IP Address Linked to Canadian Government Used to Whitewash Wikipedia

A Canadian government IP address have been used to whitewash Wikipedia’s entry of Steven Guilbeault. Edits have since been removed.

It seems that silencing criticism in committee wasn’t enough for the Canadian government. An IP address linked to Shared Services Canada was used to anonymously edit the Wikipedia page for Canadian Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault.

A section of Guilbeaut’s page was added to discuss the controversy surrounding Bill C-10. A Twitter account used to track edits made on Wikipedia by government IP addresses noted that Guilbeaut’s page has been edited:

Steven Guilbeault Wikipedia article edited anonymously from Shared Services Canada

The reference links to a specific edit made using that IP address.

In the edit, the following factual note was removed:

Minister Guilbeault has stated that users with a large social media presence could be considered “broadcasters,” and thus be subject to government oversight and regulations.

This note is, in fact, verifiable and important to note. Early last month, we reported on that very same admission.

So, after that point was deleted, the edit then goes on to add this:

These concerns stemmed exclusively from known and vocal opponents of the broadcasting act, with a majority of experts condemning these concerns are disinformation.

Ironically, this is blatantly false disinformation. We have direct and indirect evidence that proves that Bill C-10 does regulate user generated content. If that weren’t enough, we also have the Canadian government itself admitting that Bill C-10 does regulate user generated content. Further, what was added was completely unsourced on top of it all which is a pretty big no-no for Wikipedia.

Regardless, it’s pretty much factually proven many times over that user generated content will be regulated under Bill C-10. The only people disputing this are corporate lobbyists and the Liberal Party along with their political supporters.

The IP address used is 198.103.196.150. After a simple Google search, we can verify that the address is from Shared Services Canada. So, that fact isn’t disputed either.

Apparently, there was something of a minor edit war going on. The next day, a note was added about government involvement in the page which reads as follows:

On June 6, 2021, it was reported that a Government of Canada IP Address had been editing Guilbeault’s Wikipedia page to project a more positive image to the masses in light of mainstream negative coverage. The edits have since been reversed.{{cite web|url=https://twitter.com/mgeist/status/1400904890176753667|title=First the government moves for a gag order on Bill C-10. Now someone within the government has edited Wikipedia to suggest that criticisms of the bill come exclusively from “known opponents of the Broadcasting Act.” h/t @tim_minto|publisher=Twitter|date=June 4, 2021|access-date=June 4, 2021}}

Sadly, another edit deleted that section.

What’s more is that it appears that the criticism of Bill C-10 wound up being minimalized using disinformation. The current version of the Bill C-10 section reads as follows:

In 2021, Guilbeault introduced a bill (C-10) to amend the Broadcasting Act, to modernize the legislation to include online broadcasting services. The proposed amendment faced round criticism in the media, with concerns that it could be used limit freedom of speech or expression on social media.[23] Following calls by the New Democratic Party and Conservative opposition, the government introduced further amendments, clarifying that social media would not be regulated under the proposed legislation.[24] Guilbeault has stated that users with a large social media presence could be considered “broadcasters,” and thus be subject to government oversight and regulations.[25]

This description of the situation is problematic in that it omits a very important point.

While the Canadian government did introduce an amendment saying that they are making it “crystal clear” that user generated content wouldn’t be regulated, the actual amendment ended up doubling down on regulating user generated content. It clarified that the CRTC, a government body, would oversee the regulation of user generated content. The page does not note this aspect and has left that aspect completely omitted.

What’s more is that this section really doesn’t do this whole situation justice. What probably needs to happen is to have a separate page dedicated to the criticisms and supporters perspective. After all, Bill C-10 isn’t just exclusively about user generated content even though much of the discussion in the last month or so revolves around it (and rightfully so). You’re never going to be able to summarize this whole scandal into four sentences. If I didn’t know anything about Bill C-10 and the only information I got was from that section, I would look at it confused with that quizzical dog expression and start looking elsewhere to be informed (preferably Freezenet given that we have such in-depth coverage about this legislation at this point). After all, the big question that I would have before looking elsewhere is, “well, does it regulate user generated content or not?” (spoiler alert, it does). Regardless, the information currently there definitely needs work.

Perhaps and excellent start to improve the article would be to quote the now deleted Section 4.1 and note why critics feel this means it regulates user generated content. Then, quote Section 2.1 and note how supporters tried to argue that this section means user generated content is not regulated, then note how critics point out that the section is about the person, not the content itself. If it’s all too confusing, well, we did all the work for you already.

Politically, this action adds even more fuel to the fire. Critics have long warned that the Canadian governments legislation enables Internet censorship. By attempting to censor criticism on the Wikipedia entry, it more or less confirms the line of thinking that this bill is about political censorship. After all, if the government is trying to remove government criticism, what will happen when they have the power to promote or demote content on social media platforms? It’s speculative, but the actions definitely did not help the Canadian government here.

Perhaps, the more problematic aspect of this is that this controversy has now enveloped Wikipedia. It’s unfortunate because this means, at minimum, there is a certain level of pettiness involved on top of it all. If it weren’t for the government’s intervention, chances are, the spotlight would never have been shone on the page in the first place. With the irony of this bill being feared to bring about political censorship, the government has, once again, shot itself in the foot.

(Original Tweet found via @mgeist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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