NYPD using Wikipedia to edit entries on police shootings and corruption

You can safely call this one an attempt at damage control that went very wrong: According to a news story by Capital New York, a variety of edits to Wikipedia articles detailing police shooting victims and police policies and personnel were traced to 1 Police Plaza, the headquarters of the NYPD.

Among the stories and details changed:

  • A series of edits to Eric Garner’s Wikipedia page, in which language describing the incident was softened and made to sound less violent.
  • Edits to the page to the Wikipedia page on stop-and-frisk in New York City.
  • Edits to the page on the NYPD leadership.

This isn’t the first time that the NYPD has tried to edit Wikipedia to reflect their liking: they once tried to delete the entry on “Sean Bell shooting incident,” which describe the police shooting of Sean Bell, who was killed after being shot 50 times by NYPD officers on the night of his bachelor party.

The biggest problem with this?  It’s a clear violation of Wikipedia policy, which attempts to prohibit the editing of articles made to “advance the personal interests of the editor rather than the interest or aims of the Wikipedia project.”

In a statement, the NYPD said that the issue was under internal review.

This is not the first time I have written about edits to Wikipedia pages which came from sources with a clear conflict, and it probably won’t be the last.  I will repeat now what I wrote then: it really isn’t worth it to edit your own Wikipedia page, and in an age where IP addresses can be tracked so easily, it really is stupid to do so from a government computer.  Wikipedia is wonerful (I’ve cited it frequently in my blog and in my book), but it’s not as if it’s a source of information for each and every voter; focus on what you can control, like your own actions and communications plan, not what your Wikipedia page says about you or your organization.

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Tweets and Consequences

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