Wikipedia blocks users in Lehi neighborhood

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18 2007 12:09 a.m. MST

When Cory Hogan decided to make an edit on Wikipedia in October, a message popped up he didn't expect.

"It said something to the effect that, you can't edit because this (IP address) is associated with Judd Bagley and Overstock.com," he said.

Several hundred people in Hogan's community of Traverse Mountain in Lehi cannot edit content on Wikipedia because of the block on the small community's Internet access address. Hogan says he isn't too upset about the block, because he doesn't often use the Web site.

But, he said, "I thought it was profound, simply because it's a pretty mass effort to block one individual."

Hogan's neighbor, Judd Bagley, who is the communications director for Overstock.com, had recently blogged about what he believes are unethical edits on Wikipedia made by administrators. Anyone can make edits to articles, but the site makes available information on who made the edit and when it occurred. Bagley alleges that certain administrators can edit and subsequently expunge the edit record, leading to distorted articles and no accountability.

Bagley told the Deseret Morning News that once he began blogging about his allegations, Wikipedia blocked the IP address, which is like a telephone number for computers that allows connection to the Internet and communication with Web sites. That affected many of his neighbors.

A Wikipedia spokesman, David Gerard, said the site blocked Bagley because he was trying to promote his business and using an open proxy, a way to get into a Web site without the Web site operators knowing where the user is, which is prohibited by Wikipedia. Gerard also said Wikipedia believes Bagley had gone around the blocks and continued to edit content on the site.

"This has unfortunately resulted in some rather broad blocks, though these tend to get lifted so as not to cause too much collateral damage, something we do try to avoid," Gerard said in an e-mail.

He added: "We're a project to write an encyclopedia, not to advance third-party interests, and we reserve the right to block inappropriate editing as proves necessary."

Bagley said he hasn't edited anything on Wikipedia since summer 2006, and he didn't try to promote Overstock.com using the Web site.

The block didn't affect everyone at Traverse Mountain, said Jay Cobb, spokesman for Broadweave Networks, the service provider at Traverse Mountain, which does not use open proxies.

Broadweave had no control over Wikipedia's block of the address.

"We don't know why Wikipedia blocked anyone; that's their call," Cobb said.

The block on Bagley's neighbors occurred because he shared the address he had to access the Internet, which is a private address, with certain neighbors.

"A private address associates itself with one public address," Cobb said. If one person has a private address and another person has a private address, "we both look like we're coming from the same public address."

Bagley and his neighbors have private IP addresses registered as one public address, which doesn't allow for differentiation between separate private addresses, so any edits made on Wikipedia looked like one user instead of several.

Hogan and the other affected Traverse Mountain residents are just collateral damage from this block, Hogan said.

"I just happen to be an innocent guy that thought it was kind of funny," he said.


E-mail: csmith@desnews.com

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