Someone at Congress Raises Questions About Rudolph’s Existence on Wikipedia

During the Congressional budget fight, someone appeared to already be thinking about vacation

Who's messing with your Wikipedia page, Rudolph? (Image: Rudolph's television special / Public Domain)
‘Who’s messing with your Wikipedia page, Rudolph?’ (Image: Rudolph’s television special / Public Domain)

UPDATE: A prior version of this story connected the IP address to a Congressional office, but as the edit could have been made from behind a proxy server, it’s impossible to know. Updated 4:36 PM December 23, 2015.

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While the halls of America’s legislature were fiercely divided over a deal to fund the government, someone writing from an IP address at the US Congress still had time on their hands. The user made a satirical edit to the Wikipedia page for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The editor added the following to the end of Rudolph’s opening passage on December 10:

Contrary to prevailing popular sentiments, there is little evidence to suggest that there is a red-nosed reindeer fitting this description, in the North Pole or elsewhere. Some experts contend that no such reindeer ever existed, though this theory is highly controversial.

The edit also moves some of the paragraphs around.

Previous and current versions. (Screenshot: Wikipedia edit history)
Previous and current versions. (Screenshot: Wikipedia edit history)

The edit stayed up for six minutes, and the post was then reverted by another anonymous user, with an IP address in Minnesota, perhaps using one of Wikipedia’s various artificial intelligence powered tools for spotting edit vandalism.

The change was spotted thanks to @congressedits, a Twitter feed that automatically posts all anonymous Wikipedia edits made from IPs in the U.S. Congress, created by Ed Summers, according to Ars Technica. He was inspired by @parliamentedits.

Making silly edits may sound harmless, but the Wikimedia Foundation and the site’s community take the reliability of its information seriously. Last summer, a Congressional IP address got banned from making edits for 10 days, due to disruptive edits. Later, another bust came for transphobic edits of the Orange is the New Black page. Congressional staff are also apparently keeping an eye on Choco Taco‘s page.

We previously reported on efforts to whitewash the backstory of a participant in the 1980s banking crisis and a prominent PR firm caught tweaking its client’s pages.

Congress managed to make a spending deal five days after the Rudolph-edit.

Someone at Congress Raises Questions About Rudolph’s Existence on Wikipedia