Russian government edits Wikipedia page on Flight MH17

Jul 22, 2014
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A Russian government official has been accused of editing the Russian-lanugage version of the MH17 Wikipedia page.

Malaysian Airline Flight, MH17, was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, 17 July. The flight was on a scheduled run from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, killing all 298 people onboard. In recent days, the focus has shifted from the crash itself to the topic of who is responsible. As the world started pointing fingers at Russia, President Putin immediately placed the blame on the Ukrainian military.

Russian authorities reportedly removed sections that accused the Russian government of providing “terrorists” (pro-Russian separatists) with missiles that were used to down the civilian plane. RuGovEdits, a Twittherbot that monitors the edits made to Wikipedia from Russian government IP addresses, has spotted the changes that were made to a section on a Russian-language page related to the crash of MH17.

Before the alleged edit, as translated by the International Business Times, the Wikipedia entry read: “The plane [Flight MH17] was shot down by terrorists of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk with BUK missiles, which were obtained by terrorists from the Russian Federation.”

Later, the Wikipedia entry said: “The plane [Flight MH17] was shot down [by] Ukrainian military.”

An Internet user within the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) was found to have made this entry change, according to The Telegraph. This change, along with all other edits to Wikipedia, are permanently logged. These logs include the alterations that have been made to the posts along with the storage of the IP address and username.

This is not the first time government officials have allegedly edited Wikipedia pages. In 2012, the government of Kazahkstan reportedly paid prominent Western PR firms, who are said to have edited the Wikipedia pages of Kazakh officials and other government-related entries. In the United States, the Twitter account, @congressedits, has found many topics that U.S. Congress members have tweaked. Some of the sample edited topics include John F. Kennedy, Crimea, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp.

About the Author

Nikki Munro, Transitions Online

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