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EI exclusive: a pro-Israel group's plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 05:20 AM
Original message
EI exclusive: a pro-Israel group's plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 21 April 2008

A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret, long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged.

A series of emails by members and associates of the pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), provided to The Electronic Intifada (EI), indicate the group is engaged in what one activist termed a "war" on Wikipedia.

A 13 March action alert signed by Gilead Ini, a "Senior Research Analyst" at CAMERA, calls for "volunteers who can work as 'editors' to ensure" that Israel-related articles on Wikipedia are "free of bias and error, and include necessary facts and context." However, subsequent communications indicate that the group not only wanted to keep the effort secret from the media, the public, and Wikipedia administrators, but that the material they intended to introduce included discredited claims that could smear Palestinians and Muslims and conceal Israel's true history.

With over two million articles in English on every topic imaginable, Wikipedia has become a primary reference source for Internet users around the world and a model for collaboratively produced projects. Openness and good faith are among Wikipedia's core principles. Any person in the world can write or edit articles, but Wikipedia has strict guidelines and procedures for accountability intended to ensure quality control and prevent vandalism, plagiarism or distortion. It is because of these safeguards that articles on key elements of the Palestine-Israel conflict have generally remained well-referenced, useful and objective. The CAMERA plan detailed in the e-mails obtained by EI appears intended to circumvent these controls.

In the past, CAMERA has gained notoriety for its tactic of accusing virtually anyone who does not toe a right-wing pro-Israel line of bias. The group has even accused editors and reporters of the Israeli daily Haaretz of being "extreme" and participating in "radical anti-Israel activity." Jeffrey Dvorkin, the former ombudsman of National Public Radio (NPR), frequently criticized by CAMERA for an alleged pro-Palestinian bias, wrote on the web publication Salon in February 2008 that "as a consequence of its campaign against NPR, CAMERA acted as the enabler for some seriously disturbed people," citing persistent telephone threats he received in the wake of CAMERA campaigns.

Need for stealth and secrecy

Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial action alert, Ini requests that recipients "not forward it to members of the news media." In a 17 March follow-up email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that "There is no need to advertise the fact that we have these group discussions."

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA's scheme, Ini conjectures that "Anti-Israel editors will seize on anything to try to discredit people who attempt to challenge their problematic assertions, and will be all too happy to pretend, and announce, that a 'Zionist' cabal (the same one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is trying to hijack Wikipedia."

But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the keys to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign up as editors for Wikipedia they should "avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time." This strategy is intended to "avoid the appearance of being one-topic editors," thus attracting unwanted attention.

Ini counsels that volunteers "might also want to avoid, for obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name." To further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized editors, Ini warns, "don't forget to always log in before making . If you make changes while not logged in, Wikipedia will record your computer's IP address" -- a number that allows identification of the location of a computer connected to the Internet.

A veteran Wikipedia editor, known as "Zeq," who according to the emails is colluding with CAMERA, also provided advice to CAMERA volunteers on how they could disguise their agenda. In a 20 March email often in misspelled English, Zeq writes, "You don't want to be precived as a 'CAMERA' defender' on wikipedia that is for sure." One strategy to avoid that is to "edit articles at random, make friends not enemies -- we will need them later on. This is a marathon not a sprint."

Zeq also identifies, in a 25 March email, another Wikipedia editor, "Jayjg," whom he views as an effective and independent pro-Israel advocate. Zeq instructs CAMERA operatives to work with and learn from Jayjg, but not to reveal the existence of their group even to him fearing "it would place him in a bind" since "e is very loyal to the wikipedia system" and might object to CAMERA's underhanded tactics.

"Uninvolved administrators"

The emphasis on secrecy is apparently not only to aid the undetected editing of articles, but also to facilitate CAMERA's takeover of key administrator positions in Wikipedia.

For Zeq a key goal is to have CAMERA operatives elected as administrators -- senior editors who can override the decisions of others when controversies arise. When disputes arise about hotly contested topics, such as Israel and Palestine, often only an "uninvolved administrator" -- one who is considered neutral because he or she has not edited or written articles on the topic -- can arbitrate.

