For the third time in less than a month people using Congressional Internet Protocol (IP) addresses have been making disruptive edits to Wikipedia, resulting in the blocking of the House of Representatives from making any further corrections. The popular Internet encyclopedia website blocked the Congress IP addresses because of the nature of the edits which classify as vandalism, according to the Wikipedia’s neutral point of view content policy.
The most recent occurrence involved changes to the page of Orange Is the New Black, which is a highly popular Netflix show. The original entry described the characterization of an actress as “a real transgender woman” which was changed by someone from the House of Representatives to “a real man pretending to be a woman.” The actress in question is Laverne Cox, an American actress and television producer. Cox is famous for her role in Orange Is the New Black and is the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for the highly coveted Emmy award in the acting category.
In an official statement from Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Sarah Kate Ellis, she discussed the struggles of transgender people and showed her concern over the misinformation provided by the United States government representatives and lawmakers to the U.S. citizens about transgender Americans. Ellis commended Cox for her role in the education of millions of people about the transgender society. As a response by Wikipedia users to the Congress edit, Orange Is the New Black was updated yet again, emphasizing that Laverne Cox is the first real African-American transgender woman who plays the role of a transgender character.
With other similar edits made to articles about transgender people in the past month, many users were fed up with the situation. Users made it clear that they would not tolerate transphobia, stating that while editing Wikipedia articles was okay, vandalism was not.
The change blocks members of the congress from editing Wikipedia anonymously, however people still can update the site content by creating an account. Fran Rogers, who is a Wikipedia administrator, suggested that creating an account and making reasonable edits is the only way for the Congress staffers to update the page from now on.
In mid-July, the IP address belonging to Congress was blocked for 24 hours and then again for 10 days later in the same month. Wikipedia users became aware of the offensive changes after the changes were posted through an automatic twitter account, which is updated every time someone using a Congressional IP address edits Wikipedia. In the discussion page about transphobia on Wikipedia, a user using the Congressional IP address commented, stating that all changes were officially endorsed by a member of Congress.
Many transparency advocates have said that while Wikipedia is a wonderful tool for lawmakers to explain the new changes in legislation to their constituents, it is imperative that edits are not made anonymously. The changes to articles made by members of Congress have been seen as highly offensive by many users, especially since some of the United States representatives are trying to push for laws that will achieve equality among all people of all genders and sexual orientations.
By Ivelina Kunina