News / USA

US Congressional Staffs Urged to Update Wikipedia Pages

FILE - Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Diaa Bekheet/VOA)
FILE - Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Diaa Bekheet/VOA)

A libertarian public policy organization based in Washington was on Capitol Hill Monday, urging U.S. House and Senate staff members to more effectively utilize the popular Internet site Wikipedia to inform the public about key legislation in Congress.

The CATO Institute said that during a recent 90-day period, almost 400,000 people clicked on Wikipedia to find out about "important" legislation.

Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia to which nearly anyone can gain access and edit information. The non-profit group that runs Wikipedia says it is the sixth most popular website in the world, with nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.

The CATO Institute told lawmakers Monday that the site should be a tool utilized by members of Congress and their staffs.

Some congressional staffers said their bosses are hesitant to allow them to post relevant information on Wikipedia. Many lawmakers prefer other sites like Facebook or Twitter to communicate with the public.

The CATO Institute advocates less government and increased transparency. It asserts that Wikipedia entries offer a far more effective way of communicating with the average constituent than either the traditional media or press releases published on a member of Congress' own web page.

According to a CATO senior fellow, Jim Harper, "Americans in huge numbers are looking for information about what Congress is doing. And the best source of information about what is happening in Congress is the staffers who are writing the bills. We think getting those staffers to participate in Wikipedia will vastly increase the information that is available to the public."

In the early days of Wikipedia, there was controversy about members of Congress or their staffs editing the personal pages that describe politicians and their histories to make them look better. CATO said such criticism could be muted if staff members would think in terms of writing a news report and linking to their sources.

"So a custom grew up that there should not be Wikipedia editing by congressional staff. That unfortunately has prevented good information from getting on Wikipedia and getting out to the public, Harper said. "So we are working to try and change the old consensus that congressional staff should not edit Wikipedia."

The Institute says it is updating and creating pages about legislation that goes to the floor for a vote, and that it has its own staff working on Wikipedia entries.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Waldo Lydecker
August 19, 2014 1:55 PM
Ironically, a mere two hours before the Cato Institute's noontime presentation at the Rayburn House Office Building, the Congressional staffer who'd returned earlier that day after having been blocked from Wikipedia for 10 days due to "persistent disruptive editing," posted anew. First he attempted to spread hate speech via the online encyclopedia's article on Transphobia. Thanks to a vigilant editor, he failed. Then the House's wannabe "Jester" took to that article's Talk page to claim that he was "editing Wikipedia to promote official business that has been explicitly authorized by the Representative" for whom he works. One of the themes of Cato's panel was the distrust shown by experienced Wikipedians towards edits by Congressional staffers. Judging from this latest incident, that distrust is well deserved.

by: Steve Foerster from: Alexandria, Virginia, USA
August 19, 2014 9:55 AM
The irony with those from Cato suggesting this is that the people who run Wikipedia recently had to block updates from computers on Capitol Hill because too many Congressional staffers were posting biased updates to Wikipedia articles about their bosses.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs