Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Game Over: Wikipedia Locks Down Potential VP Pages In Response to Colbert Mischief-Making

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, August 8 2012

The act of observing something can sometimes change the thing being observed. Case in point: my observation on Monday that we might be able to get useful clues as to the identity of Mitt Romney's vice president pick by watching for a surge of edits on their Wikipedia page.

Not any more.

Last night, Stephen Colbert played a snippet of a Fox News report noting the jump in last-minute edits to Sarah Palin's page four years ago, and then he went to town. Assuming that Wikipedia edits were the tip-off, he declared, "We could be looking at Vice President Season Six of Buffy-the-Vampire Slayer. So, Nation, let your voice be heard in this history decision. Go on Wikipedia, and make as many edits as possible to your favorite VP contender." He then proceeded to mime editing Tim Pawlenty's page. (You can find the segment at about 8:40 minutes in, here.)

Well, Rob Portman's page has had 112 edits since Sunday, against 52 for Marco Rubio and just 18 for Pawlenty. But as of last night, the Pawlenty page was locked to protect it from vandalism. In addition, the Portman and Rubio pages have been "semi-protected" by site administrators, which means they can only be edited by registered users. The same thing has been done to the pages for Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and David Petraeus (who got a burst of attention yesterday because of an item on the Drudge Report). That means that only people who have already been on Wikipedia for at least four days and previously made ten edits to other unprotected pages can edit these pages.

Even without the pages being locked, yesterday afternoon — before Colbert decided to have some fun — it was already clear that noise was overwhelming signal on the Portman and Rubio pages. My little item had been picked up by Politico, HotAir, NPR, Digg, Reddit, DailyKos, The Guardian (hey, Huffington Post, what gives?), and the Reddit community in particular was already swarming around the Portman page, sniffing for clues of misbehavior. The Internet loves nothing more than a scavenger hunt, after all.

Oh well, I guess we all just pushed the needle deeper into the haystack.

With Miranda Neubauer

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: Scary Monsters

Facebook opens up about its experiments on tweaking voting behavior; breaking news in the FCC net neutrality battle; getting hard data on civic tech's impact on political efficacy; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: System-Gaming

Why techies interested in political reform are facing challenges; the latest data on Democratic voter contacts in 2014; Hungary's anti-Internet tax demonstrations are getting huge; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Gimme Shelter

The link between intimate partner violence and surveillance tech; the operational security set-up that connected Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden; how Senate Dems are counting on tech to hold their majority; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Tribes

Edward Snowden on the Internet's impact on political polarization; trying to discern Hillary Clinton's position on NSA reform; why Microsoft is bullish on civic tech; and much, much more GO

monday >

First POST: Inventions

How voter data-sharing among GOP heavyweights is still lagging; why Facebook's News Feed scares news publishers; Google's ties to the State Department; and much, much more. GO

More