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Wiki-edit mania spreads across Government

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 31 Mar 2008 at 16:54

A trawl of parliamentary records has revealed surprising Wikipedia edits made by Government departments.

In the last few months Stephen O'Brien, MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire, has been sending written questions to various Government bodies in an effort to determine the amount of Wikipedia entries they've created or edited.

Last month, the question led the Department of Health to reveal it had been banned from the online encyclopaedia due to the amount of edits made by its staff, though it subsequently denied that staff were editing Wikipedia as part of their duties.

Now the same question put to the Secretary of State for Defence has revealed the Ministry of Defence has edited 13 Wikipedia entries since 2005, including pages dealing with "human rights in post-invasion Iraq" and the "Falklands Conflict".

However the MoD maintains that there's nothing sinister going on: "All amendments were made to correct factual inaccuracies and in line with the civil-service code. We are not aware of any entries being created by communications officials, created or amended by special advisers or Ministers."

The Department of Children, Schools and Families also sprung a surprise, claiming that: "No Wikipedia entries have been created by anyone in the department or its predecessor. [But] one entry has been amended by a minister." And this minister? "Lord Adonis corrected a page about himself on Wikipedia which was factually incorrect."

Other interesting edits were revealed by The Telegraph, which claims that staff at Her Majesty's Government Communications Centre have been updating Wikipedia entries for Avril Lavigne, and the musical genre, Emo.

Staff members at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were also revealed to have edited each others' pages, with one civil servant having their page altered nine times in 14 minutes.

While O'Brien is concerned that these edits are going on during working hours, the departments involved maintain that edits are being made in their employees' spare time.

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