Wikifibs: Encyclopaedia claims came from Bolton at Home office

First published in News

HUNDREDS of people gather in front of the town hall to hear the daily address from Bolton’s Conservative leader, Cllr John Walsh.

And recent guests at the Smithills Hall residence of his Lib Dem counterpart, Cllr Roger Hayes, have included King Harald V of Norway.

They are just some of the claims made on web-based encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

But the entries were made from the offices of social landlord Bolton at Home — along with hundreds of other updates to the website on topics ranging from Kevin Keegan and Jerry Lee Lewis to youth hostelling and Paphos International Airport.

Now Bolton at Home bosses have launched an investigation into computer use at its offices after receiving a Freedom of Information request asking if the company employed someone to update Wikipedia.

William Stanford, who discovered the entries had come from Bolton at Home computers, said: “I was shocked at how many entries there were on unrelated subjects, like football and television — it’s a gross waste of our money.” One addition to the entry for Smithills Hall said it was “the official residence of Cllr Roger Hayes.

Cllr Hayes is well known for holding lavish banquets and garden parties during the summer months”.

Last night Cllr Hayes said: “I find it laughable. I certainly can't afford that style of living, and I'm very happy living in my little cottage.”

“One of the most important people in Bolton is Cllr John Walsh,” says one entry. He “addresses the town each morning and attracts a crowd of several hundred people,” it adds, and “when Cllr Walsh is seen around town wearing his bowler hat, citizens stop and bow as a mark of respect”.

Cllr John Walsh last night said those in public life had to be prepared to laugh at themselves: “It sounds like something straight from the pages of Private Eye and I have no problem with it.”

But he added: “What I do deplore is the use of council computers and work time to update sites like this.”

Mr Stanford was alerted when he noticed a particular IP address — the number assigned to a computer or set of computers in a network — had visited a website he ran selling jewellery more than 200 times in a month.

A Google search revealed it was hosted by Bolton At Home’s server.

The same Google search brought up the Wikipedia “user contributions”

page for the IP address. Hundreds of edits had been made during office hours, causing Mr Stanford to question whether Bolton A t H o m e a c t u a l l y employed someone to edit Wikipedia.

Mr Stanford’s Freedom of Information request was returned to him at the beginning at the month, saying no such post existed.

A spokesperson for Bolton At Home said: “We’re aware of the activity on Wikipedia and the matter is being investigated by Bolton at Home and Bolton Council so we can ascertain the source of these edits and take the appropriate action.

“In the meantime we’re reminding our staff of acceptable internet use.”

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