News / Victoria

Partisan conflict erupts on Wikipedia ahead of B.C. election

The writ hasn't even dropped for next month's provincial election, but on Wikipedia, the campaign is already in full swing.

For weeks, an edit war has been raging on the crowdsourced encyclopedia's entries for Liberal Premier Christy Clark and NDP Leader Adrian Dix. Even a cursory glance at either page's history shows users working around the clock to purge any mention of their preferred politician's foibles.

In Dix's case, Wikipedians have been alternately adding or deleting references to his tenure as former premier Glen Clark's chief of staff. In 1999, Dix was fired from the position after forging a memo to protect his boss from conflict of interest charges relating to the casino scandal.

Mention of the fraudulent memo was absent from Dix's page on Tuesday, but re-appeared Wednesday morning. The talk section of his page shows moderators frantically trying to ensure the article upholds the site's "neutral point of view" policy.

"Activity of this kind, pro and con, on all leadership articles in the current B.C. political climate bear close watching for [conflict of interest/point of view]-type edits," writes one user.

The premier's page appears less groomed than Dix's, but moderators still cite the "aggressive deletion of materials concerning Clark's connections to the BC Rail Scandal." In particular, a now-defunct user named Sirjohnhackett is singled out for polishing Clark's page while sullying Dix's.

The premier's revision history also includes a number of instances where users have inserted sexist or sexualized comments.

Edit wars over politicians' pages is not new to Wikipedia, and in many cases -- for example, the entry on U.S. President Barack Obama -- such articles are closed to public editing. The site's policies also forbid the editing of political articles by anyone working for a political party, but such conflicts can be difficult to prove.

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