The Twitter account @congress-edits is an interesting entity. It's all based on a complicated computer algorithm that, by knowing the individual internet addresses at the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, sends out a tweet whenever anybody there edits an article on the worldwide encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Pretty cool, right? While we may not know much of what Congress is doing half the time, we can at least see how our representatives and their staffers are spending their time online. Hopefully they're actually doing work and not just fooling around or changing the Wikipedia pages of their favorite baseball team.
Well, color us surprised when last week, we were alerted to this tweet from the page:
City Pages Wikipedia article edited anonymously from US House of Representatives http://t.co/5N1IsOom4J— congress-edits (@congressedits) October 28, 2014
For some mystery reason, someone from the House of Representatives was changing our Wikipedia page. How exciting!
You can see their change here. It was only a small tweak -- changing the circulation of our paper down from 117,254 to the (unfortunately more accurate) current number of 50,000.
We found it fascinating. Why would somebody from the U.S. House of Representatives care at all about the tiny details of our little paper in the Midwest?
Well, the answer likely has to do with last week's cover story, about U.S. Rep. John Kline's love of for-profit colleges and the loads of campaign dollars that comes with it. Someone in the House made the change to our Wikipedia page only about 12 hours before the story landed.
Coincidence? We think not. The story doesn't exactly paint the congressman in the best of lights, and we imagine someone over at the House of Representatives was trying to take our newspaper down a few pegs to lessen the impact of our story (though if you haven't read it yet, here's the link).
Unfortunately, there's no way for us to identify exactly where the edit came from inside the House. But there is good news: Wikipedia allows us to see exactly what pages this particular editor liked changing. It turns out to be a mix of Republican members of the House, baseball statistics, and one weird change to a porn star's page back in 2011.
It's tough to reach any conclusions from that. It sounds like it's likely a GOP staffer, but obviously we can't be sure. It's interesting, and a little embarrassing, nonetheless. Maybe next time, they might be better off taking their laptop to a nearby coffee shop to make those changes instead.