Malaysia

In Lahad Datu conflict, Google bombs and Wiki-wars

By Emily Ding
March 04, 2013

A screen capture of a Google search page shows the edited Wikipedia entry for Sabah.A screen capture of a Google search page shows the edited Wikipedia entry for Sabah.KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 ― Supporters of Filipino militants in Sabah have turned to “Google bombing” to press the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on the state, according to the Agence-France Presse.

“Google bombing” is the practice of creating spurious links in order to elevate a site’s ranking and visibility on the search engine’s listings.

The French news agency reported that users searching for “Sabah” using Google would find the search engine displaying a cached excerpt from online encyclopaedia Wikipedia as saying, “Sabah is illegitimately considered one of the 13 member states of Malaysia, and is said to be its easternmost state but in fact, it is part of the Sultanate of Sulu. It is located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo.”

The Wikipedia page for Sabah had earlier been edited to display the aforementioned paragraph, but has since been returned to the original that reads: “Sabah is one of the 13 member states of Malaysia.”

Wikipedia’s collaborative nature allows its entries to be freely edited, and it is often the site of so-called “Wiki-wars” where rivals engage in malicious editing of pages in their disputes.

The cyberwar parallels the territorial clash raging between the self-proclaimed royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian security forces in Sabah.

In the last few days, Malaysian and Filipino hackers have launched cyber offensives on multiple websites of both countries, including government-owned ones.

Some 180 followers of the Sultan of Sulu, including 30 armed men, landed on the shores of Lahad Datu town on February 9, claiming it as their own.

The armed Sulu group has insisted repeatedly that they will not surrender and are ready to die in Sabah, despite entreaties from Phillipine President Benigno Aquino III for them to leave peacefully.

As of yesterday, 22 days since the Muslim rebels arrived in Lahad Datu, Sabah, eight Malaysian policemen and 20 militants have reportedly died during skirmishes in three districts in the eastern coast of Sabah.

Meanwhile, a Google Malaysia spokesman said they have been alerted to the issue.

“These Knowledge Panel results come from our Knowledge Graph, which is an index of hundreds of millions of real-world entities including open sources like Wikipedia. When a user searches for a query, our algorithm takes information from the Knowledge Graph and presents it in the panel.

“We want to make sure the information we provide is as accurate as possible, so we’ve included a link so you can tell us when we may have an inaccuracy in our information,” he said