Wikipedia edits made by British government sought to minimize high profile killings
Articles pertaining to Jean Charles de Menezes and Damilola Taylor were edited using devices on government internet
Wikipedia articles about the killings of Damilola Taylor and Jean Charles de Menezes were among those edited using computers from inside government, it has emerged.
One amendment made using the government’s IT system sought to highlight what the editor said was a “public backlash” against the amount of media attention the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes attracted. Another amended the entry on Damilola Taylor to say that he “died”, rather than that he “was murdered”.
An IP address that activists have traced to the British government was used to add a paragraph attacking the groups that had called for a thorough investigation into the de Menezes case.
In the Wikipedia entry on the shooting, a government internet connection was used to write: “There has been some public backlash against Menezes, with British tabloid newspaper in particular protesting that he has received more publicity than any of the 52 people who died in the bombings. ‘Anti-war’ groups who champion Menezes case, ignore the fate of the victims of the bombings, other then to ‘understand’ why the attacks occurred due to the UK’s role in Iraq.”
It was also used to cast doubt on his immigration status and to write that the Stop the War coalition believes “that terror attacks on Britain are justified because of the UK’s involvement in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein”.
Other changes made using a government internet connection included amending the page on the Independent Police Complaints Commission to more closely resemble its own PR messages.
A government spokesman said: “Government takes these matters very seriously. We have recently reminded civil servants of their responsibilities under the civil service code and any breaches of the code will be dealt with.
“We will shortly be issuing fuller guidance on using the internet and social media to all departments.”
It is not believed, however, that the government will launch an inquiry.
Those edits, as well as others, were first reported by Channel 4 News. They emerged after two experts claimed to have identified IP addresses used by government computers.
Asad Rehman, a spokesman for the de Menezes family, told the programme: “Like all ordinary members of the public, I’m shocked. This is yet one more smear and attack on the family.
“We’ve seen over many years lies, misinformation and smears during the family’s attempt to find the truth and justice and answers about how an innocent young man on his way to work was gunned down by police officers.”
The news follows the revelation that offensive messages about the Hillsborough disaster were posted using government IP addresses.
Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales condemned the practice and said that the site’s community of editors was there to pick up such cases.
But he played down the news, saying it was unlikely to be part of a “disinformation campaign” and more likely to be someone who “has gone a bit rogue”.
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