The House of Representatives has been banned from using Wikipedia again


An anonymous staffer for the United States House of Representatives had their IP address banned from editing Wikipedia for the second time in a month after multiple offensive changes were made to transgender related topics.

Among the controversial edits were revisions to the page of Orange is the New Black, which lists Laverne Cox as the first "real transgender woman" to star in a role as a female prison inmate. The edit by the House of Rep IP address erroneously revised Cox's accomplishment to "real man pretending to be a woman." Wikipedia users have been understandably upset by these kinds of edits, especially from an IP address that represents one of the houses of Congress.   

The current ban will last for 30 days, but some Wikipedia users have asked for a stiffer punishment. A permanent block has been suggested, but others countered this solution by explaining that the same staffer could circumvent an indefinite ban by simply using a different public IP address.

The IP address in question is associated with over 9,000 staffers as long as the user remains anonymous. Anyone who chooses to sign into their Wikipedia profile while using the banned IP address would be allowed to edit Wikipedia, but they also run a higher risk of being identified as the perpetrator.

Anonymity on the Internet is a double-edged sword, users can hide their identities which has been a tremendous help to the democratic ideals of free speech, but it also allows people to abscond responsibility of spreading harmful messages such as the transphobic edits in this unfortunate case.

Wikipedia's transparency is a breath of fresh air in a digital world full of sudden changes without concern for user privacy or usability. Hopefully we will find a way to alleviate these issues in the future without sacrificing what makes the Internet such a great tool for all of us. And if you want to read about more ridiculously embarrassing edits that Congress has made to Wikipedia pages, check out this hugely entertaining Twitter handle.

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