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A bot that tweets anonymous Wikipedia edits from IP addresses in the US Congress (twitter.com)
173 points by DyslexicAtheist 10 days ago | hide | past | web | 49 comments | favorite





Some of these are pretty funny. Apparently someone in the House of Representatives is a huge Carly Rae Jepsen fan: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=800487966&oldid=79...

And someone felt the need to add "comedienne" to the list of skills of Gwyneth Paltrow

https://twitter.com/congressedits/status/913086284058554368


I'm a nobody that adds pertinent yet mundane stuff to wikipedia all the time. Why would members of the Civil Service be any different?

At the risk of stating the obvious, this is mainly interesting as a study in what interns do when they're bored.

I wouldn't say it is interns when there are edits that are made that are clearly politically motivated.[1][1.5][2][3]

And personally I believe they know about this twitter bot and edit random articles on purpose. There's a lot in there that have just added a space at the end of a sentence. That's obscurification.

Then there are just weird ones[4]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=804694134&oldid=80...

[1.5] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=804694104&oldid=80...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=794544004&oldid=78...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=804108161&oldid=80...

[4] https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?diff=256336084&old...


You think there's a conspiracy to maliciously alter Wikipedia and to obscure those public edits under a mountain of seemingly innocent changes? But also that the conspirators are so naive they make the changes from their work computers without a VPN?

People who intern on the Hill tend to have strong feelings about politics. Makes sense that some of the pages the edit are political.


>You think there's a conspiracy to maliciously alter Wikipedia

> People who intern on the Hill tend to have strong feelings about politics.

Probably. I think there is enough evidence to question it. It would take a lot of analysis that I'm not bored enough to perform to prove it. But the few times that I have checked this over the years I see a lot of junk and then edits on hot topics where things keep getting added and removed. I remember one on the Dakota pipelines that completely removed the mention of protestors.

1) They are clearly editing things that are politically motivating. See my examples and scroll through more. This can be attributed to embarrassment or trying the sling mud at opponents. Can you honestly tell me that you wouldn't put these types of editing above politicians? And this is really all I'm suggesting that is happening in terms of "maliciously alter Wikipedia." (I don't think it is really malicious)

2) Most probably don't realize this twitter account exists let alone that their IPs can be tracked.

2.1) Their name isn't attached anyway.

2.2) How often do people actually check this Twitter or Wiki logs?

2.3) Why are they making extremely dumb edits like adding a space at the end of a paragraph? I'm sure that some edits are bored interns/politicians, but there are definitely weird edits that look more like obscurification than worthwhile edits.

There is no incentive for them to mask their IP, because it still can't be traced back to them. And people knowing "someone" changed a wiki entry in a misleading way just gets people to think "politicians are corrupt". Which is nothing new. So why would they even bother?


Perhaps not all malicious people are sophisticated.

The bot should filter out these kind of changes

I don't know if you really could filter all the obscurification. But definitely the ones that just add a space. Because even a one word change (removing 'debunked' as in the examples given) can significantly change the context.

All of these are weird, but could be politically motivated.

I seriously doubt it has to do with boredom. I'd bet it's part of their job description.

"Intern! Get on wikipedia and edit the article for Boba Fett. The world needs to know that he's not as cool as they think he is."


Haha Sept 15, I should go comment on that. starts typing thinks about how many other people enjoy Star Wars Ctrl+F 'Boba Fett' D'oh.

Couldn't disagree more.

See also https://twitter.com/parliamentedits for the UK. Not sure which came first as they were both started in July 2014.

From the readme on GitHub[0]: "it was inspired by @parliamentedits."

[0]: https://github.com/edsu/anon/blob/master/README.md


There's also @bundesedit for Germany, interestingly enough also from July '14.


Those diffs actually seem solid. Words like "bogus" and "baseless" don't make for objective articles.

True. But you shouldnt remove words from the headlines of an article being cited.

These are actually quite good edits. In the original versions of these articles, all the words being removed were not supported by any citation or anything else - so, while it's quite possible these adjectives were true (as I personally believe so), it's better to remove them unless they can be backed up.

Actually the language comes directly from the source, which was cited when the edits were reverted by another editor. Indicating that a claim is refuted is, imo, an important detail to include.

Yeah sources need to be objective as well, not read like op-ed pieces.


Most of these are pretty harmless; updates to sports figures, university pages for alumni, celebrities, etc. I didn't see any revisionist history edits like I was expecting.

There was Joe Barton's summary paragraph edited to remove mention that he told someone at a town hall meeting to "shut up," and replaced with what was essentially an ad, which only cited his own website. Seems to have changed back, with the addendum that the guy told to shut up later said he "deserved it." :\

That's what I thought too until I noticed they added a Nazi to the list of alumni. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=804058727&oldid=80...

What fails the sniff test about a German having studied abroad at a US university before WWI - when no significant enmity between the two nations yet existed - and, over the next few decades, following a course in life that led him to join the NSDAP and the Waffen-SS? Uncommon, sure. But implausible? (When and by whom was the same information edited into the article about Lombard?)

