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Kamala Harris as Vice President was Predicted by… Wikipedia?

Sunday, 2019-01-27. Kamala Harris held her campaign launch rally for the 2020 presidential election in Downtown Oakland at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Estimated over 20,000 people came out to see the event. Queues to enter the plaza snaked around multiple blocks.

In a three-week period leading up to the VP announcement, Harris’s page was edited over 400 times, magnitudes more than her rivals.

Yesterday, the Joe Biden campaign announced Senator Kamala Harris as the Democratic ticket’s Vice President after a long vetting process.

Harris was often tipped as one of about five frontrunners for the nomination after Biden said he would pick a woman as his VP.

Her nomination was never certain, and in the days prior to the announcement some cast doubt on her chances after former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod tweeted concern about the amount of “oppo research” being dumped. Harris fans were also worried about the recently announced DNC speaker schedule which included separate slots for Harris and the then-unnamed vice presidential candidate.

But in the end, those wishing to anticipate the winner of the so-called “Veepstakes” would have been best monitoring the Wikipedia pages of the names floated as Biden’s VP.

About two months ago, a Reddit user ran a script that monitored how many edits were being made on various VP hopefuls Wikipedia pages, and surprise, surprise Harris outstripped the field with over 400 edits in a 3-week span, with the next highest only at 66.

Notably, Wikipedia’s founder and top executives have close ties to the national security state, as the Grayzone reported earlier this year.

Precedence

The idea to evaluate Wikipedia edits did not appear out of thin air, an Atlantic in 2016 found that Tim Kaine had a magnitude more Wikipedia edits than other VP hopefuls. Just four days after the publication of the article, the Clinton campaign selected Senator Tim Kaine as the ticket’s Vice President.

Ahead of John McCain nominating Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, Palin’s Wikipedia page also saw a large amount edits including about her approval ratings. The editors of Palin’s page were also found to be simultaneously making edits to John McCain’s page.

Attempting to stealthily edit a Wikipedia page is not a new phenomenon for political candidates, in fact on a Wikipedia page titled “United States Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia” both Joe Biden and Vice President Pence have attempted to edit their Wikipedia page while they were in Congress.

In the case of Kamala Harris, it appears one user made the lion’s share of the edits, and online sleuths tied the account back to a Volunteer Organizing Leader of Kamala Harris’s campaign. The account also made extensive edits on Joe Biden’s Wikipedia page. The account has been deleted from Wikipedia.

Controlling the Narrative

Political campaigns regularly attempt to edit out or reword unflattering incidences for the candidates, often operating at the margins. In 2006, Joe Biden’s office edited out unflattering characterizations of alleged plagiarism ahead of a potential presidential run in 2008.

Pssst, while you're here...

Mike Pence’s congressional staff also edited several small and large features on his page, mainly pulling from the campaign’s official website as a source.

Some of the most interesting edits of Harris’s page were discovered by Intercept reporting in early July.

Her controversial decision not to prosecute now-Treasury Secretary’s investment group for fraud was deleted by a Wikipedia editor. A different version of the information can once again be found on Harris’s page.

The largest editor during this time frame, the one traced back to the Harris campaign, was removed from editing the Senator’s page after it was determined that the user was mainly citing campaign literature and press releases.

One Wikipedia editor said, “that is not how we write encyclopedic articles.”

The account tied to Harris’s campaign also made several interesting edits to the “Bernie Bro” Wikipedia entry.

Now that Harris is the Democratic VP nominee, her page is seeing a flurry of edits, including a prolonged debate as whether “African-American” is an accurate description of her heritage considering her family is of Afro-Jamaican descent.

As the Grayzone reported earlier this year, Wikipedia’s executives have close ties to the national security state.

In an age of online politics, Wikipedia has become a battleground.

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Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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