Russia caught editing Wikipedia entry about MH17 (Wired UK)


The world is still reeling from the shock of the deaths of 298
people on Malaysian flight MH17, which was shot down in Ukraine
yesterday, but the battle to write and re-write history has already
begun online.

Thanks to a Twitter bot that monitors Wikipedia edits made from
Russian government IP addresses, someone from the All-Russia State
Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) has been caught
editing a Russian-language Wikipedia reference to MH17 in an
article on aviation disasters.

The tweet reads: “Wikipedia article List of aircraft
accidents in civil aviation has been edited by RTR [another name
for VGTRK]” (Google Translate).

The edit was in response to an initial edit to the MH17 section
that said the plane was shot down “by terrorists of the
self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles,
which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation,” according to the website Global Voices.

In a counter-edit less than an hour later, the entry was changed
to say, “The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers”.

Edit wars in Wikipedia are nothing new. Politicians, PR companies and individuals of all stripes have been caught
out editing Wikipedia pages to better suit their interests and

With deeply controversial and breaking news events like the
shooting down of MH17 the motivation to rewrite the first draft of
history is even stronger. Although the evidence appears to place
the blame at the hands of pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels ( with The Sun going even further with their front-page
headline “Putin’s Missile”
),  Russia has denied any involvement in the incident.

Luckily edits on Wikipedia are recorded and the IP addresses of
the person editing it are publicly viewable, meaning that at the
very least underhand editing can be exposed.

The Twitter bot that spotted the edit, @RuGovEdits, is one of a
host of government-monitoring bots that include the US
congress-focussed @CongressEdits, which
were inspired by the UK’s @ParliamentEdits.

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