It’s impossible to deny the significance of Wikipedia as a source of information in the technological age. Whenever we search for something, it can be almost guaranteed that the Wikipedia page on this subject will feature on the first page of the search results, if it is not the very first result that appears.
Therefore, for many, Wikipedia is the go-to source for any subject with which one is not acquainted, or of which one only seeks a brief overview. Wikipedia could be described as the first point of contact for any search for new information – particularly regarding current affairs and the corporate journalists who are paid to cover them.
The unique quality of the Wikipedia project is that anyone can edit the information displayed on the website. And, while this presents several advantages, it certainly suffers the risk of being utilised for nefarious purposes. It is therefore not shocking to find that a consistent distortion of information has been ongoing since the very inception of the site.
In particular, a Wikipedia editor’s account under the name of ‘Philip Cross’ has been brought into question recently for its role in manipulating information on the site. Since 2004, ‘Philip Cross’ has made over 133,162 edits on Wikipedia – making changes every single day for the past five years, including every Christmas Day, every bank holiday and every New Year’s Day.
However, the real significance of this frenetic activity – which it is extremely hard to believe could possibly be the work of a single individual – lies in the kind of editing that ‘Cross’ has focused on: namely, a systematic attempt to undermine and discredit independent voices and bolster the credibility of the ‘mainstream’, imperialist narrative regarding foreign relations.
Among the pages most frequently edited by ‘Philip Cross’ are those of figures such as Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, George Galloway, John Pilger, Jeremy Corbyn and Craig Murray – all vocal opponents of western imperialist interests and not least of the zionist occupation of Palestine.
Some of the attempts made via the Cross editorial account to undermine alternative narratives consist of simply removing information that is backed up by sources such as RT, Sputnik News, etc, but others are much more personal in nature.
For instance, Craig Murray has reported that “‘Cross’ has made 275 edits to my Wikipedia page. These include calling my wife a stripper, deleting my photo, removing my reply to attacks made on me by [Times journalist Oliver] Kamm and [Guardian journalist Luke] Harding among others, and deleting my refusal of all honours while a British diplomat.” (The Philip Cross affair, Craig Murray website, 18 May 2018)
Even the CPGB-ML’s own Wikipedia entry has received a visit from the Cross account. Arguably with the intention of undermining our party’s appeal to workers who have been duped by lies about immigration etc, Cross has inserted: “The CPGB-ML is opposed to immigration controls, which it holds are measures to misdirect workers and blame each other for the crisis rather than the bourgeoisie.” This of course is true.
The Cross account has also inserted information about our party’s call for “a defeat of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and a movement of direct action and non-cooperation among British working people in order to exert political influence”.
This is also true, but it is certainly within reason to surmise that these edits constitute an attempt to make the CPGB-ML appear ‘anti-British’ by drawing attention to areas of our party’s policy that, without explanation, are less likely to be appreciated.
The attempt was somewhat misguided in this instance, however, since no-one in our party is at all worried about explaining the basis for our positions on the vital questions of immigration and anti-war work. Quite the contrary: we know that our ability to persuade workers of the correctness of our analysis holds the key to our future growth and success.
By contrast, the Cross account has made positive edits to the pages of many corporate journalists in a clear attempt to boost their credibility.
The list of beneficiaries of these edits includes Oliver Kamm (a Blairite journalist for The Times and outspoken advocate of the imperialist agenda), Katherine Viner (the editor-in-chief of the Guardian who has brought the paper even more openly into the camp of imperialism), David Aaranovitch (another Blairite mouthpiece for British imperialism), Melanie Philips (a Times columnist and outspoken zionist), and so on.
In one example of such face-saving activity, ‘Cross’ attempted to remove an entire section on Melanie Philips’ page that detailed her embarrassing denial of climate change.
The Cross account doesn’t stop at manipulating the pages about anti-corporate-media activists,but goes as far as to edit the pages on such crucial topics as the White Helmets, the alleged chemical attacks in Syria, the alleged poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, and numerous pages regarding the genocidal war of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people – all of which are at the frontline of the present anti-imperialist struggle, and have been a focus of independent media activity that threatens to undermine the imperialist media’s hegemony.
It is evident that the Philip Cross account has a clear agenda. What remains to be revealed is who is running the account. It is highly doubtful that all this work is being carried out by a single individual, given the sheer quantity of its edits. The idea that one person would dedicate every day of their lives for five years (as well as a substantial chunk of the previous 11 years) to editing Wikipedia entries is hardly credible.
Some people have speculated that ‘Philip Cross’ must be the work of a government-backed organisation. According to Craig Murray: “The government has boasted that both the MoD and GCHQ have ‘cyberwar’ ops aiming to defend the ‘official’ narrative against alternative news media, and that is precisely the purpose of the ‘Philip Cross’ operation on Wikipedia.”
This is corroborated by the former GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan calling on the government to “regulate Facebook and other online publishers to counter the threat of fake news”, saying that “the tech giants have been naive about the growing danger of false stories interfering in the democratic process”. (Web giants too slow to combat fake news, says former GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan by Duncan Geddes, The Times, 21 October 2017)
So while it cannot yet be confirmed that the Cross account is under the control of a government agency, the signs certainly point in that direction.
Regardless of the agency behind this manipulation, it is clear that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has no intention of preventing such activity on the site. The self-described “Randian libertarian”, who is husband to a former aide of Tony Blair’s, has tweeted that the Philip Cross affair is a “completely ludicrous” and “idiotic conspiracy”, and has denied that there is anything suspicious about what appears to be a concerted effort to push a false imperialist narrative.
As if this affair couldn’t become more conspiratorial, a Wikipedia user by the name of Mojito Paraiso has been permanently banned from the platform for attempting to make an entry describing Philip Cross.
It would appear that the imperialist media, facing an existential threat at the hands of social media and the decentralised spread of information, has declared war on those who wish to question the dominant narrative.
It is certainly alarming that this affair coincides with the plans made by President Macron of France to initiate a ‘fake news bill’, which “would allow French judges to block the publication of any information deemed to be false ahead of elections. The legislation says that it mainly targets ‘those media controlled by foreign states’, as well as ‘digital platforms’.” (‘Ridiculous and absurd political censorship’: Opposition critics slam Macron’s anti-fake news law, RT, 7 June 2018)
Now more than ever, we must be vigilant in our fight against the imperialist agenda, and uphold those who question the lies that the imperialists use to legitimise their domination and plunder of the earth’s peoples and resources.
It is clear that the imperialists have understood all too clearly what those who presently claim to lead the workers refuse to grasp: that in order to organise working-class resistance that is capable of stopping the imperialist war machine, we must first thoroughly expose the imperialist lie machine.
Our resources may not yet be able to match those of the imperialists, who think nothing of paying for offices of well-paid staff to disseminate their lies, but we have on our side something that is far more powerful: the truth.
And the truth has a way of coming out – especially when determined people make it their mission to bring it to light.