News

Prentice’s Staff Scrubbing Copyright Controversy From Wikipedia Entry

While Industry Minister Jim Prentice has sought to project an air of unflappability around the outcry over the Canadian DMCA, it would appear that behind the scenes his staff is working overtime to eliminate any negative comments on Wikipedia.  Prentice's Wikipedia entry has been anonymously amended multiple times over the past week with regular attempts to remove any copyright criticism (as I post this there is no reference to copyright).  The IP address of most of the anonymous edits trace back to Industry Canada.  For example, on May 27th someone from Industry Canada twice deleted the following:

Prentice has been responsible for developing new Canadian Intellectual Property laws akin to the DMCA in the United States, partly due to pressure from US-based advocacy groups. While he had promised to "put consumers first", the draft legislation seems to cater strictly to industrial groups and Prentice has now suggested consumer interests may not be heard for years. Indeed, Prentice has refused to talk to a group of protesters who went to his office to express their concern.

Later in the day, someone from Industry Canada added to the copyright section of the Prentice entry with:

Recent developments have shown that no such draft legislation exists and that Minister Prentice has yet to publically release any documents on the copyright issue. Minister Prentice is expected to draft a bill on copyright that will strike a balance between consumers and producers, while bringing Canada in line with current WIPO international standards.

On May 29th, the Prentice entry was changed with the heading "Controversies" switched to "Copyright." As the copyright issue heats up, there were further changes today.  An entry that previously stated:

The minister is planning on introducing a bill on June 5 2008 and is not communicating with the public or the press on the bill. The minister is being heavily influenced by foreign publishers and distributers.

was deleted by someone from Industry Canada, instead substituting a comment from a prior press scrum that the bill will not be introduced until Prentice is satisfied about the right balance.  The revised entry does not stop there, adding:

Prentice has been praised for his strong management of the Industry portfolio. He has been dubbed the unofficial deputy prime minister, and is seen as the strongest Minister in the Harper government. He is widely praised in both political and private circles, as he personifies experience, confidence and competence, ability and capability.

So who thinks Prentice is the strongest Minister in the Harper government personifying experience, confidence, competence, ability and capability?  Someone at Industry Canada, presumably from his own staff.  This part of the entry was quickly deleted.

Update: Coverage from CBC and Canadian Press, including a comment from Wikipedia suggesting a conflict of interest over the Prentice edits. 

48 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a really silly story. Sure the changes are a bit of a stretch, but so were the original comments which clearly were political and subjective. For what a professor gets paid, surely there are better uses of time than nonsense like this

  2. Abattoir says:

    On the contrary, it reeks of spin control. We all know politicians do it, but it’s rare to have documented evidence of it. We can see how important his image is to him and his staff.

    I say we include these Wikipedia-editing stunts in his Wikipedia entry.

  3. Anonymous Idiots
    Hey Idiot above,

    “This is a really silly story. Sure the changes are a bit of a stretch, but so were the original comments which clearly were political and subjective. For what a professor gets paid, surely there are better uses of time than nonsense like this”

    Actually nothing about this issue is silly or the fact that the Harper government is trying to cover their tracks in their “new transparent” government. Go back to playing in your Sandbox while real concerned citizens fight for your rights you ignorant idiot!

  4. maupassant says:

    Prentice’s staff altering wikipedia
    It’s evident from the very first (anonymous) comment above that Mr. Prentice’s staff also closely follows Michael’s blog.

  5. WikiScanner
    You should find out Industry Canada’s entire IP range and submit it to WikiScanner.

  6. Public Service or Politicos?
    While spin control in political circles is nothing new, it’s quite disturbing to hear that this came from Industry Canada. The Canadian civil service has a responsibility to remain apolitical. This may be worth sending to the Public Service Commission for investigation. This is equivalent to civil servants making political statements to the press.

  7. Nice Work
    Keep up the good work. Sad (and shame on!) how they’re slipping up on the same technical details they’re writing laws about…

  8. Francois says:

    WikiScanner
    Someone said to plug in the Industry Canada IP Ranges into Wikiscanner, here is one such dump:

    A test of samples of the range on 192.197.178.0-192.197.178.255 Arin.net (the authority on IP address allocation in North America), shows that these all belong to Industry Canada. Perhaps more do, give me some more time.

