Not any more

NDP accuses Harper government of information control in Wikipedia incident

In Canada on July 29, 2010 at 19:16

OTTAWA — The NDP says the use of Defence Department computers to remove criticism about the Harper government’s plan to purchase a new stealth fighter raises questions about oversight at the department and misuse of public equipment.

On Thursday the Citizen reported that Defence Department computers in Ottawa have been used to vandalize information on a Wikipedia site.

Nine attempts have been made so far to alter the on-line encyclopedia’s entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, including the removal of any information critical of the Harper government’s plan to spend at least $16 billion on the new fighter aircraft.

Defence Department computers were also used to insert insults, aimed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, into the Wikipedia Joint Strike Fighter page. Ignatieff has questioned the proposed purchase.

Wikipedia traced the alterations to three computers owned by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Ottawa offices. The online site has labelled the July 20-21 alterations as vandalism.

“At worst this type of manipulative behaviour is indicative of the government’s culture of information control,” New Democrat MP Claude Gravelle said in a statement. “Even if this apparent misuse of resources is the work of a lone DND staffer ‘freelancing,’ it raises questions about oversight in that department.”

A spokesman for Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) said the attempts to alter the Wikipedia page were not part of a concerted effort to stifle debate on the proposed purchase, but inappropriate use of government computers by, as yet, an unidentified individual or individuals.

DRDC spokesman Martin Champoux said reminders will be sent to employees about government regulations regarding personal computer use.

Gravelle, however, said the incident was unsettling. “We do not expect to see this type of big brother behaviour in Canada,” he said. “Unfortunately Canadians are starting to see a pattern in the desire to control the message. People do not want to see their tax dollars being used to spin the prime minister’s message.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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