Sunday, 13 April 2008

Wikipedia and political tactics

Wikis are a great idea and has potential for PR professionals in the planning process of campaigns, especially if team members are working at separate locations. Wikipedia is of course the ‘granddaddy’ of Wikis and a great resource for information, especially when it comes to new technologies.

As my classmate Irene pointed out in her blog post Wikis as battlegrounds: Who wins?, it has its limitations however. In academia Wikipedia is usually said to be a great place to start, but a really lousy place to finish. Since it is user generated content it is not always very accurate, often because the specific writer is limited in his or her knowledge of the specific area. However, sometimes its deliberate inaccurate information put there for strategic reasons, something the candidates in the US primary election has had to experience. Check out this video from CNN:


Breeze said...

Watched the video and was somewhat dismayed to learn that the US presidential candidates' PR people could stoop as low as to tamper with information on Wikipedia.

But again, this is a case of not only what technology can do FOR you but also what it can do TO you. Somebody started the Wiki-tampering so I guess it was a clear case of having to fight fire with fire. Can't say I like it though.

Mattias said...

Most likely it’s strong supporters of the candidates rather than PR professionals working for the respective campaigns who go in and alter facts in Wikipedia. However, if some of those supporters have been encouraged by campaign public relations people to do so, is hard to say.

As I understand it’s quite common practice that supporters get written manuscripts by campaigns to send in to local newspapers as personal opinions. Altering facts online is taking it a lot further though.

It must be recognized however that misleading the public in political campaigns has always been performed by more unscrupulous fractions of the respective parties (especially, in my opinion, as a part of the republican ‘attack machine’). As an example popular conservative radio talk show hosts (such as Rush Limbaugh) are currently always referring to Obama by using his middle name Hussein (because it’s a common Muslim name). This in combination with internet disinformation about Obama has resulted in 15% of the Americans believing he is a muslim according to some polls (see

Politics can be dirty, and PR professionals most likely will face many ethical dilemmas having to deal with it.