Hence, Zeq advises in a 21 March email that "One or more of you who want to take this route should stay away from any Israel realted articles for one month until they interact in a positive way with 100 wikipedia editors who would be used later to vote you as an administrator."

Once these CAMERA operatives have successfully infiltrated as "neutral" editors, they could then exercise their privileges to assert their own political agenda.
(snip)

Zeq specifically names articles targeted for this kind of treatment including those on the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, Causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Hamas, Hizballah, Arab citizens of Israel, anti-Zionism, al-Nakba, the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian right of return.

Interestingly the CAMERA editors also target the article on the early Islamic period concept of Dhimmi, a protected status for non-Muslims which historically allowed Jews to thrive in Muslim-ruled lands while other Jews were being persecuted in Christian Europe. Pro-Israel activists have often tried to portray the concept of Dhimmi as akin to the Nuremberg laws in order to denigrate Muslim culture and justify ahistorical Zionist claims that Jews could never live safely in majority Muslim countries.

Also among the emails is a discussion about how to alter the article on the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the village of Deir Yassin by Zionist militiamen on 9 April 1948. Unable to debunk the facts of the massacre outright, the CAMERA activists hunt for quotes from "reputable historians" who can cast doubt on it. Their strategy is not dissimilar from those who attempt to present evolution, or global climate change as "controversial" regardless of the weight of the scientific evidence, simply because the facts do not accord with their belief system.

Zeq has already made extensive edits to the Wikipedia article on Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist murdered by an Israeli soldier in the occupied Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. As a result of these and other edits Zeq has himself been a controversial figure among Wikipedia editors, suggesting his own stealth tactics may not be working.

(snip)

read on!
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9474.shtml
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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 05:30 AM
Response to Original message
1. Ah, Wikipedia - the world's largest and most trusted source of misinformation.
Nobody that I know takes Wikipedia seriously. It's not just the fact that anyone can edit it- the real problem is the volunteer army of editors that instill their own personal biases into it, and go unchallenged, often even undetected. You can pretty much bank on the fact that if it's in Wikipedia, it's wrong. Seriously, that site is so fucked up it's not even funny - and it's fucked up by the people who run it and "edit" it, not by the public.
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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 09:06 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. Do you ever notice how often wiki gets cited on the DU?
A LOT.

If you think that kind of concerted effort to re-write history will have no effect, I'd beg to differ.

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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #4
10. Yes and it saddens me that DUers think Wikipedia is accurate, complete, current or trustworthy.
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 06:54 AM
Response to Original message
2. What does 'infiltrate' mean in the case of Wikipedia?
Anyone can contribute a Wikipedia entry, from any point of view, right now. You or I could. No need for 'infiltration'.

How can they 'take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged'? It's not just administrators who can detect and reverse changes, errors, or biased reporting: it's anyone. If you or I don't like an article, we can edit it, or submit a new entry from a different point of view.

It's only common-sense to be aware that any given Wikipedia entry MAY have been contributed by someone with an agenda, and not to take what you read on Wikipedia as necessarily gospel, especially if it doesn't cite verifiable sources.
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Vegasaurus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 07:22 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. That's why this posting is so ho hum
Anyone who takes Wiki as the final source on anything is just plain stupid.
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subsuelo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 09:12 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. I don't believe anybody said they take Wiki as the final source on anything
But, thanks for that bit of input, I guess
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azurnoir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 10:34 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. I am sure your opinion will change
if CAMERA is successful LOL.
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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 11:43 AM
Response to Reply #2
9. The administrators and editors introduce their own personal biases.
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 11:47 AM
Response to Reply #9
12. An unsupported opinion. n/t
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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 06:00 PM
Response to Reply #12
20. Just look through some of the talk pages for support,
especially the editors' and administrators' talk pages.
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 06:39 PM
Response to Reply #20
23. I'll be glad to do that. Just . .
. . give me a link to a good example of where "The administrators and editors introduce their own personal biases." You are the one making the claim. You need to provide the evidence - not depend on me to find it for you.
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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 10:15 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. God - you're one of them! The wikiarmy invades DU.
I will provide a link soon, but I'm not through ripping the guy a new one.
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-23-08 10:23 AM
Response to Reply #24
27. I don't know anything about the Wikiarmy.
Edited on Wed Apr-23-08 10:26 AM by msmcghee
I use Wiki occasionally and I've been generally pleased with the articles - that usually include a section on opposing views for most controversial topics. I have also submitted editing suggestions once or twice when I've seen a typo or something on an otherwise well-done entry. I don't have any idea how the inner workings of Wikipedia operate.

