Tom Scott

The 2010 “Editing Wikipedia From Inside Parliament” Awards

Warning! This is old. It was last updated in 2010 and may be obsolete, outdated, unsafe or just embarrassing. Treat with caution.

Here's a fact: Wikipedia stores the IP addresses of anonymous users.

Here's another fact: all of the web traffic from the Houses of Parliament is sent through one of two proxy servers — which means that every anonymous edit to Wikipedia from within Parliament is attributed to one of just two IP addresses.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The “Sweeping Things Under The Carpet” Award

It would, of course, be wrong to assume that a Member of Parliament is responsible for an edit to their Wikipedia article simply because that edit came from within Parliament; there are any number of people — from MPs' staff to security guards — who use those same internet connections.

With that said, this first award goes to the anonymous editor of the article on Joan Ryan, the former MP for Enfield North. Ever since June 2009, someone within Parliament has been persistently trying to remove the section about Ryan's involvement in the MPs' expenses scandal. Sometimes the section would vanish for just a few minutes; sometimes it would disappear for weeks before being noticed and replaced — but reliably, every couple of months or so until the General Election, someone within Parliament would try and sneakily wipe the past.

Except on weekends, that is, when identical blanking attempts would come from an anonymous user in Joan Ryan's constituency of Enfield.

Whoever that is, they are dedicated to Ms. Ryan.

Previous winners

That anonymous contributor easily beats the 2009 champion, the editor of Margaret Moran MP's article, who attempted to remove two separate items of controversy using a Parliamentary computer; those edits only survived for three days before someone noticed. And there was no such luck this year for the Parliament-based editor whose attempt to blank out the section on Stewart Jackson MP's tweeted thoughts on sex education was almost-instantly reverted — and also got the article locked down to registered Wikipedia users only.

The “That's One Way To Kill Time” Award

Now, time to recognise someone truly dedicated to their cause. This award goes to an anonymous Parliament staffer who, until the election in May, was spending an hour or so every few days doggedly improving Wikipedia's coverage of Roman Catholics. Correcting the Woes of the Pharisees article to use British English spellings; adding details of the Murphy Report; and, in one glorious hour-long stint on the morning of 26th February, adding the tags '20th-century Roman Catholics' and '21st-century Roman Catholics' to more than a hundred articles. Congratulations, whoever you are: that shows real devotion both to God and to slacking off from Parliamentary duties.

The “Did Someone Bring Their Kid To Work?” Award

This goes to an anonymous editor in Parliament in November 2009. That's technically a little early for these awards, but nothing else could beat the assertion that Cilla Black was the headteacher of Enfield County School. (Enfield again! Coincidence, surely.) That editor even changed the school's motto to "A Lorra Lorra Learning".

The “You Started The Ball Rolling, Well Done” Award

And finally, this goes to the Parliament vandal who was first to claim that figure skater Stéphane Lambiel was a zebra with wings and magical powers — a reference to Lambiel's costume at the Winter Olympics. Not only did that edit survive for more than 90 minutes, but a series of other Wikipedia users expanded on it.

Alas, though, their fun was cut short by a more serious, level-headed and civic-minded Wikipedia user... from St. Mary's School in Ascot.

Well done, anonymous schoolgirl: you showed more maturity than whoever was editing from within the corridors of power.

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