WikiScanner is a free, Web-based database application that tracks the source IP addresses of computers used to edit anonymous Wikipedia entries. Within a simple, minimally designed interface consisting of a form, text, drop downs and hyperlinks, WikiScanner allows users to first determine what the IP address of an organization is and then search to discover what edits have been made from that IP range.
Virgil Griffiths, a graduate student in computation and neural-systems at the California Institute of Technology, created the application:
- To improve virgil.gr 's Google page rank for the query ' virgil'
- To create a fireworks display of public relations disasters for all the world to sit back, and enjoy
- To see what 'interesting organizations' are up to.
WikiScanner makes it easier for the average netizen to track and report on examples of abuse. Although Wikipedia discourages what it calls "self-interested" edits, it does not actively prevent them. Any user can edit any entry anonymously. According to Griffiths, self-serving edits typically fall into one of three categories:
- Removal of critical information
- Adding negative information to a competitor's page.
Wired Magazine's Reddit news community site is among several sites publishing information about unscrupulous changes to Wikipedia content. Here's a sampling of documented edits:
- An edit from the Exxon network altered content to downplay the environmental impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
- An edit from the Wal-Mart network changed a negative comment about the company's wages.
- An edit from the Pepsi network removed details about health effects of the company's products.
- An edit from the Microsoft network added negative content to the entry about Apple .
- An edit from the Apple network added negative content to the entry about Microsoft .