Wikipedia edit from government computer added Muslim insult

The charity that represents Wikipedia in the UK has condemned edits made from government computers after more incidents of vandalism emerged.

The BBC has discovered that the phrase “all Muslims are terrorists” was added to a page about veils. Another edit deleted text in Cherie Blair’s entry about the flat-buying scandal that made headlines in 2002. The Liverpool Echo last week revealed that insults had been added to the entry for the Hillsborough Disaster.

Stevie Benton, from Wikimedia UK, told the BBC: “We find this kind of vandalism appalling.”

Wikimedia UK is the local arm of the global Wikimedia Foundation, the charity set up by the online encyclopaedia’s founder Jimmy Wales to support the thousands of volunteers who edit and maintain Wikipedia.

“Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit,” Mr Benton added. “This openness has led to an enormous reference work of great value. While vandalism does occasionally happen we are grateful to the many thousands of volunteers who write, edit and organise the content.”

In an email, the Cabinet Office reiterated its statement on the matter. “The amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening. The behaviour is in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code. It is entirely unacceptable.”

It added: “The Civil Service Code applies at all times, and we take breaches very seriously. We have already announced an investigation to examine offensive edits to Wikipedia, and will look at other concerns raised.”

The BBC found more than a hundred instances of inappropriate editing, vandalism and deletion made by computers accessing Wikipedia through the two IP addresses known to be used by government machines.

A change made to the entry for “veil” in October 2006 added: “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.”

The comment was removed by a Wikipedia volunteer six minutes later.

Nasima Begum, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC: “It is these types of attitudes that create an unnecessary climate of fear and hostility. It is shocking and cause for great concern that inflammatory comments like these should be sent from someone within the government.”

BBC News, 30 April 2014