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Policy: Technology

Export-Import Bank intern spent summer putting propaganda on agency's Wikipedia page

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Timothy P. Carney,Minusextra,Technology,Export Import Bank

How does this sound for an exciting summer internship? Writing propaganda on Wikipedia for a corporate-welfare agency in D.C.

One 2013 summer intern at the Export-Import Bank (I'm not naming her, because she's an intern) spent part of her summer "Increas[ing] awareness for the agency writing and recreating Wikipedia page," according to her LinkedIn profile.

Indeed, according to one web tool, this intern made 53 edits to Ex-Im's Wikipedia page between June 10 and August 7 -- by far the most edits made to that page by any user.

Her first edit was a clumsy addition to the first sentence (her addition is in bold):

The Export-Import Bank of the United States ("Ex-Im Bank") is the official export credit agency of the United States federal government and is self-sustaining.

The intern, in that same editing session, also added sections on Ex-Im's subsidies for the Pan-American highway and other major products.

In the "criticism" section, which highlighted how an overwhelming majority of Ex-Im's subsidy dollars drive sales by a few major exporters like Boeing, she added factually challenged lines like "The Bank strictly follows its Congressional mandate to support small businesses and in Fiscal Year 2012 88% of the total number of transactions went to small businesses."

Then within the "criticism" section she tacked on a mini-essay, directly critiquing one of my 2011 articles. Her essay began:

Despite Carney’s claims that the Ex-Im Bank is supporting corporate welfare, others would argue otherwise and the Bank directly responds to these types of accusations on their website stating that they are: “Far from being “corporate welfare”...

There were plenty of other edits along those lines in her subsequent 52 sessions, including an essay quoting the corporate lobbyists who support Ex-Im.

There are no rules against federal employees editing their agency's Wikipedia page, but the practice appears to clash with Wikipedia guidelines against writing or editing articles about yourself or your organization.

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