One thing I think they have done is important to recognize. They have created a dynamic encyclopedia where all entries are available for open source editing suggestions with no time limit. If a topic starts out lame or incorrect - it is very likely that, as time goes by, it will improve - and it will generally improve in proportion to the interest level and quality of the editing suggestions submitted. That seems to me to be an excellent way to structure a reference encyclopedia.

But, I'm ready to learn how screwed up Wikipedia really is, according to you. I really don't have any deep knowledge of it. I'm just going by my own experience which has only been on the consumer level - and we all know that the purpose of consumers is to be fleeced. So, enlighten me - link me to the real dirt in Wiki so I can know how they've been duping me and filling my mind with the worldviews of their cabal of editors. I'm a blank slate on Wiki-gate at this time. I have to say though, that so far, you sound like a conspiracy nut. Your sig line seems to confirm it.
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azurnoir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 10:52 AM
Response to Original message
7. Read about this last night
Can't say I am surprised, in fact been expecting something like this. Notice how similar the tactics CAMERA plans on using are to ones used by christian fundies in their "takeover" of political systems in this country "today the school board-tomorrow the ....."
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 11:28 AM
Response to Original message
8. It's sad but probably not unexpected that so many here . .
Edited on Tue Apr-22-08 11:45 AM by msmcghee
. . don't understand how things work in a free society or in Wiki, for that matter.

In a free society people are free to say what they want and express their opinion. If you don't agree with them, you don't get to force them to shut up. You get to express your opposing opinion freely. Wiki is set up the same way. If a fact of history - like the number of Arabs killed at Deir Yassein, for example, is disputed by different accounts, Wiki admins say that - "This fact is disputed", or "various accounts place the number between x and y", etc.

Wiki does not pretend nor attempt to be a final arbiter on any facts of history. They just try to present the opinions of anyone who has a credible, supported version - and then note when there are more than one of those. I think that's a pretty valuable resource to have. I'd much rather know when there are disputed accounts and what they are than have some publisher decide for me which one I get to see. Of course, no-one should accept even that - the different versions described - as a final word of any history. But, it can give us a good idea of what might have actually have happened in the past. Probably the best and most complete view available in many cases.

CAMERA's mission is to spread what they see as their "correct" version of events. If you disagree with them you have the right to offer editing comments and have them considered. There's nothing wrong with what CAMERA is doing - it is exactly what people who donate to them expect them to do. Nor is there anything wrong with disagreeing with them. Both activities support free expression in our society. The more free expression there is - the more informed we become. But, to be truly informed, we have the responsibility to logically evaluate the information we are exposed to. Not every person chooses to do that and many only recognize information that supports their existing beliefs on a topic, using their reasoning ability to cement their favorite memes into place. It's not a perfect world - it's how people are and it's how life is. I think Wiki offers a really unique approach to free but honest and accurate expression. It's one of the many truly valuable ideas spawned and made possible by the Internet.

It's interesting that EI spins this as some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Also, that so many seem willing to buy into that theory without even considering how these things work - or without considering how they have to work if Wiki expects to maintain any credibility.
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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 11:46 AM
Response to Reply #8
11. Actually it is not quite the same on Wikipedia:
If the editors or administrators don't like what you say or do, they certainly do force you to shut up - and even prevent you from saying anything ever again - in no uncertain terms.
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 11:48 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. An unsupported opinion. n/t
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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 06:01 PM
Response to Reply #13
21. One learned from experience. Beware the Wikipedia editors!
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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 02:47 PM
Response to Reply #8
14. Historical facts aren't decided by popular vote.... or orchestrated efforts
to control the flow of information.
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 02:58 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. I didn't say they were. I said . .
. . that a source that explains to its readers when there are different credible opinions of the history of a certain event - and describes those views objectively and where they come from, why they are credible, etc. - then they have done us a service.

