The news: It takes next-level asshole behavior to make one long for the good old days when congressional staffers limited their Wikipedia tampering to beefing up their bosses' resumes.
But someone on Capitol Hill has gone beyond the call of duty to make transphobic edits on Wikipedia — including slurs against Laverne Cox, the trans activist and one of the stars of Netflix hit Orange is the New Black.
Last week, Twitter account @congressedits — a tracking tool dedicated to exposing Wikipedia edits made from congressional IP addresses — noted that an anonymous user was making transphobic edits on Wikipedia pages about the transgender community. Though the user's identity was not confirmed, one thing was clear: They were using computers linked to the House of Representatives.
On the page, the anonymous user changed a sentence reading "Orange is the New Black contains the first ever women-in-prison narrative to be played by a real transgender woman" to "Orange is the New Black contains the first ever women-in-prison narrative to be played by a real man pretending to be a woman."
Uproxx documented the changes to Cox's article here:
As documented by Business Insider, the changes led to pushback from the Wikipedia community, prompting the user to allege that they were a congressional staffer — and that they were making the changes at the behest of their boss.
"An obvious transphobe is using this IP to edit the article on transphobia, justifying it with rhetoric commonly used by transphobes," wrote Wikipedia user Davidjcobb in the discussion board. "They claim to be acting with the explicit permission of a U.S. Representative, which is either an outright lie (and therefore more reason to block the IP) or true (and therefore more reason to block the IP)."
This is really disconcerting behavior from someone in government. The IP address has since been banned from making Wikipedia edits for a month, but the implications are still disturbing. Even if the user was simply trolling Wikipedia — and not acting under orders, as they alleged — the fact that they were using government resources to do so is a concern enough.
And the fact that they targeted Cox — a much-lauded celebrity activist who recently made history by becoming the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy and to grace the cover of Time — reminds us that for every brave step forward, there is a troll hiding somewhere in the dark corners of the Internet trying to push us backward. The fact that they have a Capitol Hill badge just makes things a little worse.