Know what happens when the honor code of the Internet is broken? Apparently nothing.
When WikiScanner, a program that allows users to track the source of computers used to make changes to the online encyclopedia, revealed that people using computers at the CIA and FBI edited entries in Wikipedia, it caused quite a stir -- covered in brief
by Angela Natividad. WikiScanner
found that while CIA computers were editing entries on the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the FBI was busy removing aerial and satellite images of the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But beyond violating Wikipedia's recommended guidelines, there have been no direct consequences for the parties involved. Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) policy states that "an incompatibility between the purpose of Wikipedia to produce a neutral, verifiable encyclopedia, and the purposes of an individual editor [...] involves contributing to Wikipedia in order to promote yourself or the interests of other individuals, companies, or groups."
Wikipedia strongly discourages COI edits, but admits that next to a blocked account and possible "embarrassment for the individuals" the only real punishment that results is that misleading entries can be quickly revised by another editor.
That'll show the Feds!
Seriously, what are the implications for promoting yourself within open source media? Why shouldn't government agencies try to push their agenda? Why shouldn't someone be able to make their Wikipedia entry more appealing than another's, even if it means bending the truth a little?
In a way, open source technology is like being able to perform your own cosmetic surgery. However, what starts out innocently enough with just a whitening of the teeth, for example, can soon escalate into major changes: Brad Pitt's nose and Angelina Jolie's lips. A few more operations and you don't even recognize the original article.
Moderation people, moderation.
But since Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia and encyclopedias are in the business of maintaining a "neutral, verifiable" account of events, perhaps there's something to this conflict of interest policy. Wikipedia was never intended to be a venue for propaganda. And to use open platforms as a means to propagate a personal or organizational agenda does nothing but degrade the resource for everyone else.
The point of a wiki is to let people collaborate and contribute. The best history is that left to the masses to dissect and discuss, not dictated or mandated by the powers that be.