Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Grant Shapps: A World Turned Upside Down

Mirror montage.
Wikipedia has blocked a user account on suspicions that it is being used by the Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, “or someone acting on his behalf” to edit his own page along with the entries of Tory rivals and political opponents.

The online encyclopedia, where pages are edited and created by readers, has tracked the changes made by a user called “Contribsx” who has systematically removed embarrassing references on Shapps’ Wikipedia page about the Tory chairman’s business activities as Michael Green, the self-styled millionaire web marketer.

A Guardian investigation found about a third of the contributions made by this user were to Shapps’ own Wikipedia entry while the rest are made up largely of unflattering changes to the online pages to senior political figures – including prominent figures in the Tory party such as Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, Justine Greening, the international development secretary, and Lynton Crosby, Conservative election campaign strategist.

Wikipedia says that “sock-puppetry” – creating a fake online identity “for an improper purpose, such as to mislead other editors, disrupt discussions, distort consensus or avoid sanctions” – is not permitted.

It added that it had banned Contribsx and said any evidence of future attempts to cover the user’s tracks would be investigated immediately.

The site’s administrators, selected Wikipedia volunteers who patrol the site, told the Guardian that they “believe that the account Contribsx is a sockpuppet of Grant Shapps’ previous accounts on Wikipedia ... and based on the evidence the account is either run by Shapps directly or being run by someone else – an assistant or a PR agency – but under his clear direction.”

When the Guardian first approached Shapps saying that Wikipedia would be closing down this user account because Wikipedia said it was linked to him, a spokesman for the Conservative party said: “This story is completely false and defamatory. It is nonsense from start to finish.”

When Shapps was sent a detailed exposition of the changes made by Contribsx – including posts critical of cabinet colleagues such as George Osborne – the Tory chairman did not respond.



Later, on Tuesday night, he said it was “categorically false and defamatory”.

“It is untrue from start to finish, and was quite likely dreamt up by the Labour press office. Sadly it is typical of the smears coming from those who would rather not debate policy and substance,” Shapps said...

Some of the posts made by Contribsx, which was created in the summer of 2013, illuminate Conservative divisions, focusing notably on one of the biggest rebellions in the last parliament over the issue of gay marriage – a policy that remains controversial, with traditionalists targeting liberal Tories in this election.

The rancour began after May 2013 when 134 Tory MPs voted against the government, arguing the idea would weaken the institution of marriage. Shapps was one of the MPs that had supported the leadership line that the country was ready for the change.

In the months to come, Contribsx highlighted those in the cabinet who had rebelled. In September 2013 Contribsx edited Hammond’s Wikipedia page so that it noted the then defence secretary had “been openly critical of the prime minister’s approach to the (same-sex marriage) bill saying that he was ‘shocked’ at the speed at which it was pushed through and that it ‘damaging’ for the Conservative party”.

Another edit made a few minutes later drew attention to an interview given by the then attorney general, Dominic Grieve, to his local newspaper in his Buckinghamshire constituency noting that he “was one of four members of the cabinet who abstained in the May 2013 same-sex marriage vote. He said that he believed that the bill had been ‘badly conceived’”. ...



Fagburn believes this is known as 'doing a Johann Hari'

But what a sign of the times that a Tory MP thinks he will smear his fellow Conservatives by pointing out that they did not support equal marriage.

Fagburn has a little list of gay journalists and a well-known gay campaigner who have written much of their own Wikipedia entries, which I shall run soon.

Fagburn calls this 'Wikiwanking'. 

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