Thursday, 15 September 2011

Johann Hari's wiki-eidts

For future readers, Hari has very recently handed back his Orwell prize and put an apology in the Independent, which publication rather controversially refuses to relieve him of his employ there. I don't particularly want to make this guy's life even more of a misery, but this is his fault, and more needs to be made clear before we're done with this.

He has, among other things, owned up to making a lot of edits to Wikipedia pretending to be someone else - someone he was at university with. The sheer number of edits is breathtaking, though I suppose we are talking about a decent period of time here.

Wikipedia is meant to be an encyclopaedia. When people try to misuse it to push their own agendas they are basically trying to rewrite history. Almost all of Hari's edits (you can see them listed here) are on Wiki articles relating to either friends or enemies of Hari. There is a preponderance of  edits to Richard Littlejohn's wiki entry and associated talk-page. Other pages include Melanie Philips, Polly Toynbee, Tania Gold, Julie Bindel, Francis Wheen, Rob Blackhurst, Mark Steyn ("It is very important to have a criticisms section. This should not have been removed" is  Hari's description of one edit). Most prominent of all is Hari's own wiki entry and discussion page (which makes for fascinating reading after his recent admission). No doubt he would like to give his own side of the story, but not doing so under his own name was a mistake.

It is terribly easy to compare versions of pages on wiki to see what edits a user has made. I've done just one so far, but will do more comparisons I imagine, if I have time. Click here to see the page on Niall Fergusson before and after Hari's edits. You will find reams of stuff about his own attacks on Fergusson, and some responses. The entry on historian Andrew Roberts that he edited also seems to contain comments about Hari's criticisms of him. Somebody has rather mischievously added:
"Roberts has vigorously denied Hari's assertions, responding that Hari "must have a secret crush" on him and notes that Hari was stripped of his Orwell Prize for Journalism in July 2011 for unethical journalistic practices"

More edits to this page may follow, one senses.

By all accounts Hari has mis-used wikipedia to speak well of his friends and attack his enemies. He's not the only person doing this with Wiki. Nor the only one trying to write history as he would like to see it (more on this later). But that doesn't mean it is ok. And, again, all under a false name.

By the looks of some of the discussion pages, some people correctly guessed the identity of this wiki account. I wonder if they then tracked down other posts by him and endeavoured to correct his travesties. Rather hard work, considering the number of edits to go through. But I guess quite a few people will have been aware of something like this going on with regard to individual Wiki-pages. Without some pressure from them I wonder if he would have owned up to this.

Read more on his wiki-editing here.

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