip Cross’. That is subtle or what?
‘Philip Cross’ has edited over 130,000 Wikipedia pages, including multiple entries on George Galloway’s own profile. Who is ‘Philip Cross’? George believes he has uncovered the secretive Wikipedia editor.
BBC News 15/08/2007: Wikipedia ‘shows CIA page edits’
See: The Philip Cross Affair — Craig Murray
TEN YEARS AGO — “What a hornets’ nest I had stirred!” [Wikipedia edited by the CIA]
TEN YEARS AGO — “What a hornets’ nest I had stirred!” (Wikipedia edited by the CIA) — [UPDATE : Wikipedia Editor ‘SLIMVIRGIN’ has died. Really?]