It's then up to us to form our own belief - which should probably be that we don't know for sure what happened - but these are the range of possibilities. I recently changed my view of Deir Yassein based on different views I was informed of in this forum. I think that's how it should work. If you'd rather believe those narratives that better support your identity beliefs, even when shown credible views different from that - you're free to do so. I'm not saying you should reject your existing beliefs, assuming they are credibly supported - just that we should accept that there is a range of possibilities and that we don't know for sure on some events that are disputed.

Another example is the reasons for the Arab exodus from Israel in 1948. A couple of years ago I was pretty sure that the IDF had nothing to do with it. Now, after reading several different accounts and views - I accept that there were more likely a variety of reasons - and that for each refugee, some different combination of them probably applied, including that for some, they were told or encouraged to leave by the Israeli military.
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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 04:47 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. It's (yet another) example of pro-Israel thought police. Period.
And pretty disgusting to boot.

What kind of insecurity spawns that?
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msmcghee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 04:58 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. Why don't go you find an article . .
. . from EI to explain how Wikipedia is . . "another example of the pro-Israel thought police". There should be one in there someplace.

I'll go get some :popcorn:
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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-23-08 05:10 AM
Response to Reply #19
26. I posted one.
Back on ignore. Not sure how you got off in the first place.

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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 03:34 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. No they aren't
But to say that historical facts aren't manipulated by both sides is nonsense. I mean where did this article come from again? Oh that's right.

Go to the museum by the Dome of the Rock. Just bathe yourself in the propaganda... it's quite lovely. You see in that museum every martyr died because he was shot without any provocation whatsoever. There was no dropping of boulders onto the heads of praying Jews from the top of the Wailing Wall. Nothing of the sort.

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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 04:48 PM
Response to Reply #16
18. No propaganda effort can hold a candle to the pro-Israeli propaganda machine.
And I've been in the Dome.

Thanks, tho.
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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-22-08 06:10 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. Ok so you've been to the Dome
Did you go to the Museum on the Temple Mount? The Hall of Martyrs or whatever it was called?
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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-23-08 05:09 AM
Response to Reply #22
25. WTF does that have to do with the OP?
With an encyclopedia that is used by millions?
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Tarc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-06-08 02:28 PM
Response to Original message
28. Was about to post about this, glad I searched first. :)
Edited on Tue May-06-08 02:29 PM by Tarc
I have personally dealt with this Zeq character on the Wikipedia for a few years now. He'd always been a bigoted little asshole, kindof a Zionist version of Rush Limbaugh. But there are many of those from all sides all around the internet. But to find out that it was all orchestrated by a pro-Israeli propaganda firm was quite a stunner.
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ProgressiveMuslim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-06-08 02:29 PM
Response to Reply #28
29. Boston Globe is reporting it!
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Howardx Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-07-08 05:44 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. Wikipedia catches DOJ trying to cover it up!
Wikipedia has temporarily blocked edits from the US Department of Justice after someone inside the government agency tried to erase references to a particularly-controversial Wiki-scandal.
Early last week, the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) was accused of organizing a secret campaign to influence certain articles on the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit". Just days later, the DoJ's IP range was used to edit the site's entry on the Pro-Israel "media-monitoring group," lifting a new section that detailed the controversy.

The DoJ did not respond to our requests for comment. But odds are, the edits were made by a single individual acting independently. Wikipedia's ban on the department's IP is due to be lifted today."










http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/29/wikipedia_block...
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azurnoir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-13-08 03:32 PM
Response to Original message
31. Are we to assume this has been stopped?
Edited on Tue May-13-08 03:33 PM by azurnoir
doesn't seem so, I have observed in the past week at least a couple of times where subject matter brought up on this forum and linked to Wiki, you follow the link to find that the page has been edited within the the prior 24 to 36 hours, the same to said for subject matter that may be looked up on Wiki.
I can not say that this Campus Watch but someone is editing to fit their own needs.
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