Commission staff (mis)use wikipedia as often as the rest of us shocker

It’s been an exciting day. We cut our weekly staff meeting short. We gathered around our computers shortly after midday to watch the press conference that saw the announcement of the proposed make up of the new Commission. Some we knew, some we didn’t. From our MD to our intern, we love this kind of stuff. We duly dashed off notes to clients. Climate Action Commissioner and DG  confirmed. French get Internal Market. Transport to Kallas. Obscure DG ENVI unit transfered to DG SANCO etc.

However, the communication emanating from our office that probably caused the activity today was our tweet on the official biography of the new Irish Commissioner – Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. We tweeted on it as it shocked us to read that the new Irish Commissioner had chosen to set the facts straight about her relationship with another Irish politician, Charles Haughey, in the bio that accompanied her announcement as the Commissioner-designate for Research.

In the office we couldn’t believe it. Why on earth would you want to repeat such an accusation, even if untrue, in your official bio? Did Brussels really care? Would the Irish press really focus on this? We discussed what we believed the strategy behind this bold move could possibly be. Surely they couldn’t believe that a premptive strike on an old story that no-one in Brussels had read anyway was the right way to go? Did the Commission-designate care so much as to insist that this statement was inserted in the bio?

Well, no. The answer would appear to be the bio was in part a cut and paste job from her wikipedia entry, rather than an original piece of work. (Thanks to @ako9000 for the detective work). If you’re looking for the bio, it was here. This evening it’s not online due to technical errors…

It goes to show a few things. Firstly, if you’re writing a biography of a Commissioner-designate you probably don’t want to lift it from wikipedia. Especially if wikipedia repeats salicious and untrue details about your new Commissioner’s private life. Wikipedia may be a good starting point for research, but it aint necessarily the truth. Secondly, you can seek to insert balance into a wikipedia article, but balance is not necessarily a good thing. The fact that wikipedia says an accusation was made but it’s untrue does stop the accusation from being repeated. Finally, twitter can be a powerful tool to spread news – however pointless – quickly. Within seconds of our tweet, our own followers had retweeted and theirs had retweeted again. 174 followers had clicked on our tinyurl within an hour of our tweet according to



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Michael Stanton-Geddes
December 01, 2009 | 4:09 AM

It just proves that we're all lazy. By the way, I know that I can always rely on you, James, to celebrate stale Brussels sex scandals.

Jon Worth
November 30, 2009 | 12:20 AM

Most of the pictures were copied from Google Image Search as well, and some were not copyright checked... If you want the original PDF of the document it's <a href="" rel="nofollow">here</a>.

Julien Frisch
November 28, 2009 | 2:05 AM

Amazing story...! (I was one of those clicking on your tweet and one those retweeting. :-) )