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News Blog

Taking Back Wikipedia for Shurtleff!

by Eric S. Peterson
- Posted // 2009-09-17 -

Yesterday, on Sep. 16th,  an interesting update was made to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s Wikipedia page. Wedged between the tabs “Personal” and “Public Service” was an entry entitled “Scandals.” The entry’s description was brief, and before it was deleted last night, read: “There have been numerous allegations that Shurtleff has allowed political donations or personal relationships to affect regulatory or prosecutorial decisions.” The section then bookmarked 17 references to varying news articles exploring alleged favoritism and conflicts of interest on Shurtleff’s part, from various local media including several articles run by the City Weekly-- this one, this one and this one.

An interesting addition, but what’s really interesting is how after being online for roughly four hours the entry disappeared.

Of course anyone wanting to see the previous entry can check out the “history” tab and see the old version. The plot thickens, however, when observing this revision history which shows that the author of the short lived “Scandals” entry, is a user who goes by Arkadelphiacornell. According to the revision log, Arkadelphia not only made the addition, but he also promptly removed it after a few short hours.

It may just be that Arkadelphia is still tooling around with the page, but currently with the “Scandals” section dropped down the wiki-memory hole, the entry as of the time of this post now reads like Shurtleff’s Senate campaign website, where visitors are treated immediately to a page outlining Shurtleff’s key election issues. The rest of the entry provides scant information addressing his history as a public servant in Utah.

Ironically, however, all the references to the “scandals” articles are still listed at the bottom of the page.

A call to Shurtleff’s Senate campaign was not immediately returned to City Weekly.

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Posted // September 18,2009 at 11:09

That user account was created 20 minutes before the first edit to the Shurtleff article was posted. The amount of text in the edits would have taken longer than that to type, and those references likely took hours to research. From the complexity of the edits (all of the properly formatted references), they had to have been done by someone with a good amount of previous editing experience, who created a new account specifically to post these edits to the Shurtleff article. Wikipedia calls accounts like this "sockpuppets", and discourages their use. Either way, if the "scandal" statements are verifiable, there is no reason why they should have been removed. It looks like the references cited are legitimate news articles. It should be perfectly defensible to revert the removal of that section. Maybe someone was counting on that happening. It would be interesting to find out who the "sockpuppet"-master was.