Sarah Palin fans try to rewrite history on Wikipedia

Former governor's supporters battle with Wikipedia editors over Paul Revere page

A battle is in full swing on Wikipedia over Sarah Palin and her take on Paul Revere's historical ride.

Late last week, the former Alaskan governor was visiting Boston when she now famously talked about Paul Revere's midnight ride. Instead of mentioning "one if by land or two if by sea" or Revere's ride to warn the colonists that the British were coming, Palin instead said that Revere rode to warn off the British.

Later, Palin made an appearance on Fox News to back up her claim, defiantly saying she was not wrong about Revere.

Now, some of her supporters want to rewrite history to make it reflect Palin's unique version of events. And they have been trying for days to get their changes onto the Paul Revere page on Wikipedia.

Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, told Computerworld that people have tried to add what has been considered erroneous information to the Paul Revere page about 15 times in the past 24 to 48 hours. All of those changes have been taken out.

"There's a likelihood that they want [the page] to match up with statements that Sarah Palin made," added Walsh. "That's pretty uncommon, in terms of coming to Wikipedia and attempting to change history. The reality is that Wikipedia isn't a place for original research. It needs to be a proven piece of information before it can be added in Wikipedia."

He added that it's rare for people to try to change a Wikipedia page to make it align with something a public figure has said and may be catching heat for.

"It's pretty unlike it will work and it's not particularly common," said Walsh. "It's a difficult medium to go in and say this is the truth when you have so many people watching the page making sure there's no vandalism to it."

In one instance, someone added this to the page:

"Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him ('The British are coming!'), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with british army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British as they were all legally British subjects."

Editors removed it, citing a lack of historical sources.

And the written exchanges between the people trying to revise the Paul Revere page and the people editing it have gotten rather heated. "This must be removed as it is a LIE designed to mislead," wrote one editor in regards to a section that had been added contending that Paul Revere had rung bells to scare the British off.

Other editors took exception with people who wanted Palin and her remarks added to the Revere page as fact, noting that her remarks have no place in a historical context.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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