MP's staffer earns Wikipedia ban

A worker in an MP's office has been banned from Wikipedia the volunteer web encyclopedia for trying to censor information about his boss.

The website's entry for Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, National MP for Maungakiekie, was repeatedly tampered with on Thursday morning.

Wikipedia users identified the computer as being from Parliament by its IP address and banned the user for a week for the "conflict of interest" and lack of explanation for the changes.

Mr Lotu-Iiga yesterday denied editing the entry himself, saying a member of his staff had done it. But he defended the changes, which related to his dual role as an MP and Auckland city councillor.

The latest episode of cyber image control follows a case last year in which bloggers complained about an anonymous worker at Parliament excising paragraphs from Bill English's profile.

In Mr Lotu-Iiga's case, the worker repeatedly tried to delete paragraphs describing "significant criticism for not resigning from his role as an Auckland city councillor when elected as an MP" and said he missed a "significant number" of council meetings.

The worker also tried to delete a reference to a community newspaper's story about the issue. A Wikipedia user reinstated the material, blocked the parliamentary worker for a week and wrote: "If you continue to remove such material, you may be blocked from editing Wikipedia."

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he had not read the page until contacted by The Dominion Post yesterday, but downplayed it as "not a biggie for me".

"I have guys in my office who look after PR and where I am in the media, and one of them noticed that someone was tampering with it."

After reading the piece, he said some of it was inaccurate because he regularly attended council meetings. "I'm happy to take some criticism, but I think the wording is a bit strong. Somebody from my office thought it was appropriate to take it down."

He criticised Wikipedia as "an open forum for people to sabotage or write remarks about politicians".

The Dominion Post