Civil servants used government computers to update Wikipedia pages downplaying killings of Jean Charles de Menezes, Lee Rigby and Damilola Taylor
- Electrician was shot dead by police officer at Stockwell tube station in 2005
- Investigation finds Wikipedia page on death edited by government computer
- Suggestion he was on drugs added, and immigration information removed
- Pages on Lee Rigby and Damilola Taylor also altered to downplay deaths
- De Menezes family spokesman calls page edits ‘low and callous’
- Cabinet Office says any breaches of civil service code ‘will be dealt with’
- In June a civil servant was sacked for posting offensive comments about Hillsborough disaster on Wikipedia
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes have called for an investigation after the Wikipedia page on the shooting victim’s death was updated with inaccurate information by a government computer.
Edits were made to the page covering the death of Mr de Menezes, who was shot dead by a Metropolitan police officer at Stockwell tube station in 2005, an investigation has found.
According to a Channel 4 News investigation, users of government computers added inaccurate suggestions that the 27-year-old may have been on drugs, deleted information about his immigration status, and removed a section on his death from a page about the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Changes were also made to pages on the deaths of Lee Rigby and schoolboy Damilola Taylor from government computers which downplayed their deaths, the investigation found.
The updates were made from computers using the government’s secure intranet service, which is used by the civil service and police officers.
The uncovering of the edits comes just weeks after a civil servant was sacked for posting offensive Wikipedia comments on the Hillsborough disaster from government computers.
Today Mr de Menezes’s family said there must be an investigation into who made the edits, and action taken.
‘We have someone sitting in a government office spending time to undermine and smear an innocent man’s memory,’ family spokesman Asad Rehman told Channel 4 News.
‘It’s low and it’s callous and we have to find out did this person act on orders, and if so whose orders?’
The investigation found that in 2006 government computers were used to add suspicions that Mr de Menezes had a ‘high level’ of Class A drugs in his blood at the time of his death. There was also an attempted request that Wikipedia editors change the reason for the police decision to shoot-to-kill.
On the second day of the 2008 inquest into the Brazilian electrician’s death, information about Mr de Menezes’s immigration status was deleted – making the page wrongly infer he might have been an illegal immigrant.
A page on the IPCC also had a section in which the watchdog’s handling of Mr de Menezes’s death was removed, including a statement that the IPCC had ‘got it wrong’ over leaks.
A quote saying the Metropolitan Police Federation had accused the IPCC of ‘perverse action’ in relation to the case was also deleted.
Mr de Menezes was shot seven times in the head by officers who mistakenly thought he was a terrorist in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings. An inquest jury later found the Met guilty of health and safety failings over its bungled operation but no officer faced criminal charges.
Just last month it was revealed in a damning report on the on the activities of a now disbanded Metropolitan Police undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) that the Met had spied on the de Menezes family.
Officers from the SDS collected information on 18 justice campaigns – including those concerning Mr de Menezes and the Stephen Lawrence case – which resulted in ‘collateral intrusion’ on family members.
The Channel 4 probe also found that anonymous edits were made to the pages of schoolboy Damilola Taylor, saying the 10-year-old, killed in November 2000 had ‘died’, rather than ‘was murdered’.
And the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby – who was killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, in May last year – was deemed to be ‘not notable enough’ for an article on terrorism, so the entire section on his death was deleted.
A Cabinet Office spokesman told MailOnline that the government had only recently been informed of the issue, and was looking into how to deal with the matters raised.
‘Government takes these matters very seriously,’ the Cabinet Office statement said.
‘We have recently reminded civil servants of their responsibilities under the Civil Service Code and any breaches of the Code will be dealt with. We will shortly be issuing fuller guidance on using the internet and social media to all departments.’
In June it was revealed that a civil servant who made offensive alterations to Wikipedia pages on the Hillsborough disaster using Government computers was sacked.
The 24-year-old used the secure intranet to change the phrase ‘You’ll never walk alone’ – the anthem of Liverpool FC – to ‘You’ll never walk again’.
It was one of a slew of tweaks that began to emerge on the 20th anniversary of the April 1989 tragedy which saw 96 fans crushed.
Announcing the sacking to MPs, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude wrote: ‘The Government has treated this matter with the utmost seriousness.
‘Our position from the very start has been that the amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening.
‘The behaviour is in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code, and every canon of civilised conduct. It is entirely unacceptable.’
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, told Channel 4 that in many cases offensive edits made to Wikipedia pages were made by people ‘goofing off on their lunch break’.
‘We condemn it without any question but I do not think it’s some official disinformation campaign,’ he said.
‘I think it’s someone who has gone a bit rogue, updating something they shouldn’t.’