Miskatonic University Press

Anonymous July Wikipedia edits from the House of Commons


Last month I wrote about anonymous Wikipedia edits done from House of Commons IPs, following on Nick Ruest’s deployment of Ed Summers’s anon to make the @gccaedits Twitter bot. Now that July is over I was curious to look back at all of the edits made that month and see if the publicity had affected them.

It was easy to use Wikipedia’s Usercontribs API to get all the month’s edits in one request with the ucuserprefix variable: I asked for everything starting with 192.197.82, which covers the House of Commons IP range (, which equals– [all anonymous House of Commons edits in July 2014 (JSON)](https://en.wikipedia.org/w/api.php?action=query&list=usercontribs&ucuserprefix=192.197.82&ucstart=2014-07-01T00:00:00Z&ucend=2014-07-31T23:59:59Z&ucdir=newer&uclimit=500&ucprop=title timestamp ids sizediff&format=json). I took that and ran it through Ruby scripts to make a CSV file and generate some Markdown, and then I used a bit of R. (Note that @gccaedits tracks many more IP ranges then I look at here. This is just about House of Commons IPs.)

When did it break?

A brief introductory timeline to when Canadians found out about all this:

So Vice ran a story on Monday and another Tuesday, and by Wednesday the story was in major papers. Nick was very busy that week talking to the media. Let’s assume that Tuesday 15 July is when the right people on Parliament Hill should have known about this.

The edits

There were 50 anonymous edits that came from four different IP numbers. (It’s impossible to find out how many House of Commons people used proper accounts to edit Wikipedia, from work or elsewhere.) I’ll run through them in numerical order and break down edits by date.

Robert Goguen is a Conservative MP. Someone added bland personal information to his short bio on 3 July over four small edits:

On 7 July, there was an ineptly worded edit about Thanh Hai Ngo, a Conservative senator, then an interesting comment on a talk page:

Those last two edits add up to the user saying:

Je suis en train de débuter sur Wikipedia. Je suis en train de me familiariser avec le fonctionnement. Je ne maîtrise pas toute les fonctionnalités, mon erreur est de bonne foi. La page Thanh Hai Ngo a été supprimée. Serait-il possible de restaurer la page Thanh Hai Ngo afin de commencer sa page tout en respectant les droits d’auteur? Merci.

That’s something like, “I’m starting on Wikipedia. I’m trying to familiarize myself with how it works. I don’t get everything about how it works, and my mistake in good faith. The Thanh Hai Ngo page has been deleted. Would it be possible to restore the Thanh Hai Ngo page to start over while respecting copyright? Thank you.” (Better translation welcome.)

What does that show? The Conservatives getting a newbie to go into Wikipedia?

Post-15 July, we have, on 23 July, political science:

Finally, on 24 July, two apparently properly sourced and, I admit, reasonable-looking edits that cast Goguen in a better light after his terrible gang rape comments when questioning Timea Nagy. A third edit moved some content around. This editor is adept.

All edits from this IP are pro-Conservative.

Bateman and Glover are both Conversative MPs. The Bateman edits seem to have been done by an inexperienced editor.

  • Fri 04: Joyce Bateman (added two test images and short notes about her profession and family)
  • Fri 04: Joyce Bateman (added link to her site)
  • Fri 04: Joyce Bateman (removed two test images)
  • Fri 04: Joyce Bateman (added test image incorrectly and messed up page)

The Glover edits were politically motivated to hide facts about her election spending mistakes—since then a cited note has been added to the page about these very edits.

  • Mon 14: Shelly Glover (removed entire “Request for suspension by Elections Canada” section; reverted one minute later)
  • Mon 14: Shelly Glover (removed “Glover failed to file documents related to the 2011 election campaign”)

Those Glover edits were examined in detail by Patrick McGuire in Political staffers tried to delete the Senate scandal (and other bad behaviour) from Wikipedia, which says in part:

Yet another Conservative, Shelly Glover, an MP and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, had her Wikipedia page edited yesterday from the House of Commons. That edit completely removed a section called, “Request for suspension by Elections Canada,” which contained information about a request to suspend Glover as an MP for failing to file proper financial documents pertaining to her overspent campaign in 2011.

A Wikipedia user who uses the handle DrunkenMonkey restored the controversial section minutes after Glover’s staff attempted to remove it.

According to a representative of Glover who spoke to VICE: “Part of the communications responsibility of an MP’s political staff is to correct the record when false or inaccurate information is found in the public domain, in any number of ways. This could include writing letters to the editor or news releases, interacting with the media, or engaging in online communication.”

