Ah, Wikipedia. Many of us at Grist frequently use this resource, but we do so knowing that just about anyone can edit a Wikipedia article at anytime. So, can we really trust the information contained within?

Fear not! As Wired reports, there is a new tool that sheds some light on who is editing what:

On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits.

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In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

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Wikipedia Scanner — the brainchild of Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith — offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of internet IP addresses.

And you can do your own sleuthing and share your discoveries on a special Wired resource powered by reddit called wikidgame. Here are some of the environment-related edits reported:

  • ExxonMobil whitewashes Valdez cleanup story
  • “Bad luck & poor investments” caused bankruptcy of native tribe destroyed by Exxon-Valdez spill
  • The NRA changes “hunting” to “wildlife conservation & management”
  • ChevronTexaco deletes “Biodiesel,” Iraq fine
  • Dow removes references to Bhopal, Agent Orange, breast implants
  • Monsanto user spins Roundup effects

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