Court Probes Wikipedia Edits

The Federal Court is investigating the use of an internal computer to edit Blacklock’s Wikipedia page, says a chief administrator. An unidentified Court staffer made the entry the same day a federal judge ordered Blacklock’s to pay $65,000 in costs in a copyright lawsuit against the Department of Finance.

“Please rest assured that we are actively investigating this matter,” wrote Daniel Gosselin, chief of the Courts Administration Service. “CAS takes the impartiality of the Courts very seriously.”

An unnamed person used a Courts Administration Service computer to edit the Wikipedia page on December 21 at 7:34 pm, Gosselin said. The entry came hours after the Department of Justice leaked the unpublished $65,000 cost award to a blogger and a Globe & Mail columnist.

“Please note the Courts Administration Service has not authorized any of its employees to edit the Blacklock’s Reporter Wikipedia page,” wrote Gosselin; “This is an internal matter and, accordingly, will be dealt with internally.”

Andrew Baumberg, counsel for the Federal Court, earlier confirmed the administration’s computer firewall does not block staff from editing plaintiffs’ Wikipedia pages. Baumberg said the single IP address used to post comments on Blacklock’s could have been accessed by any one of 620 employees and members of four Federal Courts.

“I had nothing to do with the edits to the Wikipedia page nor do I know who is responsible,” said Baumberg, who acts as the Court’s communications officer.

Justice Robert Barnes that same day issued the cost award after Blacklock’s unsuccessfully sued the finance department for knowingly copying paywalled stories without payment or permission. Finance staff in 2013 distributed emails containing cut-and-paste stories on sugar tariffs. The unauthorized distribution was lawful under the Copyright Act, Justice Barnes ruled.

The Attorney General’s department acknowledged that, on receiving the unpublished decision in a courthouse email at 1:33 pm that day, staff forwarded it to Globe & Mail columnist James Bradshaw and an Ottawa blogger, Howard Knopf.

The Globe did not write the story. The blogger published a 3:51 pm commentary illustrated with a cartoon of a brick of coal with a Santa hat.

Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould in a 2015 Ministerial Mandate letter committed to “openness and transparency”, and pledged to “avoid escalating conflicts unnecessarily”.

“It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them,” said the Mandate letter. “Canadians do not expect us to be perfect; they expect us to be honest, open and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.”

“Members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, indeed all journalists in Canada and abroad, are professionals who, by asking necessary questions, contribute in an important way to the democratic process,” the Mandate letter continued. “Your professionalism and engagement with them is essential.”

Blacklock’s has requested the name of the Court staffer responsible for the Wikipedia edits.

By Staff

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