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Japanese Bureaucrats Reprimanded for Wikipedia Editing 177 177

sufijazz writes "Six bureaucrats in the Japanese agricultural ministry have been reprimanded for working on the job ... for Wikipedia. The six officials were publicly chastised for editing hundreds of Wikipedia entries during work hours. These included over 250 entries about robots in anime. '"The agriculture ministry is not in charge of Gundam," said a ministry official, Tsutomu Shimomura ... The ministry's internal inquiry followed recent media allegations that a growing number of Japanese public servants were contributing to the internet encyclopaedia, which anyone can edit, often to reflect their personal views. The ministry verbally reprimanded each of the six officials, and slapped a ministry-wide order to prohibit access to Wikipedia at work, while disabling access to the site from the ministry, Mr Shimomura said. '"
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Japanese Bureaucrats Reprimanded for Wikipedia Editing

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  • Re:Censorship (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZiakII (829432) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:29AM (#20885085)
    Did you miss this part? for Wikipedia. The six officials were publicly chastised for editing hundreds of Wikipedia entries during work hours

    If they had gotten in trouble for doing it not during work hours I could see it being censorship, but they were doing it during work hours.
  • Re:Censorship (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metlin (258108) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:33AM (#20885113) Journal
    No, I was talking about this part -

    The ministry verbally reprimanded each of the six officials, and slapped a ministry-wide order to prohibit access to Wikipedia at work, while disabling access to the site from the ministry...
    Sure, some people were wasting their time doing that stuff, but it is an encyclopedia, for crying out loud. Disabling access to the site from the ministry because a handful few were obsessed about spending time on it during work? Definitely over the top.

    It's like blocking Slashdot because a bunch of people were commenting obsessively. Especially when you consider the fact that it is a bloody encyclopedia, not a porn site (it may amount to the same amount of time-wasted, but still, it would be of consequence to others in the ministry who may genuinely use Wikipedia as a resource).
  • Re:Censorship (Score:2, Interesting)

    by metlin (258108) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:44AM (#20885181) Journal
    Wait - so you are telling me that is there a ministry wide ban on an encyclopedia because all of six people spent their time obsessively editing various article.

    Yeah, sure.

    People are far to quick to cry foul and scream censorship.
    No, people are too quick to give up their rights without thinking back to the reasons. If there was a ministry-wide obsession, fine. But six people and everyone in the ministry (in a democracy, no less) is banned from accessing the website? And people do not think this is a bit extreme at all?

  • Re:Censorship (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nwbvt (768631) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:00AM (#20885279)

    "It's like blocking Slashdot because a bunch of people were commenting obsessively."

    Yeah, a lot of offices do that. Along with other potential time wasting web sites. Its not because of censorship, its because they want their employees doing their job instead of surfing the net. Plus it wastes network resources, which believe it or not are not free. Many employers ban employees from using their network for personal use.

    And yes, surfing the Wikipedia is almost always personal use. It is not a legitimate resource that you would use while writing a proposal you intend to turn in to your boss. Yes it certainly has its uses, but that is not one of them.

  • by QuantumG (50515) <> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:40AM (#20885471) Homepage Journal
    Blah. They're not slaves. If the ministry is not happy with their work output, they can fire them.

    I worked for an employer once that had an IT department which banned things all the time. Including Slashdot. One day I got in trouble for using ssh tunneling through HTTPS so I could have unfiltered Internet. That was the last straw.. I threatened to quit. My employer agreed to have the restrictions removed for my machine's ip address only. I was in such a foul mood by then that I demanded they remove all the restrictions, for everyone, and they refused. Next day I tended my resignation.

    Thankfully, they saw reason, tore up my resignation and removed the web proxy. People in the office who had heard nothing about my annoyance were heard to remark how much faster "the internet" was now.

