More questions raised on Cabinet Office and Wikipedia

The Cabinet Office is facing fresh questions about dubious Wikipedia edits carried out from the secure Government computer network, after it was found their systems were used to change an article on the Hillsborough disaster.

Civil Service 'adapting to the use of new media'

The Civil Service is "adapting to the use of new media and new technology," a Cabinet Office spokesperson said as it faces fresh questions over dubious Wikipedia edits from the secure Government network.

A hand typing on a computer keyboard.
The Cabinet office is facing fresh questions about dubious Wikipedia edits. Credit: PA Wire

"But the Civil Service Code applies at all times, and we take breaches very seriously", they continued.

"We have already announced an investigation to examine offensive edits to Wikipedia, and will look at other concerns raised."

More questions raised on Cabinet Office and Wikipedia

The Cabinet Office faces fresh questions about dubious Wikipedia edits carried out from the secure Government computer network, after it was found their systems were used to change an article on the Hillsborough disaster.

An examination of Wikipedia changes made from an IP address allocated to the Government network shows an individual wrote about "killing or enslaving" black people on the entry for Howick Falls in South Africa, and also suggests that black people are uncivilised and believe "hearsay and myth".

The revisions were made in November 2006 but were quickly deleted by a moderator.

In another example, the IT system was used in December 2006 to edit the entry for Manchester to read: "Heralded as the 'w*****s capital of the North'". This change was also reversed by the site's editors.

Read: Government seeks culprits behind 'sickening' Wiki edits

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Burnham vows to hold to account 'rogue civil servant'

Hillsborough campaigner Andy Burnham has vowed to hold to account the "rogue civil servant" responsible for using government computers to post "sickening" comments about the football disaster.

MP Andy Burnham. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Liverpool-born MP and relatives' groups will monitor an investigation into who was behind inflammatory and offensive changes about the 1989 tragedy on the website Wikipedia.

The Liverpool Echo revealed that computers on a secure government network were used to make the amendments.

Read: Hillsborough Wikipedia investigation 'challenging'

The newspaper said revisions to the online encyclopaedia began five years ago on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, and again in 2012.

Hillsborough Wikipedia investigation 'challenging'

It may not be possible to identify who used government computers to post "sickening" comments about the Hillsborough disaster, the Cabinet Office has warned.

Officials said the passage of time and number of people using the Whitehall intranet made finding those who edited Wikipedia "challenging".

Floral tributes left by fans at the Hillsborough stadium. Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Relatives' groups and Liverpool-born MP Andy Burnham, a long-term campaigner on the issue, are being drafted in to monitor the investigation, a spokeswoman said. The Liverpool Echo reported revisions to the Wikipedia began five years ago on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, and again in 2012.

The Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "The amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening. The behaviour is in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code. It is entirely unacceptable."

Read: Govt to investigate 'sickening' Hillsborough Wikipedia edits

Families' disgust at Hillsborough internet insults

An investigation is underway at Westminster into what the government describes as 'sickening' insults over the Hillsborough disaster.

A series of offensive remarks were added to Wikipedia - among them the words 'Blame Liverpool Fans.'

Families of the dead reacted with disgust, saying it further undermined their confidence in the establishment. The Cabinet Office is promising to update Parliament on its findings.

ITV News reporter Richard Pallot reports:

Government seeks culprits behind 'sickening' Wiki edits

The Cabinet Office said it believes "one or two" individuals are behind "sickening" amendments made to the Wikipedia page on the Hillsborough disaster from Government computers, but said it could be "challenging" to identify the culprits.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said:

The amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening. We are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness. Our first priority is to establish the facts and to examine the issues raised. Once we have the facts, we will update Parliament with the findings and consider further appropriate action.

At this time, we have no reason to suspect that the Hillsborough edits involve any particular department, nor more than one or two individuals in 2009 and 2012.

As the first incident happened five years ago and there are hundreds of thousands of people on the Government's network, it may prove challenging to identify who was involved. But we are exhausting every option.

– Cabinet office spokesman

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Offensive edits originating from government networks

The edits to the Hillsborough disaster page on Wikipedia were made by IP addresses 195.92.40.49 and 62.25.106.209, both of which belong to government networks.

Screenshot of page showing the addition of "Blame Liverpool Fans"
The phrase "Blame Liverpool Fans" was added to the Hillsborough disaster page. Credit: Wikipedia
Screenshot of page showing "You'll Never Walk Alone" was changed to "You'll Never Walk Again"
"You'll Never Walk Alone" was changed to "You'll Never Walk Again". Credit: Wikipedia
Screenshot showing references to the Heysel stadium disaster
The changes added references to the Heysel stadium disaster. Credit: Wikipedia
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Tracing offensive edits back to government networks

The first of two IP addresses used in making offensive edits to the Hillsborough disaster page on Wikipedia, 62.25.106.209, can be traced to gateway-101.energis.gsi.gov.uk.

Screenshot showing a lookup of an IP address
A lookup of the IP address 62.25.106.209 reveals the gateway-101.energis.gsi.gov.uk network. Credit: ITV

The second of the two IP addresses used to make offensive changes to the page, 195.92.40.49, can be traced to gateway-202.energis.gsi.gov.uk.

Screenshot showing a lookup of an IP address
A lookup of the IP address 195.92.40.49 reveals the gateway-202.energis.gsi.gov.uk network. Credit: ITV

Families: Wiki Hillsborough edits 'an absolute insult'

Edits made to the Hillsborough disaster page on Wikipedia have been described as an "absolute insult to victims and their families".

Margaret Aspinall, mother of one of the victims said: "It's an absolute insult to the families who are fighting for where we are today and it has to be investigated".

Sheila Coleman from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign added that the distress was compounded by the timing of the revelations.

"That this happens now when the families are immersed in the inquest procedure goes to the heart of why should they trust the establishment," she said.

Wiki edit 'unlikely to identify a single computer'

According to Barry Collins, a freelance technology journalist, an identifier such as the computer's MAC (Media Access Control) address would be required to find out exactly which PC the Wikipedia edits came from.

A MAC address is a unique code found in computer or networking equipment.

The former editor of PC Pro said:

The edit will show the IP address. That address will likely cover hundreds or thousands of PCs - it's highly unlikely to identify a single computer.

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