    [ link ]=

    Some interesting additions on notable alumni @ UofO, Zimbabwe…, Honda Canada Inc.,

    Interestingly, every edit comes from 192.197.178.2, suggesting that they’re running a NAT/Proxy server.

    I’ll report back with more :)

  9. Francois says:

    WikiScanner
    I\’d also like to add that Wikiscanner is a bit out of date. Of course, you can download the records of all edits on Wikipedia, I believe it is (compressed) to around 7gb, hundreds of gigs uncompressed.

    Fun stuff that WikiScanner.

  10. Gordon Pissit says:

    Familiar ring to this …
    “The IP address of most of the anonymous edits trace back to Industry Canada.”

    So the harpercons are trying to re-write their own shady history in near real-time. Gee, that sounds familiar … it just goes to show you that the American Enterprise Institute’s training manual is carefully studied by all its alumni.

    Likely next program up from the harpercons: bugging all telecommunications to keep us safe from “terrists”.

  11. There’s a new entry (at least atm):

    “Prentice’s staff have been accused of editing this page.” referencing this blog entry.

  12. Francois says:

    Harpercons
    Gordon,

    At first, I read that as “Hypercons”, and didn’t even realize my mistake.

    Freud, freud, freud…

  13. Anonymous says:

    Everyone is entitled to revise their own entry if it contains material submitted externally. If Prentice (or his staff) have a different interpretation – and this is all about interpretation – why can’t they assert their version?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Everyone is entitled to revise their own entry if it contains material submitted externally. If Prentice (or his staff) have a different interpretation – and this is all about interpretation – why can\’t they assert their version?

  15. Francois says:

    Fairness
    Then why not just create an official “IndustryCanada” Wikipedia account, instead of trying to make these changes anonymously?

  16. It Just Made The CBC.ca News
    Well it made the CBC.ca news. How \\\”silly\\\” is that?

    [ link ]

  17. It IS wikipedia, after all
    As with any article dealing with an on-going issue, we can reasonably expect biased edits from all sides. It is quite good that Prentice’s (staff’s) edits are being documented though.

  18. Fairness
    Francois:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. I personally have no problem with an individual or organization updating their wikipedia entry. But for a government office to do so anonymously, over a controversial topic upon which legislation may be drafted … I have a problem with that. Making the changes under an account name would have at least made the process “transparent”.

  19. Francois says:

    CBC
    CBC Link @: [ link ]

    Though the CBC doesn’t seem to be very good with this whole referencing either:

    “The edits, discovered by University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist”
    &
    “Geist, who was tipped off by a reader of his blog”

    Well, then who really discovered it?

  20. competence
    There you are … on internet nothing get unobserved and forgotten. What they have deleted is spreading out pretty fast on other sites. Well done. Internet is the faster and bigger copy machine and Prentice should know it since is dealing with a new COPY(right) law with experience, confidence, competence, ability and capability.

  21. Todd Sieling says:

    Nice first comment by nameless. I’d be a club sandwich the IP is close to those found to be behind the wikipedia shenanigans. It is an ongoing relief, though, to know that tax dollars are being spent to play editing cat and mouse games on wikipedia.

  22. Jibbidy B says:

    Obligatory
    Who controls the past controls the future.
    Who control the present controls the past.

    Nice try Prentice, they even tried shilling this blog to kill the story, close but no cigar. As an ex-pat Brit living in Canada, it\’s disturbing to see the Conservatives politicising the Civil Service. The same thing Tony Blair did in Britain, replacing top civil servants with Labour Party activists. I presume the same thing has happened in Canada if the Civil Service is willing to shill on behalf of party members. Sad.

  23. Lore Weaver says:

    Designed to Fail
    Any legislation brought forth is designed to fail and not pass. He’s throwing the lobbyists a bone and making a conversation piece for the policy convention.

