Why Congressmen Should Not Edit Their Own Wikipedia Pages: A Case Study

Things narcissists do to embarrass themselves on the internet: post embarrassing self-portraits on Facebook, beg websites to use cuter pictures of them, and edit their own Wikipedia pages.

Leslie Veiga, press secretary for Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), stops short of cute pictures in her uphill battle against her scandal-friendly employer's Wikipedia page. Politico's Marin Cogan reports:

[O]n March 16 at 6:40 p.m., a Wikipedia editor with the handle "Lmveiga" decided to do some maintenance to Rivera's Wikipedia page. First, Lmveiga removed a précis of the congressman's legislative career, replacing it with a six-point list of "Rivera's Legislative Accomplishments," taken directly from his campaign website.

Then, Lmveiga removed the entire "controversies" section.

The deleted text included accusations that a David M. Rivera was named as the defendant in a domestic abuse case in 1994 (both the congressman and the victim have said he was not the defendant named.) The entry also included an allegation that Rivera was involved in a 2002 traffic accident with a truck that was moments from delivering fliers detailing the domestic abuse case. (Rivera said he was meeting the truck to pick up his own fliers.) The section also said Rivera amended his state financial disclosure forms after one of his primary listed sources of income, USAID, said it had no record of working with him. (Rivera said he had worked for subcontractors to whom he had promised anonymity.) And it said state law enforcement agencies were investigating $500,000 in payments to Rivera's mother for work with a dog track for which Rivera, then a state lawmaker, had lobbied.

Wikipedia editors quickly restored the controversies section. And "Lmveiga" again deleted it.

Caught redhanded, Veiga claimed she edited her boss' Wikipedia page "on my own personal time," and only to "add factual, documented information and remove false, undocumented allegations." Which, in theory, sounds not so bad! A press secretary is in charge of managing her employer's public image and media relations, so why not let her participate in the management of his Wikipedia page?

For one thing, it's against Wikipedia's rules to let a page's subject (or "campaign surrogate") turn it into an exercise in brand management. But more importantly, the "Controversies" section of Rep. David Rivera's Wikipedia page now has this line in it, forever:

In April of 2011 Politico reported Rivera's press secretary, Leslie Veiga, had been active in editing Rivera's article. Veiga denied any impropriety.[15]

David Rivera: thin-skinned narcissist and internet n00b. Sure, there's an ethical angle to this—stuff about free speech and elected officials using people on the federal payroll to control discourse—but mostly? Noob. [Politico, Wikipedia, image by U.S. House of Representatives via Wikimedia Commons]