UK Politics

MPs get sneaky Wikipedia edit tip

Man at keyboard
Image caption Many MPs monitor their Wikipedia pages very closely

MPs who want to sneakily edit their Wikipedia entry might want to think about doing it from their home PC.

That was the tongue-in-cheek advice from technologist and futurist Tom Scott, who gave MPs a masterclass in protecting their privacy.

The Houses of Parliament has just two IP addresses, the unique identification number which links net users to a location, he explained.

This means it is relatively easy to find out the source of edits.

"Wikipedia stores the IP address of anonymous users," Mr Scott told the MPs on Thursday at an Internet and Parliament conference.

"If you go on to Wikipedia and you try and edit without logging in, it stores your computer address."

He added: "All the traffic from the Houses of Parliament goes through two net routers.

"You can look through all Wikipedia's history at all the edits that have come from the Houses of Parliament."

That does not mean, he stressed, that it was possible to say for certain that it was MPs themselves who were editing the material, as it could be anybody with access to a computer hooked up to the Parliament network - such as members of staff or MP's assistants.

"It would be completely wrong to assume that because a Member of Parliament's Wikipedia page has been edited it's that MP doing it," he told the audience of internet experts and MPs in Portcullis House, to laughter.

MPs set a lot of store by the Wikipedia entries - particular at election time - as it is one of the main ways potential voters find out about them.

Some high profile political figures, or their members of staff, are in a constant war of attrition with vandals who post abusive or subversive "facts" on their Wikipedia pages.

Other MPs have been caught out trying to remove accurate, but potentially embarrassing, material from their entries.

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