Wikipedia blocks Swiss officials over editing

Swiss federal staff made “anonymous changes which were against [Wikipedia] rules” Keystone

The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has blocked the accounts of Swiss civil servants after they modified thousands of articles on the site. 

This content was published on February 9, 2016 - 16:12 with agencies

According to an article in the Aargauer Zeitung, federal staff have edited more than 5,500 articles on Wikipedia since 2003 – 1,500 in the past five years – mostly concerning the Swiss air force, the Swiss intelligence service and asylum issues. 

In 2015, users on government computers modified 398 articles. In response, Wikipedia reportedly warned government staff on several occasions about this malpractice and finally blocked the IP addresses of their computers, the newspaper wrote on Tuesday.

Wikipedia, which recently celebrated its 15th birthday, confirmed it had undertaken this measure several times in the past two years and took the decision recently after its administrators noticed several “anonymous changes which were against [Wikipedia] rules”. It is unclear exactly what these edits or modifications were. 

For several weeks, Swiss civil servants were unable to edit Wikipedia articles from their workstations. According to Wikipedia, the Swiss civil servants who made the changes showed “no willingness for any encyclopaedic collaboration”. 

No guidelines

The Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunications confirmed to the Swiss News Agency that Wikipedia had blocked government users’ accounts. 

The Federal Chancellery said there were “no working guidelines or procedures within the federal administration” concerning the editing of the Wikipedia pages.

The English-language version of Wikipedia contains nearly five million articles and has an estimated 25 million users.

Anyone can contribute to or modify the free crowd-sourced encyclopaedia. However, Wikipedia works on a policy of self-policing and a community of volunteer editors. Its administrators enforce its numerous rules to ensure quality, accuracy and prevent public relations articles. This includes tracking and suspending offending accounts.

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