Hillsborough Wikipedia posts: Government pledges 'urgent inquiries'

Hillsborough groups have described the posts as "disgusting", as Dan Johnson reports

The government says it is making "urgent inquiries" into reports Whitehall computers were used to make insulting comments about the Hillsborough disaster.

The Liverpool Echo reported that changes were made to Wikipedia entries about the tragedy.

Comments were posted from computers on Whitehall's secure intranet, it said.

The Cabinet Office said the claims were being treated with "the utmost seriousness".

"We thank the Liverpool Echo for bringing this to our attention," a spokesman said.

"No-one should be in any doubt of the government's position regarding the Hillsborough disaster and its support for the families of the 96 victims and all those affected by the tragedy."

Family 'disgust'

How the source was uncovered

Liverpool Echo front page
  • Wikipedia allows any web user to make changes to its pages, but this leaves a trace through the user's Internet Provider (IP) address.
  • Changes are monitored by Wikipedia, but internet trolls have been known to post insulting material, which is usually swiftly removed.
  • Liverpool Echo reporter Oliver Duggan discovered that insults posted on the website's Hillsborough Disaster page had been made using computers within the government's internal intranet.
  • He confirmed this after referring to a list of 34 IP addresses used by the government released by former minister Angela Eagle in 2008.

In one of the changes, the Liverpool anthem You'll Never Walk Alone was changed to You'll Never Walk Again, the newspaper said.

Steve Kelly, who lost his 38-year-old brother Michael at Hillsborough, said: "After all these years it's disgusting that people are still trying to put the knife into the families - we're good people.

"We've tried to maintain our dignity and people are still doing this sort of thing."

Sheila Coleman, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said the group would be talking to its legal team about "how to proceed".

"Clearly we'll be calling for an inquiry - we'll expect those responsible to be identified and appropriate action taken," she added.

Entries in Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia, can be edited by anyone with access to the internet.

The computer used to make those changes can be traced using a computer's unique IP address.

Oliver Duggan, the Liverpool Echo reporter who broke the story, said the paper used a list of 34 IP addresses for Whitehall computers, released in 2008 by Angela Eagle MP following a parliamentary question.

"In this instance we were able to match up the IP address used to edit the Hillsborough Wikipedia page between 2009 and 2012 with the Whitehall secure intranet," he said.

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Wikipedia edit for Hillsborough disaster page on 15 April 2009 A Wikipedia edit on the 20th anniversary of the disaster added the words 'Blame Liverpool Fans'
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Jon Davies, chief executive of Wikimedia UK, said it was "appalled by such vandalism" and that it had systems in place to deal with such incidents.

"In this case, none of the offensive comments were up for more than a couple of hours, and most were removed in a few minutes," he said.

The Liverpool football fans died after a crush at the FA Cup semi-final in April 1989.

New inquests, set to last a year, were ordered after new evidence revealed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel led to the original inquest verdicts being quashed.

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