NYPD computers used to edit Wikipedia entries on police brutality

Adam Westlake - Mar 14, 2015, 10:00am CDT
NYPD computers used to edit Wikipedia entries on police brutality

It’s not unheard of for companies, politicians, and other famous people to be caught making edits to their own Wikipedia pages in order to appear in a better light or hide information. But now it looks like the New York Police Department has tried its hand at the Wikipedia censorship game, as edits to entries about several instances of police shootings and brutality from the last year have been traced to NYPD computers. Among the edits have been changes meant to be favorable to the officers, as well as requests to delete certain passages.

The pages with the suspicious edits were for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo, three men who killed by NYPD officers under controversial circumstances. Capital New York discovered that the IP addresses that made the edits were registered to the NYPD headquarters, located at 1 Police Plaza.

The edits changed some of the descriptive language used in order to support the officers’ versions of events, and to suggest there was no wrong-doing.

– “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”

– “[P]ush Garner’s face into the sidewalk” was changed to “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.”

– “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”

– The sentence, “Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them,” was added to the description of the incident.

– Instances of the word “chokehold” were replaced twice, once to “chokehold or headlock,” and once to “respiratory distress.”

The deletion request was for part of the entry on Sean Bell, with the editor writing, “He [Bell] was in the news for about two months, and now no one except Al Sharpton cares anymore,” among their comments. The same NYPD computers were found to have made edits to the page on the “Stop and Frisk” program, and Wikipedia’s entry on the NYPD itself, deleting information about scandals and police misconduct within the force.

A spokesperson for the NYPD told Capital that they were launching an “internal review” into how the edits were made and by whom.

SOURCE Capital New York


Must Read Bits & Bytes