    About a year after that event I started working remotely for the same company because my partner's work commitments had moved us interstate. I had very rare contact with my coworkers during this time, but occasionally my employer would fly me in for conferences and celebrations. I got told that IT had now banned all workstation-to-workstation communications in the office to stem the use of a scribble-board chat program. Apparently people were using the scribble-board to draw pictures of penises (as is inevitable) and one of the likes-to-think-he-is-upwardly-mobile set was worried this could lead to a sexual harassment issue.

    Something else happened to spark it.. I don't remember what, but the result was that virtually the entire developer staff threatened to quit, then went on strike, as a result of this stupid scribble-board program. Management refused to budge on the issue, but by this point cheap routers and long lengths of cable had been brought from home and a makeshift "dark net" had been setup entirely for the use of this silly drawing/chat program. Some of the guys sent me pictures.

    Eventually, after IT cut off the Internet access, things came to a head and management buckled under the pressure. They got to keep their stupid scribble program and the Internet remained unfiltered. But, to this day, IT support in that office is pitiful. If you want RAM or, god forbid, software installed, you do it yourself. Of course, the geeks don't care.. the people most affected by the poor IT support is the likes-to-think-he-is-upwardly-mobile set.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:01AM (#20886321)
    ***Apparently people were using the scribble-board to draw pictures of penises (as is inevitable) and one of the likes-to-think-he-is-upwardly-mobile set was worried this could lead to a sexual harassment issue.***

    While it sounds like the company overall sucked at the way it was handling these, in this particular instance, that kind of behavior COULD lead to a sexual harassment suit. All it takes is for one person to express that they feel this is unprofessional (which it is) and then management would HAVE to do something else to stop this behavior from happening else said employee could sue the company for a hostile work place and would most certainly win in court because management did nothing to prevent the inappropriate behavior from taking place.

    I know it sounds really lame and pathetic and really, it is, but this is how the courts see it and for a business to protect itself from such things, they almost have to have policies that go beyond state law.

  • Re:Censorship (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:41AM (#20886455)
    Ta bu shi da yu, we all know your interest in Wikipedia, so stop astroturfing.

    Anyway, I have no beef with any workplace that blocks access to Wikipedia - in fact, Wikipedia and gratuitous abuse are probably the only two things I would want avoided. In the latter case, I'd make exception where there is a need to research abuse. Timewasting at any site is also cause for castigation.

    In fact, thinking of this year, this article sums up perfectly the two biggest problems I've had with one particular colleague:
    1. Supplying inaccurate, misleading or biased information on the basis of research that was clearly from Wikipedia and following only Wikipedia's links on a particular subject.
    2. His penchant for what I think is called (though forgive me if I'm not up on the terms) "loli anime", and his desire to constantly make references and occasionally provide me with links.
    My initial experience: The first 10 mistakes I found on Wikipedia in my field - half of which were the result of fundamental "undergraduate" conceptual misunderstandings, rather than simple factual slips - I corrected. That was in a couple of days. The next dozen or so, I put a note in the talk page, having judged that a well researched rewrite would take several evenings. After a week or two, I finally asked myself if my experience was typical. I found occasional critical press articles, but what interested me more were the essays and rants by historians: particularly how they had to battle particular people.

    Wikipedia is wrong and immoral on so many levels. It is not an encyclopedia because its primary criterion for inclusion is verifiability, not truth. It destroys the spirit of the Internet as comprising many autonomous peers. It is a logical consequence of the editing method that an accurate reference is never available: correctness is not proportional to number of supporters or availability of resources to defend one's contributions; what is more, even if a particular non-contentious page "tends toward accuracy" (and some do), this is a theoretical aim, entirely irrelevant to the visitor who only views the page at one moment in time. It is only technically non-profit: it provides its owner(s) with money and control well beyond what would be permitted in a UK charity.