So, to Team Glover, deleting an entire section from an encyclopedia article is akin to bringing a factual correction to a newspaper editor, and having them revise their article.

Nothing from this IP number after 15 July. All edits are pro-Conservative.

An interesting history on this IP number. One of the people that uses it does useful copy editing, making good language and grammar updates (and seems to be a football fan). Another is a vandalising idiot who dislikes Conservatives. Another is pro-Conservative.

But then there was a very busy half hour for someone on 15 July. The vandalism began at about 12:45 pm and ended at 1:10 pm local time. Lunch break! It appears whoever made these edits hadn’t heard that these anonymous edits were being watched, which means either a) word had not spread; b) whoever did this was a hapless ill-intentioned buffoon; or c) whoever made these had heard, and is very cunning.

Dean Del Mastro is a conservative MP and Small Dead Animals is a conservative blog, so the vandalism came from someone in one of the other parties—though why would someone like that try to hide the location of a CSEC outpost at 12:35 pm, minutes earlier? If an anti-Conservative vandal takes the time to a sarcastic comment about Liberal prime ministers Trudeau and Chretien then it makes one suspect an NDPer.

  • Tue 15: CFS Leitrim (removed mention of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, our signals intelligence agency like the NSA or GCHQ)
  • Tue 15: Dean Del Mastro (“profession= Used Car Dealer”)
  • Tue 15: Dean Del Mastro (“profession= Auto Dealer”)
  • Tue 15: Dean Del Mastro (“profession= Used Car Dealer”)
  • Tue 15: Dean Del Mastro (“profession= Used Car Dealer, formerly sold crippled mules”)
  • Tue 15: Small Dead Animals (slandering a blogger: “In June, 2014, the world record body crab was found in a pair of her discarded underwear by a homeless crack head.”)
  • Tue 15: Small Dead Animals (another slander: “On July 15, 2014, McMillan succumbed to a previousdly-unknown, viralent strain of syphilus.”)
  • Tue 15: User talk: (“Hello dude. Do you know the difference between a reputable Auto Dealer (like Open Road Mazda) and a shady used car salesman like Dean Del Mastro Motors?”)
  • Tue 15: Dean Del Mastro (“profession= Dealer of Used Cars with Bent Frames, Perjurer”)
  • Tue 15: Canadian Museum of History (at least this shows a sense of humour: “The Museum has four permanent exhibition galleries including one exhibiting Pierre Trudeau’s immortal soul, which shows some slight signs of damage, and Jean Chretien’s last shred of integrity.”)
  • Tue 15: Small Dead Animals (another slander: “On July 15, 2014, McMillan succumbed to a previousdly-unknown, viralent strain of syphilus.”)
  • Tue 15: User talk: (removed “Hello dude”, added “We are the government. We are the only source.”)

Whoever made those changes is an idiot.

They got attention the next day in the National Post in Dean Del Mastro wants probe into mocking Wikipedia updates on him made from House of Commons computers:

A revision of the Peterborough MP’s entry on the online encyclopedia made Tuesday through a House of Commons Internet address changed his profession from “auto dealer” to “Dealer of Used Cars with Bent Frames, Perjurer.” A previous edit from the same address called him a “Used Car Dealer, formerly sold crippled mules.”

The perjury reference came a few days after Del Mastro took the stand to testify during his trial on charges his campaign overspent in the 2008 election. Del Mastro called the edits of his entry “unfortunate and hurtful.”

More politically-motivated vandalism the next day—whoever did this should have known that eyes were upon them—this time hiding bad information about a Conservative (did someone new get the IP number after overnight reboots?):

  • Wed 16: Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu (vandalism: removed paragraph about Conservative senator beginning “In June 2013, it was reported that a Senate ethics complaint was filed against Boisvenu. The complaints relate to Boisvenu using his position of senator to influence the clerk of the Senate and another Senator to arrange a job and time off for his assistant, with whom he had a romantic relationship.”)

