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Malaysia Airlines MH17: Russian Govt Found Tinkering Wikipedia Crash Info

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | July 22, 2014 4:51 PM EST

A Twitter bot had caught a Russian media outlet allegedly tinkering and rewriting the information on a Wikipedia page dedicated for the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

REUTERS
Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to reporters during a meeting in Brasilia July 16, 2014. Putin warned on Wednesday that U.S. sanctions will take relations with Russia to a "dead end" and damage U.S. business interests in his country. Picture taken July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Internet archive site The Wayback Machine has likewise released incriminating evidence that could further implicate the separatists' rebels into the aviation accident.

In the original Wikipedia post, under civil aviation accidents, the plane was stated to have been shot down "by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation."

The Wikipedia page on the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was believed to have been initiated by a user with an IP address based in Kyiv.

But the page with the barely new information was edited in just less than an hour after it was posted. The new post read the plane was shot down by the "Ukrainian military".

For those still unaware, Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, whose information is contributed by the very people who use, practically the global population who has access to the Internet. Many people make thousands of changes per hour to entries on Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia page dedicated to the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 would just have been a usual reference page. However, it gained attention when the source of the person or entity that edited the page has a Moscow IP that belonged to the Russian government.

@RuGovEdits, a Twitter Bot that automatically traces the edits on Wikpedia from Russian government IP addresses, immediately saw the changes. It zoned on the edit and from which IP address it came from. Next thing it got, it was the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, a media company wholly owned and operated by the Russian government, that made the edit.

"Wikipedia article List of aircraft accidents in civil aviation has been edited by RTR [another name for VGTRK]," according to a translation provided by TechSpot.

Wayback Machine, a nonprofit Web crawler which archives old versions of Web pages, was able to capture evidence that a pro-Russian group initiated the attacks that downed the Malaysia Airlines flight Mh17 and killed all its 298 passengers. 

It captured the post of Igor Girkin, a Ukrainian separatist leader also known as Strelkov, on Vkontakte, Russia's Facebook clone. In it Girkin claimed for downing what he thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane.

"In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace. We have video confirming. The bird fell on a waste heap. Residential areas were not hit. Civilians were not injured."

Later, news of the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 near the rebel held Ukrainian city of Donetsk spread like wildfire. Girkin reportedly immediately erased his claims.

However, the screen grab from Wayback Machine showed it was able to archive his posts.

Girkin's page can be found here.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Alexei Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin )
Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to reporters during a meeting in Brasilia July 16, 2014. Putin warned on Wednesday that U.S. sanctions will take relations with Russia to a "dead end" and damage U.S. business interests in his country. Picture taken July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
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