As Johann Hari found out to his cost, you can game Wikipedia for a long time, but in the end, if you violate their editorial process, they are remorselessly thorough in tracking you down.
Wikipedia allows almost anyone to edit pages about almost anything. But, to avoid conflicts of interest, you may not amend your own information, with the exception of very basic biographical detail (for example, if Wikipedia has your date of birth wrong).
In 2012, Wikipedia discovered that four usernames – 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, Historyset and one that’s surfaced again recently, Hackneymarsh – had been linked to “computers in the constituency office of the Tory chairman”.
These four usernames had edited Wikipedia to amend certain references to Grant Shapps and his online alter egos Michael Green MP and Sebastian Fox:
references were deleted about his role in a 2007 byelection in west London where he impersonated Liberal Democrats online in an attempt to discredit his rivals – but forgot that he had logged on as himself.
The campaign was notable as Shapps was then a vice-chair of the Tory party responsible for campaigning. The Tory candidate came third when many felt he was favourite to win. However, the episode was airbrushed away on the online encyclopaedia.
In another series of changes after the 2010 election, Shapps’s entry removed references to the company HowToCorp, which the Guardian has exposed for breaching Google’s code of conduct, and to his online pseudonym Michael Green – with a comment posted that this mention of his “alter ego” was linked to a diary item that was an “unreliable source”.
Gone too were links to sites which revealed the Welwyn Hatfield MP paid back £3.79 during the expenses scandal, replaced by glowing references to a Daily Telegraph piece describing him as an “expenses saint”.
The revelations come after it emerged that Shapps had changed his entry in the online encyclopedia to correct the number of O-levels he obtained. He had also inserted testimony to his “influential” work on homelessness.