Ukip politician David Coburn has been indefinitely banned from Wikipedia after attempting to alter an article about himself 69 times in six days.
The ‘David Coburn MEP’ user account was blocked by an administrator at the online encyclopedia last month after repeatedly trying to make edits to the website’s article on Coburn, who has a reputation for making controversial comments.
Coburn, the Ukip MEP for Scotland, told the Guardian he had directed one of his staff to make the changes in order to clear the page of “garbage” and “nonsense”.
“David Coburn MEP” began altering the page on 1 April this year, removing a passage stating that Coburn had allegedly muddled the name of SNP candidate Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh repeatedly during the 2014 European parliament campaign.
Sheikh had accused Coburn of calling her “Pashmina, Jasmine and Tamzin before eventually settling on a combination of ‘love’, ‘dear’ and ‘honey’,” and that she had found the remarks to be sexist and possibly racist. At the time, Ukip’s Scottish chairman denied Coburn had repeatedly mispronounced Sheikh’s name, saying he had only mispronounced it once. Coburn told the Guardian that Sheikh’s allegation was “nonsense”.
Three minutes after Coburn removed the passage it was reinserted by another user. One minute later, Coburn removed it again.
These were the first of dozens of changes over the following six days encompassing a number of factual disputes, including whether Coburn lived in Edinburgh or London, whether he attended the High School of Glasgow or a high school in Glasgow, and whether he had said ever stated he would “work closely with the so-called London elite” (Coburn says he did not). He also repeatedly tried to add a statement that there was “no material difference” between civil partnerships and gay marriage to his article.
The MEP’s edits were interpreted by other users as breaching one of the site’s rules on conflicts of interest, defined as when users alter articles to make them more favourable to themselves.
Wikipedia also prohibits users from engaging in “edit wars”, in which different users repeatedly delete each other’s contributions. During one particularly intense dispute, Coburn was accused by another user of getting into an edit war with himself and repeatedly deleting his own changes.
Coburn left a number of notes on the website complaining that other users were disregarding his own account of his life.
“I am David Coburn MEP – I am aware of where I live – I live in Edinburgh – I am also aware of where I went to school & which University I attended – there are several people changing the facts and they need to stop,” he wrote.
He later added: “Apparently I dont know where I live nor which school I attended or the University I attended – is there anything else you would like to update me on?” and suggested he would complain to Wikipedia about people editing his article maliciously.
The account was first blocked for a limit of 31 hours (“after many, many warnings” according to one administrator) but later blocked indefinitely.
When contacted by the Guardian, Coburn said he had started editing the page after spotting mistakes on it, but that he had stopped after getting bored.
“I hear it gets changed all the time. Personally I don’t give a damn what people write about me. People write the most colourful things about me and I’ve got the hide of a rhino and I don’t really give a damn,” he said.
“I’m sure its all wee cybernats who’ve got nothing better to do with their time and they should actually be out getting a job.”
Asked if he had followed through on his threat to complain, Coburn replied: “Did we complain in the end? Did I bother? I can’t remember. I don’t think we could be bothered. I think I’ve got too much on my plate. It’s one of those things I meant to do and never bothered.”
Asked about specific changes, he said that it was a month ago and he did not remember the details of what was changed.
“It was done by one of my people. I don’t know how to press the buttons to make it work. I was telling them what to do. If there was garbage on there I told them to take it off,” he said.
This article was written by David Pegg and Helena Bengtsson, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th April 2015 14.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010