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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Did Eric Garner have his “face” shoved to the ground, or his “head”? Which sounds better?

These are the kind of details that the NYPD has been quietly amending in a series of Wikipedia pages focusing on police brutality and overreach, according to a detailed report by Capital New York.

The Wikipedia article on the “Death of Eric Garner” was subject to several instances of narrative adjustment, as reported by Capital:

  • “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”
  • “[P]ush Garner’s face into the sidewalk” was changed to “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.”
  • “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
  • The sentence, “Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them,” was added to the description of the incident.
  • Instances of the word “chokehold” were replaced twice, once to “chokehold or headlock,” and once to “respiratory distress.”

Wikipedia pages are constantly in flux, the product of endless revision and re-revision by myriad volunteers, and all changes are recorded in a page’s edit history. If an anonymous user makes changes to any entry, the edits will be logged and tagged with the user’s IP address. Capital identified no fewer than 85 unique addresses making changes, which were registered to NYPD computers.

Among the other articles the NYPD made revisions to were entries on the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints against the Department; the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy; and the 2006 incident in which Sean Bell was shot 50 times by police while unarmed.

According to the site’s policies, all edits must be made from a neutral vantage point, based on reliably sourced information. The article on Garner’s death has since been placed under semi-protected status, meaning unregistered users cannot make changes, a standard response when a page has been subject to a “significant amount of disruption or vandalism from new or unregistered users.”

The NYPD is not the first institution to meddle with the world’s most relied-upon reference site. In 2007, computers belonging to the FBI and CIA were caught tweaking articles about the Iraq War and Guantánamo Bay.

Capital has a more comprehensive list of the revisions here.

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5 Responses to NYPD Caught Airbrushing Wikipedia Article About Eric Garner


    I long for the days when cop shows like Hawaii Five-O (the original) chased bad guys. It was clear who was good and who was bad. Those were simpler times. Not so much now. The story referenced below is about the NYPD altering Wikipedia articles to put them in a better light. That the police should have to do ANYTHING except their jobs to be seen in a “good” light is but one example of how times have changed.

    Here are two of my favorites from the list above in the article:

    “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”

    “[P]ush Garner’s face into the sidewalk” was changed to “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.”

    Such is the age we live in. Don’t like what has been written about you or your actions? Change it. Spin it. Hell just say it never happened. That becomes difficult when you have an inconvenient body that you just have to deal with…but barring that….you can determine how history is recorded….at least that is what some in power think.

    But most people just aren’t that stupid. That is why we have juries of our peers. Given the facts, just plain old normal people can see the truth. AND…as any lawyer will tell you…juries don’t like witnesses they feel are deceptive. People have a unique ability to see through bull shit…..we have a built in BS meter…..well most of us. The watchers of FOX news seemed to have turned their meters off..or choose to ignore the alarms, flashing lights and sirens that go off constantly while watching their “news” show.

    And how bad do you look when you get caught, as the NYPD did, trying to make their actions look “better”. You look guilty as hell is what you look. If you are innocent you should not have to spin the facts. I feel sorry for our children. They are growing up in a world where no one and nothing can be trusted. Kind of sad, don’t you think?

    • Well I know what its like to be fat, because I am fat as a house. However, our fascist bigot boys in blue shouldn’t have killed him because he was black. With this and Ferguson, no wonder there is so much civil unrest. Rev Sharpton needs to take care of this one.

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