Dutch Justice Ministry to Block 30,000 Workers From Using Wikipedia

The Dutch Justice Ministry said Saturday it would temporarily block its 30,000 employees from using Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, at work after a magazine reported that more than 800 entries had been edited from ministry computers.

Though most of the changes that the magazine, Intermediar, said it found were non-objectionable, some involved changing the positions of political parties or the profiles of figures in criminal cases. Many others were obscene.

"We're doing this as a temporary measure while we investigate how much use — and misuse — our people make of Wikipedia, and what we can do about it," said ministry spokesman Ivo Hommes.

He said access to all Wikipedia sites would be blocked while the ministry reviews its policies.

"You'd think it should be OK for someone to update an entry on their favorite football star during lunch, but obviously we don't want people doing things that are tasteless or worse during working hours," he said.

The Intermediar report cited as an example a Justice employee who it said changed the passage on the punishment handed down to a member of the Dutch nobility who was caught speeding.

The original text said "her drivers license was not revoked," while the revised version added "as is typical in such cases."

Anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry anonymously, but Wikipedia records the exact time and IP address — the numerical identifier of each computer on the Internet — when any user alters a page.

Similar flaps over public employees editing Wikipedia from work computers have cropped up in the United States and Japan in recent months.

The Intermediar report found 821 edits in all from Justice Ministry computers, more than any other single ministry. But hundreds of edits came from computers at other ministries and in dozens of Dutch municipalities.