In Depth

Wikipedia: the offensive edits made from Whitehall PCs

Government computers used to call for Tony Blair's assassination and accuse all Muslims of being terrorists

THE Government is facing fresh questions about unsavoury Wikipedia edits carried out from its own secure computer network. More edits have come to light since it was revealed last week that Whitehall computers were used to make offensive changes to a Wikipedia article about the Hillsborough disaster.

The edits came from two IP addresses known to be connected to the Government Secure Intranet. The Cabinet Office has described the amendments as "sickening" and announced an investigation. However, it has admitted that it will be almost impossible to track down who is responsible.

It is possible to "spoof" IP addresses – making the source of a connection appear to come from another IP address – but the BBC notes that several of the offensive messages were made before the government IP addresses were made public in 2008.

Here are some of the edits that have been revealed:

Racist slursIn the Wikipedia entry for 'Veil', somebody using a government computer added in October 2006: "It should be noted that the word Veil, when the letters rearraged [sic], spells evil. Since the Veil is mostly worn by Muslims, and all Muslims are terrorists (with the argument for this being that all terrorists have been Muslim), this fact should be dually [sic] noted by all". In another entry for 'Howick Falls' on the Umgeni river in South Africa, someone wrote about "killing or enslaving" black people and suggested that black people are uncivilised and believe "hearsay and myth".

Hillsborough disaster insultsThe Liverpool Echo was the first to spot several offensive comments made on Wikipedia's 'Hillsborough disaster' page and trace them back to Whitehall computers. Revisions included "Blame Liverpool fans" and a change to the Liverpool FC's anthem title from "You'll Never Walk Alone" to "You'll Never Walk Again". Another change wrongly claimed that two former Liverpool football players had been charged with crimes against humanity.

Blair editsIn October 2005, paragraphs were deleted about Cherie Blair making a public apology for buying two flats at a discounted price with help from convicted fraudster Peter Foster. Meanwhile, the entry for Tony Blair was deleted entirely and replaced with the words: "He should be assassinated".

Celebrity amendmentsCelebrity chef Jamie Oliver had homophobic insults added to his page and the entire entry for Irish politician Christopher Byrne was replaced with: "Is a sexy beast". An addition to the entry for footballer Wayne Rooney said he was "currently knocking off 'queen chav' Coleen McGlochlin [sic]", while Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was described as being "made of clay". Barry Manilow's full name was also changed to "Barry Alan Big Daddy Pincus".

Regional tauntsIn 2011, somebody using a Whitehall computer described the Glasgow suburb Barlanark as being a place "where the men are men, and so are half the women". Around the same time, a description was added to the Wikipedia page for Clydebank, saying: "It is known locally as a total s***hole." On another occasion, the description of a statue of former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was revised from "He made the people happy" to "He made a wonderful lemon drizzle cake".

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