March 19 2021 — The Swiss Propaganda Research Group (SPR), founded in 2016, is an independent non-profit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media. In their last published work, SPR warns that Wikipedia is anything but an open, transparent and reliable source of information. This story brings back quite a few memories. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
RELATED POST: On This Day — “What a hornets’ nest I had stirred!” [Wikipedia edited by the CIA] (July 26/27 2007) — [UPDATE : Wikipedia Editor ‘SlimVirgin’ has died. What was the shadowy figure up to?]
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.
The piece received quite a bit of attention. The article posted on OMNI was accessed by more than 100,000 readers, re-posted and translated in several languages.
The story has been debated on many websites. I particularly enjoyed the piece of a Russian journalist, writing for Computerra Magazine. (The article – Spies in Wikipedia – could be accessed in English.)
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 17 2007, I published a second story in which I listed 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 original 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.
Today, and for the future, the “Authority” of Jimmy Whales and his insults — He never apologized to me — matter very little. Truth is indeed the daughter of time!
PS — Just one comment about this new piece by the SPR Group. It was my work that prompted Reuters to write an article on this affair, not the other way around, as you can easily check from the publication dates.
Wikipedia : A Disinformation Operation?
Swiss Propaganda Research
Wikipedia is generally thought of as an open, transparent, and mostly reliable online encyclopedia. Yet upon closer inspection, this turns out not to be the case.
In fact, the English Wikipedia with its 9 billion worldwide page views per month is governed by just 500 active administrators, whose real identity in many cases remains unknown.
Moreover, studies have shown that 80% of all Wikipedia content is written by just 1% of all Wikipedia editors, which again amounts to just a few hundred mostly unknown people.
Obviously, such a non-transparent and hierarchical structure is susceptible to corruption and manipulation, the notorious “paid editors” hired by corporations being just one example.
Indeed, already in 2007, researchers found that CIA and FBI employees were editing Wikipedia articles on controversial topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo military prison. [Reuters (August 17 2007)]
Also in 2007, researchers found that one of the most active and influential English Wikipedia administrators, called “Slim Virgin”, was in fact a former British intelligence informer. [OhMyNews (July 27 2007)]
More recently, another highly prolific Wikipedia editor going by the false name of “Philip Cross” turned out to be linked to UK intelligence as well as several mainstream media journalists. [Intel Today (June 2 2018)]
In Germany, one of the most aggressive Wikipedia editors was exposed, after a two-year legal battle, as a political operative formerly serving in the Israeli army as a foreign volunteer.
Even in Switzerland, unidentified government employees were caught whitewashing Wikipedia entries about the Swiss secret service just prior to a public referendum about the agency.
Many of these Wikipedia personae are editing articles almost all day and every day, indicating that they are either highly dedicated individuals, or in fact, operated by a group of people.
In addition, articles edited by these personae cannot easily be revised, since the above-mentioned administrators can always revert changes or simply block disagreeing users altogether.
The primary goal of these covert campaigns appears to be pushing Western and Israeli government positions while destroying the reputation of independent journalists and politicians.
Articles most affected by this kind of manipulation include political, geopolitical and certain historical topics as well as biographies of non-conformist academics, journalists, and politicians.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a friend of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a “Young Leader” of the Davos forum, has repeatedly defended these operations.
Speaking of Davos, Wikimedia has itself amassed a fortune of more than $160 million, donated in large part not by lazy students, but by major US corporations and influential foundations.
Moreover, US social media and video platforms are increasingly referring to Wikipedia to frame or combat “controversial” topics. The revelations discussed above may perhaps help explain why.
Already NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed how spooks manipulate online debates, and more recently, a senior Twitter executive turned out to be a British Army “psy-ops” officer.
To add at least some degree of transparency, German researchers have developed a free web browser tool called WikiWho that lets readers color code just who edited what in Wikipedia.
In many cases, the result looks as discomforting as one might expect.
UPDATE (May 14 2020) — On July 26 2007, I suggested that Western Intelligence Agencies were editing Wikipedia.
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.
In 2008, together with Aaron Swartz, Griffith designed the “Tor2web proxy”. In a famous analysis of Wikipedia edits, Swartz contradicted the official theory held by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. In 2011, he was arrested by the by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) police.
Federal prosecutors charged him with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release. [Wikipedia]
Swartz declined a plea bargain. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment.
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.” [Wikipedia]
As some of you may know, I am currently very busy writing an online book — Lockerbie — Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…!
Here is what I wrote in the introduction:
“Today (May 11 2020), I consulted the Pan Am Flight 103 Wikipedia page for the first time in 10 years. And the situation has not improved…
Amazingly, the page does not even mention the recent decision of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission [SCCRC]. (Mr. Megrahi’s family is now entitled to instruct an appeal against his conviction.)
So basically, as a result of my work, Western Intelligence agencies went from covert edits to overt censorship. How great is that?
I am not sure how to feel about this media of disinformation. Let us just say that, perhaps, silence is better than obvious and transparent lies? Maybe…”
I am wondering if Griffith’s neutral feelings about ‘interesting organizations’ such the CIA and the FBI have evolved over the years?
This author considers that the FBI is a criminal organization, rotten to the soul and corrupted beyond repair. Lockerbie is a case in point, as I intend to demonstrate.
UPDATE (March 19 2021) — January 15 2021 marked the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia. The spooks working for Western agencies like Wikipedia mostly because they can keep the control over the pages containing sensitive information.
Do not ever forget who are the unnamed officials quoted by The Washington Post and The New York Times!
After I broke the story about Western Intelligence Agencies editing sensitive information on Wikipedia, a CIA spokesperson issued the following statement:
“I cannot confirm that the traffic came from agency computers. I’d like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work.”
As the declassified document above demonstrates quite clearly, the CIA primary mission is to protect itself.
END of UPDATE
Wikipedia: A Disinformation Operation? — Swiss Propaganda Research
CIA, FBI computers used for Wikipedia edits — Reuters (August 17 2007)
Шпионы в стране Wikipedia — (Computerra Magazine, 2007, archived)
Spies in Wikipedia (Computerra Magazine, 2007, archived)
What we know about SlimVirgin (Wikipedia Review, 2007, archived)
Wikipedia and the Spooks – The Remake? — Intel Today (June 2 2018)
The Mystery Wikipedia Editor Targeting Anti-War Sites (ML, 2018)
Wikipedia: Rotten to the Core (Helen Buyniski, 2018)
Time to ditch Wikipedia? (Five Filters Analysis, 2018)
Wikipedia Editing Scandal Continues (Neil Clark, 2019)
Wikipedia : A Disinformation Operation? [Swiss Propaganda Research]
Two Years Ago — Wikipedia : A Disinformation Operation?