After Roger Brookings broke the story last Saturday, the NZ Herald has confirmed that Judith Collins’ press secretary, Rachael Bowie, had removed several paragraphs relating to the Minister’s handling of David Bain’s compensation case from her Wikipedia page, which her office felt were defamatory.
It seems there is no accounting for the IQ of those working within the halls of power, with Bowie choosing the name “Jc press sec” to make the edits and then trying to hide the fact by later changing her user name to “Polkad0t”.
Twenty-two edits were made under the new user name in an attempt to whitewash her Wikipedia history. In one deleted entry Bowie even seems to lament that she didn’t use a different user name in the first place, so as to surreptitiously edit Judith Collins’ Wikipedia page without people realising she was associated with the Minister.
“I reiterate that I am not editing on behalf of anyone else.” Judith Collins’ press secretary had claimed on the Wikipedia discussion page, which is a complete lie. Collins has now confirmed that her office created the account and therefore the edits were clearly being made in an official capacity.
It seems highly inappropriate for an employee of a Minister of the Crown to edit material on Wikipedia concerning that Minister and then for that employee to try and hide the fact. There’s a huge conflict of interest here, which is strictly prohibited against under Wikipedia’s terms and conditions:
Paid advocacy is receiving financial compensation from a person or organization to use Wikipedia to promote the interests of that person or organization. Advocacy of any sort within articles is prohibited by our policies on neutral point of view and what Wikipedia is not, and paid advocacy is considered to be an especially egregious form of advocacy. Paid advocates are very strongly discouraged from direct article editing, and should instead propose changes on the talk page of the article in question.
Ignoring the rules and doing what they like seems to be par for the course for most National Ministers and in this case Judith Collins has completely ignored Wikipedia’s terms and conditions, which exist for good reason. The attempts of her press secretary to sanitize the online encyclopedia is ample evidence that the so-called Minister of Justice cannot handle criticism and won’t allow freedom of speech, even when it takes the form of appropriately referenced factual information on Wikipedia.
In many respects this instance of Judith Collins trying to rewrite history is similar to her refusal to accept the findings within Justice Binnie’s report (PDF), which recommended that David Bain receive compensation. It also found that state authorities and in particular the Dunedin CIB, were seriously complicit in the miscarriage of justice, which is an injustice that’s unlikely to be atoned for under Judith Collins’ administration.