  24. katherine whitfield says:

    copyright sell-out
    thank you, professor geist, for all the work you have done on this issue. i am grateful that there are people like you out there who are fighting the good fight on behalf of all canadians. i am disappointed that the current government is so obsessed with controlling the media that not only do they bring out a copyright act that sells out our privacy, rights and freedoms, but they also deliberately alter unofficial information in the public domain. shameful .

  25. bob in toronto says:

    techo idiots
    What’s shocking is that folks who are so absolutely clueless as to how the internet works that they are so easily caught doing “Wikipedia spam”…are the same folks who are put in charge of drafting laws that affect internet usage in Canada.

    Prentice should resign immediately!

  26. I have to agree, Prentince should resign or be sacked.
    He has proven himself to be a complete idiot on this entire issue.

  27. Plagiarism
    Hmm…I thought that quote sounded a little too well-thought out for some political lacky to come up with on their own.

    “I do not know him personally (nor is he my MP), but Mr. Prentice personifies experience, confidence and competence, ability and capability.”

    [ link ]

    Turns out that line about personifying great qualities comes verbatim from a comment to the Globe & Mail on 2 June 2008 from a Mr. James Lanigan.

    How fitting that Industry Canada plagiarizes from the Globe & Mail, without attributing the source of the quote, in an attempt to defend the Minister for Industry? For all their talk of respecting intellectual property, this is a mistake I wouldn’t expect a second-year university student to make.

  28. 2zmv2
    Thank you for keeping us informed. Canadians need to know about this. Thanks.

  29. Your partisan comments are so boring
    Get with it, people, before jumping to stupid conclusions and running your mouths. (Queue someone calling me a Harperite — it’s pretty typical behaviour.)

    1. Just because the IPs originate from Industry Canada does not NECESSARILY mean that Prentice or “his staff” are the ones editing the article. Just like any other government branch, there are 1000s of public servants that work in those branches. I could go to work today and edit something about the department I work for, and the IP address would then show as coming from there; but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t just acting of my own free (and stupid) will.

    2. The person(s) responsible, whether or not Prentice and/or those close to him were involved (which is only speculative and not proven, and thus not responsible to report as fact — see headline), should have known better. When you work for the government and specifically when you are at work and using a government computer, you have a responsibility as someone representative of that sector of the government. There are very clear rules and there is a code of ethics that must be followed, particularly when using the government network. The editor was first of all stupid enough not to register first so as not to show their IP address, and second of all stupid to think they could get away with it for too long if they even did that in the first place.

    3. The deleted portions of text were just as bad. If any of the commenters had any experience with editing Wikipedia and knew their policies, you would know, for instance, that there are very clear policies for biographies of living persons — e.g. they can’t contain defamatory or libellous statements. Facts should be presented in a neutral point of view and be well sourced. Also, Wikipedia is not a news agency. Just because something is mentioned in a news article or a blog doesn’t mean it necessarily has to be added to an online encyclopedia.

    Try not to be so constantly partisan, either one way or the other. Rude comments are kind of annoying and just broadcasts your lack of intelligence. Try to have a more unbiased outlook, and instead process news and events responsibly and make up your own mind about the substance of the matter, being sure not to get all your news from just one source, or one “side”. It’s only in thinking for yourself and not getting caught up in silly rhetoric that you can have any hope in anyone listening to what you have to say. Think about it.

    And please, no ad hominem attacks.

  30. Internet age?
    This is how Our New Government embraces the internet age. Do we get network infrastructure? Government services online? Forums condensed by aides to provide public dialogs with MPs? No, we get a bunch of childish pranks. Which is as good a description of our present administration as any other.

  31. Andrew Butash says:

    A shred of hope?
    While this is hardly surprising, the fact that the comments have been removed already, the page has been semi-protected, and a small section indicating the attempted edits has already been added (with sources for this entry as well as the CBC story) is definitely encouraging. That gives me hope that, no matter what crap these spinsters try to pull, they can’t outsmart the collective intelligence of the Internet. I know, the term “collective intelligence” and “Internet” shouldn’t go together in the same sentence. :P

  32. Surecure says:

    Political manipulation of Wikipedia? *i
    Give me a break Michael. Talking of political manipulation of Wikipedia is tantamount to talking of speeding at the Indy 500. Anybody whose been around the block knows that Wikipedia is constantly and consistently manipulated for political reasons. The idea that an IP address is being traced back to a government agency? Are you telling me this is uncommon?

