Trump, MDMA, Hitler: How the Canadian Government Is Editing Wikipedia This Year

Or, how bureaucrats waste their time.

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Apr 6 2016, 7:22pm

Image: Shutterstock

There's no better way to peer into the seamy underbelly of bureaucracy than by looking at how people in power waste their time.

It's in this spirit that I present to you a curated list at all the ways employees of the Canadian federal government, from the military to tech support, have edited Wikipedia in 2016. It's quite the collection—from one person arguing that Donald Trump is a self-proclaimed "Homosexual Transgender," to another claiming that Ghanaian Jollof rice tastes like "pupu" compared to the Nigerian variety.

These gems come courtesy of Nick Ruest, the man behind the Twitter bot "Gov. of Canada edits," which makes a tweet whenever someone working in the government edits a Wikipedia page from an IP address associated with the government (Wikipedia has a list of ranges here)—in other words, while at work. Ruest pulls a snapshot of the account's entire archive of tweets and releases it to the public every quarter, and the latest dump went out last Friday, on April Fools' Day.

Ruest made sure to include the tweets in formats that any data nerd can plug into a spreadsheet or analytical software. The data is in the public domain, a decision Ruest made so that anyone can "do whatever they want with it," he wrote me in an email. The reason Ruest does this, his website states, is because the Twitter account "provides transparency" and "empowers a citizenry."

It's also funny as shit. So, without further ado, here's how the Canadian government has edited Wikipedia in 2016 so far.

Image: Shutterstock

APRIL

A Hotdog is a sandwich
Page: List of sandwiches
When: April 1
Where: Shared Services Canada
According to someone in Shared Services Canada, a government agency mostly tasked with improving email service, a hotdog is a sandwich. This person is wrong. We can only hope that this is an April Fools' joke.

MARCH

Donald Trump is a 'Homosexual Transgender'
Page: Political positions of Donald Trump
When: March 16
Where: Shared Services Canada
It's Shared Services, back at it again with the baffling Wikipedia edits. Not only did the person behind this edit shoehorn in a claim that Trump is a self-described "Homosexual Transgender" (capitalization included), they did it twice. Thankfully, this little addition isn't in the entry anymore.

Western Canadians are 'discontent' not 'disgruntled'
Page: Western alienation in Canada
When: Mar 31
Where: Shared Services Canada
Apparently, someone in the government didn't like the implication there is a sense of "disgruntlement" (read: anger) among Canadians in Western provinces who feel left out of mainstream politics. "Discontent" is a much nicer word.

Criticism of a federal prison? What criticism of a federal prison?
When: March 1
Where: Shared Services Canada
In 2008, two inmates were killed during a riot at Mountain Institution, a medium-security prison in BC. Ujjal Dosanjh, a Canadian politician who was the Liberal public safety critic at the time, responded by criticizing the government, saying it "can't handle and manage appropriately the population in the federal institutions to date."

The section about the riot on Mountain Institution's Wikipedia page is a steaming pile of [citation needed] tags, to be fair, but that doesn't necessarily excuse a government employee editing out a whole paragraph that criticizes reform efforts, alleging that "accountability is a serious area of concern."

Image: Shutterstock

FEBRUARY

'Call of Duty: Ghosts' sucked
Page: Call of Duty: Ghosts
When: February 18
Where: Shared Services Canada
A government employee thought Call of Duty: Ghosts sucked so bad that they had to take to Wikipedia to express their disappointment. To wit, they changed a sentence that stated the game received "positive" reviews to read that it received "mixed to negative" reviews.

The Wikipedia page for the game currently says it's received positive reviews, and its Metacritic rating is 78, or "generally favourable."

MDMA doesn't cause short-term schizophrenia
Page: MDMA
When: February 17
Where: Shared Services Canada
Drug education is important, especially since you probably don't really know what's in that little capsule of powder some dude at a party told you was "Molly" anyway. In a small effort to improve drug literacy, apparently, somebody in the government deleted a claim in the French Wikipedia that stated MDMA causes "chronic" schizophrenia as a short-term effect, since chronic anything isn't exactly short-term, by definition.

22 edits to an obscure Canadian composer's page in one day
Page: John Robertson (composer)
When: Feb 23
Where: Department of National Defence
Between roughly 10 AM and 3:30 PM on February 23, 2016—a Tuesday—someone at the Department of National Defence made 22 edits to a tiny Wikipedia entry on an obscure composer who lives in Kingston, Ontario. Slow day protecting the country?

Fleshing out a controversial police chief's life story
Page: Mark Saunders (police chief)
When: February 8
Who: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Mark Saunders is Toronto's newest police chief, and so far he's supported the controversial and arguably racist practice of "carding," and refused to speak publicly on a days-long occupation of police headquarters by Black Lives Matter supporters. In February, somebody at the country's public broadcaster showed off their intimate knowledge of facts like where Saunders went to middle school and when his parents immigrated from Jamaica on Wikipedia.

Image: Shutterstock

JANUARY

Arguing about Hitler's management skills
Page: Stalag Luft III murders talk page
When: January 13
Where: Department of National Defence
After a bunch of American POWs escaped a Nazi camp, most of them were caught and murdered at Hitler's request. On the talk pages (where Wikipedia editors take the gloves off), somebody wondered why Hitler himself would bother to give the order. Someone at the Department of National Defence answered: "Are you joking? Read the transcripts from his military conferences. Hitler was the biggest micromanager in history."

There you have it, I guess.

Ghanaian rice tastes like 'pupu,' Nigerian rice is the best
Page: Jollof rice
When: January 15
Where: Shared Services Canada
It's understandable to have strong feelings about a staple food from home, but this government employee took it one step further by absolutely dunking on all other varieties of Jollof rice, a common dish across West Africa. After the article mentions that it's eaten in many different African nations, the employee writes,

"but let's not get ahead of ourselves now Nigerians make it the best as the other countries jollof [sic] rice taste like pupu, especially that of the Ghanaians."

Rude.

Keeping tabs on the hive mind
Page: Group mind (science fiction)
When: January 4th
Where: Department of National Defence
So, all this person did was add a book to a list of fiction containing references to a "hive mind"—think the Borg in Star Trek. But, really, how terrifying is it that someone in the military is browsing the page for sci-fi instances of collective intelligence?