Dutch Justice Department bans Wikipedia for employees following vandalism

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

A spokesperson for the Justice Department in the Netherlands has confirmed to the Dutch magazine Intermediair that it will temporarily suspend access to Wikipedia for its 30,000 employees, following recently revealed vandalism by staff members.

Dutch Ministry of Justice building in The Hague, Netherlands.
Image: Joris1919.

The magazine has confronted the department with some untasteful edits to the Dutch Wikipedia which originated from their IP addresses. Anonymous users are registered through these unique internet fingerprints when they edit Wikipedia. The magazine exposed the vandalism through Wikiscanner.nl, a website which combines a database of Wikipedia alterations with a server database from large institutions. The site can be used to reveal which organisations are behind anonymous Wikipedia editors.

One of the edits involved the article on the murder of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a muslim extremist, which shocked the Netherlands and led to an intense debate about integration and the safety of public figures. In 2005, the vandal added to the article that Mr. van Gogh was riding his bicycle through a street in Amsterdam "with his penis hanging out of his pants" when he was shot.

This is tasteless and intolerable. We are temporarily going to block Wikipedia for some 30,000 staff members. An investigation will be launched on the use and misuse of the encyclopedia.

—Ivo Hommes, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice

Another incident involved the Dutch article on prominent politician Lousewies van der Laan, where an anonymous editor added that her nickname was "casual shag".

The magazine revealed that while a limited number of edits were on legal topics, there were also edits to articles on Jesus Christ, pop stars, witchcraft, Donald Duck and masturbation. On the talk page of one of the anonymous users is a list of some 50 articles where vandalism occurred. Most vandalism was reverted quickly by other editors.

Elly Waterman, chair of Wikimedia Netherlands, pointed out to the magazine that not only civil servants, but also court personnel could have been behind these modifications.

Because of legal limitations on the time internet activity can be stored, it will probably not be possible to find out who exactly committed the vandalism, the spokesperson added.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.