Capital has traced a number of Wikipedia edits to entries surrounding police brutality — including stop-and-frisk and the death of Eric Garner — to computers on the network of One Police Plaza, the NYPD’s headquarters.
The crowdsourced encyclopedia is one of the most widely used sites on the web and relies on contributors to maintain up-to-date information. Wikipedia keeps a public record of edits made, even for users not logged in, by recording their IP addresses. Using this record, Capital compiled a list of all the Wikipedia entries edited by computers on any of the 15,000 NYPD IPs and found some unsettling stuff:
Computer users identified by Capital as working on the NYPD headquarters’ network have edited and attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police altercations, including entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Capital identified 85 NYPD addresses that have edited Wikipedia, although it is unclear how many users were involved, as computers on the NYPD network can operate on the department’s range of IP addresses.
NYPD IP addresses have also been used to edit entries on stop-and-frisk, NYPD scandals, and prominent figures in the city’s political and police leadership.
Here’s are some of the edits made to Eric Garner’s entry. You can see the original text on the left and the NYPD edit on the right:
Between October 2012 and March 2013, another user logged in several times to change the stop-and-frisk entry. Here are a few of the changes:
“The stop-and-frisk program of New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department to stop, question and, if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conduct a frisk of the person stopped.” was changed to “The stop-and-frisk program of New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which a police officer who reasonably suspects a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor, stops and questions that person, and, if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conducts a frisk of the person stopped.”
“if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conducts a frisk of the person stopped” was changed to “if the officer reasonably suspects he or she is in danger of physical injury, frisks the person stopped for weapons.”
While there was a substantial number of edits made to NYPD-related activities, there are also plenty of other entries that got some love:
Over the past decade, NYPD IP addresses have logged hundreds of anonymous Wikipedia edits, many of which had nothing to do with police issues. A long series of edits contributes to entries on the Catholic Church. There is an edit to the entry on British band Chumbawamba, seven edits to the entry on ages of consent in Europe, and an edit vandalizing the entry for “stye” with graphic comments on gay sex. However, a significant number of edits by NYPD IP addresses have been to entries that challenge NYPD conduct.
Here’s Capital’s list of entries edited by computers from the NYPD’s network. This information is now “under review” by the NYPD.