Brooklyn Activist Builds Twitter Feed to Call Out Undercover NYPD Operation

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Early this morning, Capital New York broke a big story: People working inside New York City Police headquarters have been editing Wikipedia pages about alleged incidents of police brutality, giving them a more cop-friendly tone.

It took expert reporting and original computer programming to unearth. But now, thanks in part to Brooklyn designer and activist John Emerson, there’s a Twitter feed that automatically alerts the world any time it happens again: @NYPDedits. It’s got 139 followers so far, but will surely add many more from community groups, watchdog agencies and journalists.

“You’ve read the Capital story, so my purpose is to continue to shine a light on anonymous edits by the NYPD,” Emerson, who founded design consultancy Backspace, told me in an email.

Anytime an anonymous user edits the open-source online encyclopedia, the site logs the IP address of the user, allowing other users to follow changes and evaluate them for possible bias if they can connect the IP address to a particular entity. It’s detailed work if you don’t know where to start.

Emerson can’t take credit for the original concept — the code to tie the Wikipedia edit logs to a Twitter feed was first written by Silver Spring, Md., resident Ed Summers, who originally wanted to track edits made by congressional staffers, @congressedits. The code is available on Github for anyone to use.

“Ed’s wikipedia monitoring code was pretty simple to install (there was just a pesky bug in the IRC module to patch) and his code is used to monitor several other organizations as well,” Emerson said. “Indeed, it took a few minutes to install and configure.”

Emerson has written a few other Twitter bots, including one that alerts followers any time the New York Times uses an anonymous source.

#GetUrz

(Reporter- New York Business Journal)

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