Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Feature: Socially Responsible Computing and Consulting

The news is filled with decisions made by government and megacorporations that affect the home office consultant.

Computing technology does not exist inside a technical bubble. The world of events surrounding communications is constantly changing due to decisions and events within the spheres of political and private corporations. Information about computing technology is more meaningful and useful within the broader context.

I shall report from time to time on such events that move me, and may be pivotal to that body of knowledge useful to acting in the public interest.

I shall not remain silent. Silence is in service to the abuse of power.

In news reported today by Democracy Now!, in separate incidents the CIA and Diebolt Corporation have been documented doctoring articles in Wikipedia. As is well known, the IP address of anyone editing a Wikipedia article is recorded. IP addresses of both sources, CIA and Diebolt, have been recorded by WikiScanner.

Reportedly, the CIA changed the Wikipedia entry for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmenidijad. Diebold Inc apparently deleted facts about campaign contributions made by the Diebold CEO to G. W. Bush.

Henceforth, one suspects that the CIA and other powerful vested interests will have the common sense not to log in to Wikipedia from the office. These incidents indicate remarkable stupidity, considering that the CIA is ostensibly sophisticated at subterfuge.

The down side is that the factual accuracy of Wikipedia is in question. Wikipedia can be a useful source of many types of information, but anything related to public policy matters is now highly suspect.

This isn't the first, or last time, powerful interests used overt propaganda techniques to shape public opinion. As recent as 2003, McDonald's openly petitioned Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary to change the definition of McJob (low-paying, dead-end work), according to BBC News.

In a study by the Canadian news source, The Globe and Mail, they discovered that 11,000 changes to Wikipedia originated from Canadian government offices as recorded by WikiScanner. They reported that, "a significant number of edits were made to articles about politicians that removed criticisms, added positive comments and, in some cases, inserted negative comments to the pages of political rivals." According to the same source, several US congressional staffers are now known to have made changes to Wikipedia articles of political rivals.

Clearly, Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information on socially controversial issues.

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