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Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) Blog, Internet, Technology

» Lech Wałęsa on Wikipedia

There is a page on Polish Wikipedia called Report an error in article, which helps people not acquainted with the technical aspects of editing wiki pages to let us know about some mistakes. The reports are usually justified and the articles are fixed accordingly. Nevertheless, from time to time, one can find some groundless requests or spam. For that reason, when I saw the report today signed by a person calling himself “Lech Wałęsa” (former Solidarity movement leader and a president of Poland) I thought it was yet another joke. A small investigation shows however, that it might in fact be a genuine request.

Here's my rough translation of the “error” report (I tried to replicate original spelling and grammar mistakes in Polish, emphasis mine):

Lech Wałęsa Information about me here is untrue these are all insolent lies and slanders .All positives omitted .The court should take care of that .The history will corect you, insolent liars .L Wałęsa

Sender: Lech Wałęsa, 23:48, 11 Jul 2007 (CEST)

The report came from IP number, which belongs to the subnets of Grenada and Barbados – island nations on Caribbean Sea.

Cable & Wireless (Grenada) Limited CWBAR-GND5 (NET-216-110-118-0-1) 
Cable & Wireless (Barbados) Limited BDS-NET4 (NET-216-110-96-0-1) 

# ARIN WHOIS database, last updated 2007-07-11 19:10
# Enter ? for additional hints on searching ARIN's WHOIS database.

My first suspicion was: how on Earth could Lech Wałęsa use some Caribbean IP? It must be an anonymous proxy, used by some prankster from Poland. However, a short search proved, that the truth could be completely different. First, the IP has not been registered in anonymous proxy databases so far. Second – it happens, that Wałęsa was indeed in that region while promoting the candidate city of Wrocław to organize Expo 2012 exhibition. Broad Street Journal Online wrote in July 9th article „Nobel Peace Prize Winner Lech Walesa visits Barbados”:

During his visit, Lech Walesa hopes to meet in person with Prime Minister Owen Arthur and plans to visit other countries in the region, including Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis.

As you can see, it was quite likely, that the former president himself, after meetings with local politicians used his spare time to surf the Polish Wikipedia article about himself instead of surfing the beautiful sea. Typical spelling and grammar mistakes are quite characteristic of L. Wałęsa, a person with basic education only. It's too bad he didn't point out any specific examples of mistakes in lack of neutrality, using just demagogic statements that we're “insolent liars” and that the “history will correct us”. Maybe our former president wants to correct the history himself and that's why some parts of the article should be deleted? Maybe the encyclopedia entry should be a kind of monument dedicated to him with not a single critical statement about, frankly speaking, one of the most well-known Poles?

The answer to such an error report was typical. Wikipedian Cień answered:

Please provide specific examples of lies or omissions and sources to verify the information. According to the democratic idea of Wikipedia, you are also invited to editing the encyclopedia and discussion based on facts. Cień 01:12, 12 Jul 2007 (CEST)

Unfortunately, I doubt the report author will ever read that answer, and even if he does – will the message be appropriately understood? It seems that Polish politicians are already discovering the power of Internet, like their U.S. counterparts, where they've been many times caught editing inconvenient text on English Wikipedia.

2007/08/06 22:05 | computers/wikipedia/

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