Written by Michael Roston
Researched by Zenophon Abraham, Kirsten Anderson, Jennifer Hageman, Ethan Hova, Deanie Mills, and Denise Wheeler
The following piece was produced through OffTheBus, a citizen journalism project hosted at the Huffington Post and launched in partnership with NewAssignment.Net. For more information, read Arianna Huffington's project introduction. If you'd like to join our blogging team, sign up here If you're interested in other opportunities, you can see the list here.
Perhaps the engineers at Lockheed-Martin Corporation have interests that range beyond designing and building the most advanced aeronautical technologies. It turns out that someone at a Lockheed computer spent a part of their work day distributing high-tech racist remarks via Wikipedia at the end of last year.
"As President, he will put forth a bill requiring children, in all public school systems, to face Mecca and pray 4 times per day," said an item added to Senator Barack Obama's Wikipedia entry at the end of last year.
The Huffington Post's OffTheBus contributors found this, and other edits to the Wikipedia entries of the 2008 Presidential candidates with exclusive data provided to them by Virgil Griffith, the creator of WikiScanner. CalTech graduate student Virgil Griffith designed the Wikiscanner tool to scan Wikipedia and collect the IP or computer addresses of users who edit entries.
According to OffTheBus members, it appears that even if you're hoping to be the most powerful man or woman in America, Wiki 'vandals' will be out there to get you, too. Petty political vandalism is as old as electoral politics; it didn't come as any surprise to OffTheBus members that we'd find this, but we thought we'd take a look at the data anyway.
The vandals have had a field day with the Wikipedia entries of the candidates. One can find the suggestion that Senator Joe Biden has 'hair plugs' as well as the insinuation that he and Senator Obama squared off in the '1984 Mister Universe Competition.'
Hillary Clinton comes out for some treatment that probably won't be shocking to many. A computer user at the McGuire Air Force Base in Manassas, Virginia, edited her entry to say that her nationality was 'Devil,' and that her place of birth was 'Hell.'
But it's not only Democrats who got tagged by the Internet's answer to graffiti artists. The entry for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney edited references to meeting his "future wives" rather than future and current wife Ann.
And while most of the deleted Wiki-vandalism is pretty negative, some naked sockpuppetry in favor of certain candidates was in evidence, too.
An edit to Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado from a Microsoft computer user in Chicago noted that "'Illegals coming into America are sure to be front and center in the next presidential election here,' Neil Cavuto said on a June broadcast of the popular Fox News show, 'Your World with Neil Cavuto,' 'and Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo certainly knows it. He owns this issue. And straw polls show that, if he were to run for president, he just 'might well be president.'"
Access to the data from the presidential pages throgh WikiScanner is currently blocked, but will be made publicly available in a few weeks.
The above piece was produced through OffTheBus, a citizen journalism project hosted at the Huffington Post and launched in partnership with NewAssignment.Net. For more information, read Arianna Huffington's project introduction. If you'd like to join our blogging team, sign up here. If you're interested in other opportunities, you can see the list here.