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UK politician accused of unauthorised Wikipedia edits

LONDON: The run-up to Britain’s general election took an unexpected turn this week as the chairman of the Conservative Party was forced to deny allegations that he had made unauthorised edits on Wikipedia.

The British charity Wikimedia said on Wednesday it had blocked a user, “Contribsx”, following complaints by the site’s editors that it was a “sockpuppet” — a term used to describe a false online identity.

The case was opened by a Wikipedia volunteer and alleged that the account was linked to another account “Hackneymarsh” belonging to the politician, Grant Shapps, a former marketing businessman.

Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, defended Shapps following the initial report about the Wikipedia case in the Guardian, saying that he was doing a “great job”.

Shapps denied any involvement in making the changes, which removed unfavourable items from his biography and inserted entries against other politicians.

“This is one of the most bonkers stories I think I have seen during this election campaign. Absolutely, totally without foundation,” he told the BBC.

“It is untrue from start to finish, and was quite likely dreamt up by the Labour press office. Sadly, it is typical of the smears coming from those who would rather not debate policy and substance,” he added.

Shapps previously used a false name, Michael Green, after first being elected to parliament in 2005 to put out sales pitches offering to make investors “stinking, filthy rich”, British media reported.

The Liberal Democrats issued a tongue-in-cheek press release “edited by Wikipedia contributor Contribsx”.

It quoted campaign co-ordinator Paddy Ashdown saying: “Grant is a wonderful guy — he is a credit to the Conservative Party, a fine sportsman and reads a book a day. We could all learn a lot from him.” -AFP

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