Prison Sponsor Tries To Delete Wikipedia Information After Sponsoring NCAA Football Stadium

from the ain't-gonna-work dept

Wikipedia gets, what I think is, a bad rap by the general public due to users being able to edit its pages. This isn’t to say that there aren’t ever problems, but I tend to think that the community does a pretty decent job of policing itself and much of the false-information-hand-wringing is much to do about nothing. Additionally, the benefits, both of all the good information on the site and the potential benefits of being a great Wiki editor, are far beyond any negative effects of false information. And, for anyone who does attempt to game the information on the site, the consequences can be awful.

Take, for instance, what has happened now that Geo Group, a company that runs for-profit prisons, has a spokesman running around trying to delete negative information about them from their Wikipedia page. This began shortly after Geo Group inked a deal with Florida Atlantic University for the naming rights to their football stadium, because nothing says irony quite like a prison name for college football, where the athletes are grossly exploited for the profit of the NCAA.

If you want a full litany of abuse, read the “controversies” section of Geo Group’s Wikipedia page. But read it fast: Geo Group is desperately trying to wipe it before you see it. As their naming rights deal became national news, a Wikipedia user named Abraham Cohen attacking the page, clearing the entire “controversies” section and replacing it with, essentially, a PR packet. As first noted by the Huffington Post, Abraham Cohen is a spokesperson for Geo Group, and the new material contained multiple instances of the pronouns “we” and “our.”

This, obviously, is seen as bad form on Wikipedia and editors almost immediately began fighting back, both restoring the deleted section and calling out Cohen. But Abe wasn’t done. After the page was restored, an anonymous IP address which leads back to Geo Group’s servers showed up on the page claiming that the PR information Abe had added wasn’t PR information at all, but was an accurate reflection of the company’s history.

The result of all this nonsense? Well, none of it is good for Geo Group. Deadspin picked up the story and there's little doubt their massive audience is now exponentially more aware of some of the company’s more controversial moments, which include mistreatment of prisoners, withholding prisoner medication, withholding medical care for prisoners resulting in their deaths, and guards engaging in sexual intercourse with prisoners. Like me, it’s likely that as of last week, most people didn’t even know a company called Geo Group existed. But now, because they want to get into the football sponsorship business, and also because they think they can just remove negative information off of the internet, a whole lot of people are more informed about that negative information.

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Companies: geo group, ncaa

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Comments on “Prison Sponsor Tries To Delete Wikipedia Information After Sponsoring NCAA Football Stadium”

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Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: They never learn

Hmmm… You’ve got a point.

The Streisand Effect, when you think about it, can potentially have the unintended positive effect of reminding people that you still exist, and getting the curious to look into just who you were when you were still relevant to pop culture.

Exhibit A: Chubby Checker. While it made Mr. Evans look like an idiot because he was defending his brand or risk losing the trademark to the phrase Chubby Checker. (Stupid law, yes, but that’s how the system works these days.) While it no doubt made him the butt of many jokes in many circles on the Internet, there are probably quite a few curious folks who actually decided to look at the music he made when he was still relevant to the music world. Hell, they might have even purchased the tracks through Amazon/Google/itunes, which may have sent the man a little money (although given the era Chubby Checker was active, he may be getting screwed out of any proceeds by his old record label).

So the Streisand Effect can (in theory) hurt and benefit someone at the same time.

But in this case, there is no possible benefit for the Geo Group. Only bad things can come from trying to delete content from the entire Internet.

Perhaps there should be a subcategory for the Streisand Effect. Maybe something like “Streisand Effect: Internet Boomerang Protocol?”

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: public or private prisons?

Why? I’m sure you can point to anecdotes of private prisons having problems (this article for example). However I’m sure I can point to government run prisons being similarly poor.

The problem lies not with the structure of the managing committee, but with the fact power corrupts. See the Stanford prison experiment for an example of how otherwise good people can degenerate when given prisoners (even through they knew the prisoners were similarly good).

Until we have some cure for the human condition all we can do in prisons is have some form of checks and balances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: public or private prisons?

It isn’t about the quality of the prison or the way it is run. (Though both could be a concern.) The real concern is that government shouldn’t have any incentive to send people to prison while for-profit prisons have an incentive to see as many people locked up as possible.

If anything, government should have an incentive to keep people out of prison since it cost taxes to hold someone and they are unable to contribute to the economy while imprisoned.

For-profit prisons on the other hand have every incentive to maximize revenue which can be done by lobbying for more and longer prison terms. I’ll let Google speak for me on this one:

ChronoFish (profile) says:

Wiki on Wiki on Geo

Best part of the wiki page is the end:

“In February 2013, the GEO Group purchased naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s new football stadium.[19] On February 20, after the naming rights deal became public, a Wikipedia editor named “Abraham Cohen”, the name of a GEO Group spokesman, deleted the “Controversies” section of the firm’s Wikipedia article, replacing it with content copied from the firm’s shareholder prospectus. After the section was restored, it was again deleted by an anonymous user whose IP address belonged to the GEO Group.[20]”

Loving the citations as well!

Anonymous Coward says:

Florida Atlantic University sounds familiar …. wasn’t there a story a while back about this place?

hmmmmm – ah, yes. Here it is:
James Tracy, FAU Professor, Disputes Newtown Sandy Hook Massacre Account

Not only do they employ a nutty conspiracy theory professor, but they name their stadium after a for profit prison. This is double plus crazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Talking about prisoners, I wonder if exoskeletons can’t be used to limit the velocity of response for inmates.

So the most violent would not be able to punch, shank or any other act, it would limit the movements of inmates to only certain speeds and would freeze in place if found out of reach or in a restricted area.

Of course in case of fire they may die.

Don't Hold it against us says:

some of us can't go out of state to school

I can’t believe I enrolled in this school for their Marine Biology program. That was of course before they sold off all of the assets that made Harbor Branch such a great Marine research center. Then they did away with the actual Marine Biology degree, it’s just a BS in Biology now.

then they planned a big giant football stadium that was going to cost three million dollars to build, it didn’t, they knew it wouldn’t, and when the philosophy dept did the math and pointed it out, they did away with the philosophy dept. the stadium ended up costing more like 30 million if i remember right

special interesting says:

Many times reading this site is way more entertaining that the telly. This is one of them.

Kudos to the Wikipedia team for keeping journalistic professionalism. Nice to see an example of revisionist history its a great public awareness lesson.

The GEO group seems determined to do this revising so the next thing to do is file a take-down notice for whatever odd copyright or trademark reason.

Since I am all in favor of releasing all the non violent (guilty of what… lifestyle violations like using drugs?) offenders their business model would have to change.

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