How a distributed approach prevents authoritarian actions at Wikipedia

 Washington D.C. - Capital Building Dome

Who’s banned from editing Wikipedia this week? Congress
[Via Ars Technica]

Most members and staffers of the US House of Representatives won’t be able to edit pages on Wikipedia for more than a week. Administrators of the popular Web encyclopedia have imposed a 10-day ban on the IP address connected to Congress’ lower house.

The ban comes after a series of wild “disruptive” edits that appeared following the creation of @congressedits, a bot that monitors anonymous edits from congressional IP addresses and announces them to the world via Twitter. The account was created just over two weeks ago and already has more than 23,000 followers.

Wikipedia editors explained their castigation for the IP address 143.231.249.138 on the user talk page. The 10-day edit ban follows a one-day ban imposed earlier this month, which apparently didn’t do the trick.

[More]

Some people in Congress, using congressional computers, thought they could change content at Wikipedia. They’d be anonymous so no one would know. It might violate the TOS at Wikipedia but who would know.

It is the typical ‘smart’ idea of an authoritarian elite who hopes to hoodwink the distributed masses. A Congressional office could spend hours using their computer to alter things for their won purposes. All under the watchful eyes of authority to make sure that what was actually changed was what it wanted changed.

This was not some random staffer making changes. These were pretty obviously directed by someone in authority., someone who does not understand the power of distributed democracy.

We still do not know who was responsible (I bet we could if we made a Federal case out of it). But we do not really need to. It was a simple matter for someone to follow changes coming from congressional computers and make it open by putting on twitter.

Simply by making these changes open and transparent allows us to take action and probably change the behavior.

Sure, they can try to find another solution, such as using their own, personal, computers at another location, but that is simply using a distributed approach. This works against their authoritarian tendencies.

How will the authority know if the staffer is actually making the  right changes? Can it really trust anyone? A hallmark of hierarchical authority in a distributed democracy is paranoia due to the loss of direct control.

So moving control of these changes away from the eyes of the authority will make the elites feel less powerful, not more.

Win-win all around!

Advertisements