    Give me a break.

  33. @C.F.
    1. That being said, is this still not an issue? The possibility of a govt worker, at work, attempting to make stealth edits to wiki articles to remove mention of a controversial topic now key to the industry portfolio? thats not worth talking about? whether it be the office that was responsible or an individual. Clearly its someone close to the matter at hand, and makes this a conflict for them to stealth edit and whitewash the issues prentice faces.

    2. aggreed. It was a dumb move.

    3. looking at the wiki entry in question under the section “Copyright legislation and controversy”, it says many things, which are sourced, and are hardly falsehoods. The only questionable one is “The minister is being heavily influenced by the American ambassador to Canada and by foreign publishers and distributors.[citation needed]” coincidence its not cited? And even at that, its not a big stretch to think that we are heavily influenced by the good ol US of A.

    Yorue right, partisan BS and ranting and raving about harper and his ilk gets annoying and achieves nothing. But bringing this kind of issue to light is EXACTLY what we need to be doing. Assuming it was a member from prentices office (which it is fairly safe to do so) this incident is exactly the kind of thing the conservatives swore they wouldnt do. They wanted to be the party of accountability, of transperancy… what happened to that now?

    We need to call them on shady behaviour, such edits are rather shady. It screams,” lets just ingore the public outcry… edit it out. it never happened right?”

    How is stupid to be concerned about this?
    how is it running our mouths by saying that perhaps a member from prentices office was responsible.?
    How is it libellous to say that he refused to meet with consumers and consumer advocacy groups? Thats called the truth.

    Hey mom look!! no Ad Homs!!

    But thanks for insinuating that the commenters here: run our mouths, jump to conclusions, are ignorant, un-intelligent, biased, and nothing but sheep who cant make up our own minds.. I appreciate you not using any Ad hominem attacks…

  34. Fredian Slip
    Gordon,

    At first, I read that as \”Hypercons\”, and didn\’t even realize my mistake.

    Freud, freud, freud…

    Well…at least you didn\’t read it as \”Decepticons\” .

  35. Sometimes…
    Sometimes smoke is really only smoke. But USUALLY it means there\’s a fire somewhere.

    I usually write about these and start my sentences by \”Isn\’t it ironic that…\”

  36. Stephen Pate says:

    Wikipedia Scrubbing
    I had the pleasure of being involved in Wiki wars with the PEI PC Party Youth spring 07. In Feb I had added a paragraph on Pat Binns page about the Disability Support Program and its history. PC Party Youth workers started scrubbing the paragraph off in March and a free-for-all ensued. They’d remove it – I’d revert it – over and over until the editors stopped the whole thing. One of the editors turned out to be a Tory worker himself so he and I got into a heated Wiki war. I planted a press release with the Premiers office and the Wiki editor had it posted 30 minutes later. Which side was he working on?

    The CBC and CanWest reported it [ link ]. One article, no longer linked on Canwest placed the blame firmly with the PC Party workers. [ link ]

    Some papers have policies excluding information from Wikipedia as unreliable since the event.

    You can\’t trust Wikipedia for anything. The scrubbing is too easy and the editors are anything but reasonable. If you are part of their \”culture\” maybe.

  37. BIG BROTHER says:

    The NEW WORLD ORDER
    the 1st link you provide says

    “The full text of this article has 988 words.

    To continue reading this article, you will need to purchase this article.”

    YUP welcome to the new age this is exactly what you cna expect
    need to fart , thats green house gas , and you will be charged 10 cents please.

  38. politics as usual
    The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’, meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.
      – Larry Hardiman

  39. Insert Yawn
    Just realized the subject heading of my last post was missing a section… hence the subject heading of this post.

