Hard News by Russell Brown


The Standard is in its usual high state of excitement after discovering, via Wikipedia Scanner, that Bill English's Wikipedia entry was edited last year, by someone on a Parliamentary IP address, to remove information about the deputy Opposition leader Bill English's moral beliefs and family.

You can see the difference here. With an edit made from the IP address, which is registered to the New Zealand Parliament, this:

He married a Catholic GP, Mary, and they now have six children - five boys: Luke, Thomas, Rory, Bartholemew and Xavier; and one daughter, Maria. He is a devout Catholic himself, and upholds his churches opposition to [[abortion]], [[voluntary euthanasia]] and [[physician assisted suicide]], [[civil unions in New Zealand]] and [[prostitution in New Zealand].

His wife Mary edited the newsletter of an anti-abortion medical practitioners group, "Doctors for Life," and served as President of a conservative Christian women's group known as the Family Education Network, before stepping down when her husband was elected Leader of the Opposition. Both organisations are now defunct

Became this:

He married a GP, Mary, and they now have six children - five boys and one daughter, Maria.

The same user also primly added the words "and spokesman for Finance and Revenue" to English's job description.

The obvious conclusion is that someone decided that the family information was inappropriate in a Wikipedia article on the MP. And, indeed, that's what argued yesterday, when another editor raised the issue with him/her: "The material in question has absolutely nothing to do with Bill English. If you want to detail the life and practice of his wife, start a page on her."

On the other hand, the material excised is certainly political in nature. The family information had actually been in the article for some time, without objection. The information about English's moral beliefs and his wife's activity in conservative Catholic organisations was added last April by user Calibanu, who I presume is the GayNZ.com columnist Craig Young. I don't have a clear view on whether Young's edit was appropriate, although its removal is equally questionable. What do you think?

At any rate, whoever sits at is Parliament's busiest Wikipedia editor. There are more than 500 edits logged against that IP address, many of them relating to Catholic organisations and schools in Auckland, going back to 2005, although it seems likely that the earliest edits were done by another person entirely at the same IP address.

At any rate was back again yesterday, with a flat-out vanity edit on English's article.

More controversially, in March, removed far too much embarrassing information from the article on another National MP, Allan Peachey. An earlier edit by user Cool Blue about the "knife in the back controversy" was poorly-written and non-neutral -- but removing all mention of the issue was wrong too. Another editor restored the reference, and delivered a ticking-off, this week. It appears that another Standard post prompted that action.

Let's keep this in context: we know that MPs' offices sometimes make sympathetic edits to their profiles. This might often be in the nature of factual corrections and is, to my mind, unobjectionable. But I think is doing way too much, and behaving in too political a way, for someone hiding behind an IP address. I'd rather see Parliamentary editors register and declare interests in their profiles. That would be much better.

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