Colbert Causes Wikipedia to Lock Down Potential VP Pages

By Jilian Fama

Aug 9, 2012 12:55pm
gty stephen colbert jef 120809 wblog Colbert Causes Wikipedia to Lock Down Potential VP Pages

Jude Domski/WireImage/Getty Images

Mitt Romney’s campaign might be asking supporters to download “Mitt’s VP” app to get the first notification of his running mate, but tea leaf readers were turning to Wikipedia for clues.

The thinking was that a flurry of Wikipedia edits indicated a potential running mate’s online persona was being scrubbed.

The popular, user-edited site has locked down the candidates’ pages after comedian Stephen Colbert encouraged viewers to update potential running mate’s Wikipedia sites with jokes and falsities.

Earlier in the week, Tech President’s Micah Sifry introduced the unassuming idea that Wikipedia activity may be an early indicator of who Romney will pick as his running mate. According to him, updates to the Wikipedia pages of previous VP contenders have suggested that the popular site might have a lead.

Get more pure politics at ABC News.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

In the 2008 election, Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia page updated close to 70 times the day before GOP nominee John McCain publically announced her selection, and five days prior to the announcement there were another 54 updates made to the page.

Tim Pawlenty, one of McCain’s leading contenders for the VP pick and coincidentally one of Romney’s, too, had 54 quick updates initially, ultimately trailing Palin with only 12 in the five days prior. Vice President Joe Biden also saw an unusual spike in web activity before Obama’s big announcement back in 2008.

Earlier this week, the Wiki pages of a few of Romney’s VP choices were causing a stir. The pages of Rob Portman and Marco Rubio saw overwhelming activity.

Though Sifry’s finding seemed promising, those impatient for Romey’s VP pick might have to find a new indicator.

On Wednesday, the Tech President reported that Wikipedia put a lock on the pages of leading VP candidates in an attempt to protect them from vandalism. Contenders such as Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Chris Christie have all had their Wiki pages protected by site administrators allowing only registered users to makes edits.

Matthew Roth, a spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation confirmed with ABC News that the page’s of potential picks had in fact been locked or altered. Roth pointed out the wiki page of Tim Pawlenty, for example, who had its protection settings changed after the airing of the show. He explained that the Wikipedia pages log every edit made to that particular page. Tim Pawlenty’s page, for instance, was put on a ‘semi-protected’ level after Colbert aired. Four minutes later, it was bumped up to a fully protected level after random vandalism was detected.

Roth explained that the only people allowed to alter these settings or make edits to a locked page are people who have a registered account with Wikipedia and have made at least ten edits to any Wikipedia page previously.

Whether or not Wikipedia will reopen its pages to allow updates before the big announcement is unknown but for now those anxiously waiting might have to turn their smart phones back on and wait for the push notification.

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