    Seriously, Wikipedia is so politicized that you can’t trust the content of half its articles on a good day. Besides which — in this case — either they’re scrubbing it for their benefit or somebody else is scrubbing it to their detriment. And I would bet dollars to cents that if you were to track the IP’s for all the edits, you’re likely to come up with a government paid accounts on both sides… those being within government offices, Opposition offices or the University accounts of academics with an axe to grind and more time on their hands than they know what to do with it.

    So what?

    “Presumably” if this is newsworthy… I’m gonna be famous someday!

  40. Analogue reader says:

    Funny – I never read anything about any recent attempt to pass this DMCA bill in the Newspaper at all. Nor did anyone I asked.

  41. hardboiled says:

    Prentice is a lightweight
    Prentice is a lawyer/bureaucrat extrordinaire – originally hailing from the Indian Industry. As to intellectual property and policy – Prentice is way our of his depth. Should government policy mean adding more bureaucrats to the headcount, or cash to the departmental budget – lookout! He’ll be all over that.

    If it means reflection, thought, serving the interests of Canadians….well….uh oh.

    We’re in trouble.

  42. Great job outing
    Very nice to see this sort of stuff outed, Michael.

    If the IC folks are reading this, check out pickaproxy.com next time you are needing to cover your IP tracks.

    Regarding the link to dslreports IP address lookup, I see that [ link ] provides even more details, including 371 “zone transfer” IP addresses with some interesting *.ic.gc.ca host names…

  43. Great job outing
    Very nice to see this sort of stuff outed, Michael.

    If the IC folks are reading this, check out pickaproxy.com next time you are needing to cover your IP tracks.

    Regarding the link to dslreports IP address lookup, I see that [ link ] provides even more details, including 371 “zone transfer” IP addresses with some interesting *.ic.gc.ca host names…

  44. Prentice’s Staff Scrubbing Copyright Co
    In the headline you insinuate that Prentice’s staff is responsible. For all we know it could be a Liberal supporter trying to stir up more controversy who did it. Just watch!! next they’ll be demanding yet another public enquiry over this!!

  45. On Government Time?
    Now now sheeples! If the IP addresses lead back to Industry Canada then we can assume that a public employee at some level was editing Prentice’s propaganda page from their office.

    I’m not a lawyer but I am involved with my local labour union and we have had plenty of issues with members getting accused of theft of time for doing exactly what some civil servant or a member of the Minister’s staff has apparently done while getting paid from the public purse to do something else.

    The argument about anyone who’s been around the Internet block know Wikipedia is used for this type of obvious political propaganda is missing the point.

    THE POINT: Someone at the Ministry of Industry of Canada has FALSELY EDITED a public document. This is and should be considered a VERY SERIOUS CHARGE.

    LYING in ANY MEDIA just like SHARING in ANY MEDIA is, especially for a government official, AGAINST THE LAW!

  46. I would just like to remind any Conservative MPs reading this I’ll be voting for a different party come next election. I’ll tell all my family, friends and co-workers plus anyone who’ll listen as well just how little these Conservative “people” care about Canadians. So much for transparent government. It angers me and will anger me in an ongoing fashion because Prentice et al will live quite comfortably on their federal government pensions long after these BS bills are enacted. I’ll get older and be eating cat food, unable to time shift my favorite TV shows. I have so little to live for now, LOL…

  47. Issachar says:

    Delete them all. They’re not Neutral P
    Every single one of those edits violates Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View policy. The third one is the least seriously flawed edit, but even it doesn’t fit wikipedia’s policy.

    I have no problem with people from Industry Canada deleting the first quote because it should be deleted. It’s not neutral point of view and therefore doesn’t belong on Wikipedia. Of course what they replaced it with is just as bad and should also be removed.

  48. dboneski says:

    This has been blown waaaaay out of proportion.

    Those of you calling this “silly” are correct, I happen to be a personal friend of the staff that made the wikipedia changes.. He is a student intern and was no way acting on the behalf of Industry Canada (other than in his own mind), he was bored, and being the smarty that he is, thought he would make his boss look a little better on the internet.
    Almost got fired the next day.