Taking the Wiki

Issue section: 

Readers may remember a story in the July/August edition of Socialist Review about a campaign by McDonald's to change the dictionary definition of "McJob" to something a little more PR friendly. They have, however, found little success.

Luckily for them there is an easier way of editing the dictionary. For several years Wikipedia, the user generated online encyclopedia, has allowed apparent anonymity to anyone wishing to edit its entries. Anyone with an internet connection can do this.

Unfortunately for them, a new website called WikiScanner gives the game away. It allows you to type in the network (IP) address of any company, organisation, political party (or whatever), and see the anonymous edits of the site made from their computers.

You can now see, for example, that in September 2004 the entry for "McDonald's" changed its recommended external links from McSpotlight - a website highly critical of the multinational - to a review on Amazon.com for the book Behind the Arches. Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation was also removed from the "Further Reading" section to be replaced by a recommendation for the same book. Behind the Arches, by John F Love, gushes praise on the chain. Coincidentally, the Wikipedia edit came from a computer inside - would you believe it? - the McDonald's headquarters.

It would be easy - not to mention lazy - to fill Frontlines with examples from other organisations, but why not do some research yourself? Check out wikiscanner.virgil.gr.

Some interesting pointers include Israel saying it takes "security" prisoners (not "political"), the Republican Party telling us about the US "liberation" of Iraq (changed from "occupation") and oil giant Exxon changing the entry on the 1989 Valdez oil spill disaster from a detailed account of the hundreds of thousands of dead marine animals, over thousands of kilometres of coastline, to an entry telling us about the disaster's positive impact on salmon harvests.