Three Government departments were in deep trouble yesterday after their staff were discovered to have amended the Wikipedia entry for the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster. Factual statements had been amended by the insertion of derogatory and facetious comments. And the culprits may have thought that they had got away with it, being on the Government Secure Intranet (GSI).
Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield
But, as the Liverpool Echo has told, “The web of computers is tracked online by a handful of IP addresses, the details of which were released by Wallasey MP Angela Eagle following a parliamentary question in 2008, when she was a Treasury minister. Analysis of Wikipedia’s revision history revealed the same unique ID codes were used to amend the Hillsborough and Anfield pages with a series of sick jokes”.
So we now know that “Of the 34 government IP addresses known to the public, at least two were used over a three-year period to insert the phrases ‘Blame Liverpool fans’ and ‘You’ll never walk again’” and that “A further amendment from a government machine includes changes to the phrase ‘This is Anfield’, which appears above the players’ tunnel at the club's ground, to ‘This is a S***hole’”.
And we also know the identity of the departments involved: “The entries were posted from IP addresses used by computers based in government departments including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Her Majesty's Treasury and the Office of the Solicitor General”. Some Civil Servants are going to be in very hot water, and very soon. Because the matter will not rest at mere complaint.
The Cabinet Office is on the case, with a spokeswoman telling “We thank the Liverpool ECHO for bringing this to our attention. This is a matter that we will treat with the utmost seriousness and are making urgent inquiries. No one should be in any doubt of the government’s position regarding the Hillsborough disaster and its support for the families of the 96 victims and all those affected by the tragedy”.
That, together with the hunt for whoever has been leaking confidential information from the DfE to Andrew Gilligan, will keep them busy. But what the boneheads who made the Wikipedia amendments should have borne in mind – but were probably too stupid to do so – is that FoI means that, even within the Government’s Intranet, the outside world can identify the source of those amendments.
And what will force this investigation to find the culprits is that it is now universally accepted – yes, even in Westminster – that routine abuse aimed at the Hillsborough families and supporters is totally out of order. Routinely demonising folks for such non-crimes as Originating from Merseyside with Malice Aforethought is no longer acceptable, even over at the Spectator.
Someone in Whitehall is for the high jump. And they deserve whatever’s coming.