Since its inception, crowd-sourced encyclopedia Wikipedia has become a go-to information source for the lazy researcher, and been involved in countless controversies. Now Capital New York has tracked edits on articles related to police brutality to IP addresses which belong to the NYPD, writes Kate Knibbs for Gizmodo. The editing program would be pathetic if it were not for the disturbing evidence that the police force is attempting to influence the narrative on horrific events.
Editing articles on NYPD actions
It is easy to see a pattern in the articles which NYPD members tried to edit. Entries on well-known victims of police brutality, including Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, were all targeted. And it appears that this was not an isolated incident. 85 IP addresses linked to NYPD were found to have edited Wikipedia entries, but it is not possible to calculate the exact number of users involved because all NYPD computers can operate on a range of addresses.
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It would certainly be more worrying if the police department had a coordinated policy of reducing public awareness of its brutality, and this isn’t the first time that those in power have been caught in the act of altering public discourse. Members of Congress have also had their Wikipedia editing activity tracked, although the majority were for bizarre entries rather than articles on misconduct.
A coordinated campaign?
The behavior of NYPD is altogether more sinister, a brazen attempt to clear its name by rewriting history. The horrific killing of Sean Bell was downplayed as “more news than notable” in an attempted edit, whose author claimed that “no one except Al Sharpton cares anymore.”
An NYPD spokeperson stated that the matter is “under internal review.” Given the heightened interest in internet security in recent years, it seems preposterous that NYPD members were not aware that their online actions could be tracked. At least the public is now aware of the police department’s attempts to clear its name.
NYPD IP addresses were also linked to edits to articles on stop-and-frisk, police misconduct, fictional officer Andy Sipowitz, and even the band Chumbawumba.