'Orange is the New Black' fight sparks new House Wikipedia ban

For the third time this summer, computers in the House have been blocked from editing Wikipedia due to a string of controversial edits.

Anonymous users operating from an Internet Protocol (IP) address linked to the House were banned from editing the site for a month late on Wednesday.

The action came after a series of edits people using the IP address made to pages on the user-generated encyclopedia about transgender people that many on the site considered offensive.

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The final straw came on Wednesday afternoon, when someone from the House edited the page for the Netflix hit show “Orange is the New Black” to change the characterization of an actor from “a real transgender woman” to “a real man pretending to be a woman.”

Earlier this week, the account had been used to edit pages for “tranny” — a derogatory term for transgender people — as well as the annual festival Camp Trans and transphobia, the opposition to people who are trans.

“An obvious transphobe is using this IP to edit the article on transphobia,” a Wikipedia user wrote earlier this month, urging administrators to block the account. 

“I have no problem with Congressional staffers editing Wikipedia,” another user wrote regarding the person behind the changes. “I have a problem only with YOU vandalizing Wikipedia.”

Someone using the House IP address defended the edits as an attempt to provide fairness on the subject, and said the moves were “official business” endorsed by a member of Congress.

“There's nothing illegal about editing Wikipedia to promote official business that has been explicitly authourized [sic] by the Representative,” someone working in the House wrote in a dispute this week over some of the changes. 

“When you have other Representatives trying to push for laws such as [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], or when you have the [European Union] using neocolonialist methods to impose transgenderism on the nation of Georgia through a visa agreement, it's all the more important.”

The change only bans House staffers editing Wikipedia anonymously. People can still update the site by creating an account and logging in.

“If you'd like to make good-faith edits, please create an account,” Fran Rogers, the Wikipedia administrator who blocked the account, wrote.

The action is the third time the IP address was blocked this summer. In mid-July, the account was banned for 24 hours, days before a 10-day ban was handed down later that month.

Both times, the blocks were for “disruptive editing” that seemed in part to be inspired by a Twitter account that automatically updates whenever someone from a congressional IP address edited the online encyclopedia. 

Transparency advocates have said that Wikipedia can be a great tool for lawmakers and staffers to explain legislation, but urged them not make edits anonymously, because they are often viewed with suspicion.