    It used to be that one could say "there is nothing you can find on the Internet that you need to go to Wikipedia to find", though I am greatly saddened that some colleagues who previously contributed to properly managed sites are now spending their time building Wikipedia - though the edit log is useful for revealing to them how their work is being mutilated by those who can't even write a coherent sentence, let alone reference. A 15 year old kid is going to have more time to stand his ground than a 38 year old researcher, so the battle is immediately lost; Wikipedia then becomes argued not in terms of academic quality but in terms of "ideally, it'd work!" or "it gets gradually better!" or, worst of all, "it's popular, so it must be good!" So is Windows.

    When you donate to Wikipedia, you are mostly making Wales richer. You are helping centralise control on the Internet. You are destroying the nature of scholarship: what was once produced by educated individuals with a demonstrable record of competence is now game for all.

    (Others not aware of Wikipedia's rotten-to-the-core problems might want to start at The Wikipedia Review [] - as with any site, beware of bias from both directions: this site does not claim to be an encyclopedia, after all ;-).)
  • Re:Censorship (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @08:04AM (#20886989) Homepage Journal
    I use Wikipedia very often at work - for work related things. I consider it an excellent starting point for a general overview of a topic. I never expect it to be 100% accurate, and realise fully that it can be biased. But if there's a topic I've never even heard of, and want to get an idea of what it is at a fundamental level, Wikipedia provides me the information.

    To use a real world example. I work in the business equipment industry (copiers/printers/scanners/MFPs). The only kinds of scanning I was familiar with were TWAIN and the various "send" methods such as FTP, Email, SMB and so on. Someone asked me a question about ISIS... Right, first step - check Wikipedia and figure out what on earth ISIS is, determine the basics of how it works, and then answer the question. Should further questions have come (they didn't), I would then have a good base of ideas in which direction I should extend my research. Without Wikipedia, yes, I could have just Googled it and found the information I needed, but the level of trust I could put in that information would be no greater or less than my results from Wikipedia.

    (and before any scanner geeks come along and tell me that I should have known about ISIS considering what I do for a living - none of our products handle ISIS and I'd only been in the industry 3 years at the time, so could hardly be expected to know EVERY piece of technology associated with the field, especially when it's not something I've direct contact with)
  • Re:Censorship (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @09:44AM (#20887479)

    The Encyclopedia Britannica has articles on many things that are not true -- Greek mythology, for example.
    You are completely misunderstanding the verifiability policy. In this case, the "truth" is that "people once believed in the Greek gods", not that "there were/are Greek gods".

    "Verifiability" would be noting that sufficient Google hits indicate belief in Greek gods, then writing an article that Greek gods exist. Someone would soon come along and find this nonsense and turn the article into one indicating the phenomenon of belief. This would be fiercely reverted by staunch believers, and five dozen edits later, they would be permitted to insert a small section, "Criticism of Greek god belief". Another 20 edit/reverts will involve insertion and removal of the word "controversial" from the first paragraph of the article.

    Meanwhile, any tome worth referencing for something less trivial than Simpsons episodes would not have these problems, because:
    1. The criteria for inclusion would be "truth" in the sense of "uncovered by the process of scholarship": referencing of reliable materials (i.e. those that have previously passed the same tests), peer review, etc.
    2. Those who haven't demonstrated sufficient competence - as an academic must pass exams, publish papers, etc. - wouldn't be allowed near any edit functionality.

    HTH. Seriously, though, try quoting from Wikipedia in any vaguely academically inclined setting - would would hopefully include high school and in a professional workplace (at University, it goes without saying) - and listen to your supervisor's criticisms. They're not trying to be bloody-minded, they're merely interested in advancing the state of the art in their field - and they know Wikipedia isn't going to help with that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @10:08AM (#20887623)
    When each were informed of the reprimanded did they magically morph into giant robots and go Super Saiyan 5? Super mega kung-fu energy blasts must of been flying all over the place.

    When I was a kid, everyone wanted to test my kung-fu skills because I "looked like Bruce Lee" and all Asian kids knew karate.

    I feel for the kids that now have to deal with these stereotypes!

The last person that quit or was fired will be held responsible for everything that goes wrong -- until the next person quits or is fired.