Earlier this week, Wired reported on Wikipedia Scanner, a new tool that cross references the IP addresses of people who edit the online encyclopedia with companies that own the related IP ranges. The end product is a tailor-made snooping tool that can help shine a light on companies' attempts to manipulate their corporate histories.
For instance, Wired found evidence of someone at voting machine manufacturer Diebold editing out 15 paragraphs critical of the company from its entry. Wal-Mart and Montana Senator Conrad Burns' office were also found to have altered pages to put a positive spin on their pasts.
The practice of wiki-washing likely extends into industries of all sizes; an article on Shacknews today reports that gaming is no exception. The site found evidence that an IP address at Electronic Arts' Redwood Shores headquarters made multiple changes to the company's Wikipedia entry.
In addition to updating information like the total number of EA employees, the user's edits also cut out a number of passages that were either critical of the company or referenced unflattering events like company-wide layoffs.
For instance, a passage referencing the EA Spouse scandal and subsequent lawsuit originally read, "Electronic Arts has from time to time been criticized for its employment policy of requiring employees to work extraordinarily long hours--up to 80 hours per week--as a general rule and not just at 'crunch' times leading up to the scheduled releases of products." After the user in question edited it, it said, "Electronic Arts has led the industry in reforming work/life balance issues that are endemic to the software industry." The user also added mention that other publishers have also faced lawsuits over similar issues.
While portions of the entry saying EA was notorious for rushing out games and then did a poor job supporting them postrelease were edited out, the entry was not entirely scrubbed of criticism. Remarks about the company's practices of buying smaller studios like Origin or Westwood for their intellectual properties were left in, as were notes saying the company shuts down its acquired studios once they make an underperforming game.
Other passages, like one suggesting the publisher's exclusive NFL license is bad for the business, was simply added to with a note that the NFL itself sought out an exclusive deal. That edit even changes the phrase, "Some think Electronic Arts' sports licenses are threatening the game market..." to the more damning, "While it is widely think [sic] Electronic Arts' sports licenses are threatening the game market...."
Other alterations to the article involved the downplaying of EA founder Trip Hawkins and deletion of other early company employees. A mention of Hawkins' current venture, mobile game developer Digital Chocolate, was also axed.
AnEA representatives commented on the matter, saying, "EAsometimes updates Web sites with info about the company, games and employees.For example, EA has sent acorrection toYahoo Financewhen they had misspelled the name ofan EAexecutive. Many companies routinely post updates on Web sites like Wikipedia to ensure accuracy of their own corporate information."