The next few days showed useful edits and one comment in a discussion about the statehood of Palestine:

  • Mon 21: Ottawa Redblacks (useful copy editing)
  • Tue 22: New Democratic Party (Canada) leadership elections (update to 2012 leadership voting)
  • Fri 25: Johann Hari (minor grammar; change of tense)
  • Fri 25: Talk:State of Palestine (“In agreement!” that saying the “State of Palestine is a sovereign state” is inaccurate; the page has since been changed to say it is a “de jure sovereign state.”)
  • Fri 25: Poutine (cleanup; a good edit that tightened the first paragraph)
  • Fri 25: House of Commons of Canada (added cited sentence saying modified seating arrangements are being looked at, to handle an increase in the number of MPs)
  • Fri 25: Friday (looks like an accident; a space was added at the end of a sentence)

Robert Goguen is a Conservative MP. Whoever had the IP on 29 July used it to make some politically-motivated edits at about 2:20 pm, and then at 3:05 pm made a new page on French Wikipedia about Thanh Hai Ngo (fr). Possibly the intervening 40 minutes were spent translating the English page? Remember that made edits on Monday 07 July to the English page about this senator.

Very interesting history on this IP number. Most anti-Conservative edits, but also some pro-Conservative and some just good edits.

Fascinating business here. Early in the month there are three small edits made.

  • Fri 04: Curriculum vitae (added “(which literally means ‘summary’)” about résumé)
  • Fri 11: Zwolle (added note that the Dutch city was “single-handedly liberated from the Germans by Canadian soldier Léo Major”)
  • Fri 11: Zwolle (tweaked that previous edit)

But then on Tuesday 22 July—exactly one week after 15 July—a most interesting thing happened. Evidently the page on Corneliu Chisu, a Conservative MP, was under semi-protection, which meant anonymous accounts couldn’t edit it. About two in the afternoon a change was made to Talk:Corneliu Chisu requesting that this text be added under the background section:

He was recently recognized for his work in strengthening the relations between Hungary and Canada by the President of Hungary who conferred upon him the Knights Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit in 2014.

Four minutes later gave some supporting information:

because I am the person who this page is supposed to be outlining.I want to make an addition under the biography

Corneliu Chisu, member of parliament, was editing his own Wikipedia entry!

Corneliu Chisu

Now, one is not supposed to edit one’s own Wikipedia entry. That is frowned upon. Nevertheless, I’m rather impressed that an MP gave it a shot—though he does have a PhD in engineering and was a major in the engineering corps of the Canadian Forces, so using Wikipedia’s editor shouldn’t be a challenge (nor should proper punctuation). Good on him for giving it a shot, but next time I hope he’ll add a note to his talk page requesting someone update his entry.

And he might want to go back to using what I assume is his own account, Corneliu.chisu, which has made one contribution to Wikipedia: uploading his nice publicity shot.

Finally, a few days later there was another very minor edit:

Overall, pro-Conservative edits from the Conservative MP, but also some just generally good edits.

When were these edits made?

It seems like 15 July is a good break point: before then word wasn’t widespread that the edits were being tweeted and watched; after that everyone with an interest should have known. Let’s make a chart to help see how it all looks.

Here’s what the total edits look like:

Total anonymous Wikipedia edits from House of Commons IPs
21 July was a Monday, so the bare patch before included the weekend as well as shame.

Here they are broken down by IP number, with a dashed line through 15 July:

Anonymous Wikipedia edits from House of Commons IPs, by IP
Busy lunch on Tuesday 15 July. Moist and garrulous?

Turns out the chart doesn’t help that much, except to show what a strange, busy and vandalising lunch break had on 15 July.

There were 20 edits made before 15 July, 12 made on 15 July, and 18 made after. There was no vandalism in the last half of the month, but still a few politically-motivated edits.

Who the hell are these people?

The Government of Canada IT department knows who had these IP numbers at these times. (We know when MP Corneliu Chisu had one of them!) Who was the idiot on 15 July? Who are the other people? I wish the good editors would set up accounts and do more editing. Good on you for your efficient rewriting and copy editing!

I predict the anonymous edits made in August will be still fewer, due to public gaze and holidays. I’ll check what’s happened when the House sits again in October.

What next?

I’m intrigued with all this business and I’ll probably poke at it some more, but I’m just a librarian sitting on my sofa writing little scripts. This needs a real journalist to find out who these vandalising idiots are and who the good Wikipedia editors are. Why isn’t someone on the Hill leaking details about this? (Someone in government IT, use one of the new secure drop methods to get a file out!) How have staffers changed their tactics now that the word is out and the tweets are tweeting? How much is being directed by parties?

How are other monitored organizations reacting? There are governments, NGOs and corporations whose anonymous edits are being tweeted (see the anon README for a lengthy list). How is behaviour changing? How can we detect how people have moved to sock puppets?

Finally, surely Corneliu Chisu isn’t the first MP to edit their own Wikipedia entry. Who else has done it?