My reaction was the same as yours initially -- weird thing for congressional staff to be spending their time on, but yeah that is a notable alumni (and actually kind of interesting).

But the same user added Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash to the List of University of Missouri alumni article.

All of that could of course could be a coincidence. But it'll be interesting to see whether any of Missouri's representatives start pushing a "universities create evil villains" narrative in the next cycle ;-)


Right; Wikipedia policy is just that you can't update the entry for yourself or your own organizations, right?

Strongly discouraged, IIRC

And indeed some of the edits are very reasonable -- e.g., removing errant commas from the names of subcommittees.

Not to be overly pedantic, but you're using revisionist history to mean a false rewriting of history, negationism, or denialism. The phrase historical revisionism actually means reinterpreting history based upon new evidence or new methods of analysis.

The incorrect use seems to have entered the popular imagination following the war in Iraq.


That's not true. There are plenty of uses of the word "revisionism" with the pejorative connotation that predate the war in Iraq: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_revisionism

But even if that weren't the case, it wouldn't really matter, because it's clear what meaning the world has today, both in the general case and in the context of OP's comment.


> There are plenty of uses of the word "revisionism" with the pejorative connotation that predate the war in Iraq

Sorry, I meant in colloquial American english. I don't recall ever hearing the word spoken aloud prior to maybe 2005, though I could be misremembering.

You can certainly find the pejorative use(which I maintain is still incorrect) in the early 80s with respect to some books that were published at the time about the Vietnam War. I think prior to that the term was entirely academic, though again, I could be wrong.


Such a great idea. It's too bad that Twitter doesn't embrace it's programmer base and add integrations like this.

A Zapier-like platform, made available to all Twitter users. Oh baby Jesus..


I look forward to finding some time to read through some of these changes this weekend, but what this really makes me crave is a similar bot to track changes that are made to Conservapedia.com – The Trustworthy Encyclopedia™ – which I find very entertaining. Do yourself a favor and peruse some of the revert wars that happen over there.

E.g.

Don't call my conspiracy theory "baseless"! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?diff=804694104&oldid=80...

-Fan of anonymous Paul Gosar, Arizona Congressperson,




Any idea on how to find all government IP addresses? specially for other countries

You might start by just googling for it and hope somebody has already compiled a list. Outside of that, for an organization that has IP's allocated specifically to them, you can search the ARIN registry.

For the US, you could do something like this if you wanted to find IP's for the Senate:

    $whois "US Senate"@whois.arin.net
which gives back something like:

    # start

    CustName:       US Senate
    Address:        Telecommunications Department
    City:           Washington
    StateProv:      DC
    PostalCode:     20510-7202
    Country:        US
    RegDate:        1992-12-03
    Updated:        2011-03-19
    Ref: https://whois.arin.net/rest/customer/C00594783

    NetRange:       63.82.112.0 - 63.82.119.255
    CIDR:           63.82.112.0/21
    NetName:        UU-63-82-112
    NetHandle:      NET-63-82-112-0-1
    Parent:         UUNET63 (NET-63-64-0-0-1)
    NetType:        Reassigned
    OriginAS:       
    Customer:       US Senate (C00594783)
    RegDate:        1992-12-03
    Updated:        2003-05-30
    Ref:            https://whois.arin.net/rest/net/NET-63-82-112-0-1
So the Senate has 63.82.112.0 - 63.82.119.255 assigned. A few caveats though:

1. Those IP's might not be the ones assigned to desktop computers in staffer's offices. They may only use these for servers, or they might not even be used at all. For all we know, they have access via some random ISP - Spectrum, AT&T, whoever. Hell, they might have dial-up through AOL! In which case, it would be tough to ever really know.

2. Searching the ARIN registry can be tedious and takes some guesswork. Searching "US Senate"@whois.arin.net will give different results than "U.S. Senate"@whois.arin.net, which gives different results than "United States Senate"@whois.arin.net, etc. There may be a way to use wildcards and other fancy search expressions, but if so, I've never bothered to learn how. Might be worth looking into.


What `whois` tool is that? When I try that exact command I get

  % whois "US Senate"@whois.arin.net
  No whois server is known for this kind of object.

  % whois --version
  Version 5.2.7.
  
  Report bugs to <md+whois@linux.it>.

More details. This is from a Fedora 24 machine, where I just tested the whois syntax from above and it worked fine.

I guess different versions of the whois command handle this differently. I never knew that until now. Every version I've ever used has supported this kind of query.

    $ whois --version
    jwhois version 4.0, Copyright (C) 1999-2007  Free 
    Software Foundation, Inc.
    This program is free software with ABSOLUTELY NO 
    WARRANTY; you may redistribute it under the terms of the 
    GNU General Public License.
Edit: This form might work for you:

    $whois -h whois.arin.net "US Senate"

In my case, the default "whois" on Fedora Linux. F22 on the machine I did that on, I think.

Interesting to see. Is there a Chinese or Russian government version of this?

Amazing idea!



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