Jonathan Djanogly, Wikipedia and disruptive editing

October 21, 2011

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for Jonathan Djanogly, the Justice Minister, as newspapers have reported that him and his family could profit from proposed changes to legal aid that he was piloting in parliament.

However, that’s not the only thing that’s been taking place Djanogly0wise recently. Last month I wrote on here about Owen Paterson’s remarkably flattering Wikipedia biography, authored by the mysterious “Snowplough11”. It seems quite a bizarre niche to get into writing about – political biographies and their authors on Wikipedia, but hey, someone’s got to do it. It seems that Mr Djanogly is subject to even more mysterious puffery than “8th sexiest MP”, Mr Paterson.

It all started out back in 2009-10, where four separate editors started making edits to the Djanogly article, one of whom was mysteriously called “djanoglyj“, whose principal edit was to remove references to several articles in the Telegraph regarding his expense claims. Other contributors from a similar period included “lizzy silk” (surely no relation to Djanogly’s wife Rebecca Jane Silk!) who also removed a Daily Mail story about expense claims, and two others making minor adjustments. (To be fair, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence these last two are particularly pro-Djanogly in their editing – I’m mostly picking out editors here who seem to have only ever edited the Jonathan Djanogly article on Wikipedia).

Things then pick up again a bit after the emergence of the Legal Aid scandal of September 2011. Two new editors pop up, both of whom seem to have a single interest on Wikipedia – yes, Jonathan Djanogly. The first of these, Stivian, repeatedly removes aspects of Djanogly’s expense claims, as well as allegations that Djanogly hired private detectives to spy on his constituents.  These are rapidly reverted by existing (and long-standing) Wikipedia editors, who warn Stivian for “Disruptive Editing”, at which point a new editor, River19, pops up. Wikipedia editors call out the second account as a “sockpuppet”, allegations which Stivian repeatedly removes. Eventually Stivian admits creating the River19 account in an enlightening dialogue which Stivian later attempts to remove, but not before claiming “you so obviously do not understand properly the changes I have made or indeed know very much at all about the subject of the article outside of what you’ve read in the tabloids.”

The latest discussions on the talk page relate to the Legal Aid changes, and revealingly Stivian claims “I have looked and Djanogly’s business interests are declared and always have been so it would seem unnecessarily punitive to link this story to Djanogly’s article as an encyclopedic portayal of his character”. Unfortunately for Stivian (and Djanogly), it turns out Djanogly’s interests were not always declared. But, more interestingly, how would Stivian know?

As with the Paterson case, there is clearly no reason to assume that any of these editors (despite their unusual choice of names earlier) are actually Mr Djanogly – maybe they’re just fans. But either way, there’s certainly somebody out there determined to put a good amount of effort into making Djanogly’s biography as positive as possible…

Addendum

IP information on Wikipedia can only be viewed by Checkusers, members of the Wikipedia community who have sufficient trust in order to access such sensitive information. Although interestingly, the House of Commons’ IP address is listed as “sensitive due to public relations implications”. The advice is that “these ranges are allocated to major governmental organizations and blocks of these organizations have political and public relations implications that must be managed by the Foundation’s press relations team. Avoid long blocks of these addresses and be especially careful in formulating your block messages because your block message will be seen and commented on by the press.

This may be the case. But if it’s also the case that there are repeated attempts to use multiple accounts to remove damaging information (or introduce complimentary information) from these establishments, one could almost suggest that some kind of checkuser investigation would be neccessary. The initial investigation marked the accounts as “stale”, and indicated that the account carrying out the check “would rather not act on them yet”. Should such a check be carried out, hopefully it would reveal every single account operated from the House of Commons IP. But what are the odds of that happening?

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