Why are civil servants editing Wikipedia pages of Scottish footballers?

Posted by in news

As boring as pushing pencils in Whitehall may be, surely there are more interesting things to be doing than editing the Wikipedia entries for players from the second tier of Scottish football?

Well, apparently not. The Twitter account Whitehall Edits found that the entries for five Scottish footballers were edited from a government computer on Monday morning.

Whitehall Edits is a bot set up by Channel 4 News that automatically tweets when an edit has been made on Wikipedia from a government computer IP address.

Mike Deri Smith, who helped create the bot, explained to i100: “Ninety-nine per cent of edits are for really boring things like grammar changes or the number of appearances a footballer made.

“But there are also a small amount that appear to be more sinister and those are the ones we are really interested in.”

The page of Jean Charles de Menezes was edited to include disparaging remarks about the Brazilian national who was shot by police in 2005 (Picture: Evening Standard)

Indeed, Channel 4 News found last week that a government computer had been used to heavily edit and remove criticism of the police on the Wikipedia entries for three high-profile deaths - those of Jean Charles de Menezes, Damilola Taylor and Lee Rigby.

Previously, a civil servant was sacked following a Daily Telegraph investigation into slurs inserted into Hillsborough Wikipedia pages.

Part of the editing etiquette on Wikipedia - the encyclopedia that "anyone can edit" - means users who have made more contributions on the site are generally given more credence by the community.

So could editing the pages of second-rate Scottish footballers and making minor grammatical corrections all be part of a wider, cynical plan from these anonymous users to look more credible? Either that or they are just really, really bored.

Government takes these matters very seriously. We have recently reminded civil servants of their responsibilities under the Civil Service Code and any breaches of the code will be dealt with.

We will shortly be issuing fuller guidance on using the internet and social media to all departments.

  • Government spokesperson in response to Channel 4 claims

More: Read Channel 4's exclusive report here

More: Why did police spy on Jean Charles de Menezes' grieving family?

Keep scrolling for next article