When we talked about wikis last class, I mentioned the wikiscanner, developed by CalTech graduate student Virgil Griffith. Wired ran a story on it last month which is worth reading.
The wikiscanner was designed to shed light on anonymous Wikipedia edits by identifying the source of those edits. It does so by checking the IP address of the editor against a database of IP addresses in order to locate the organization that owns that particular set of IP addresses.
Now what does that have to do with PR, or this class? Remember astroturfing from your intro to PR class? The open nature of Wikipedia carries with it the disadvantage that it can easily be used by organizations, governments, and individuals to push their own agenda and engage in astroturfing.
With no easy way to check the sources of the thousands of Wikipedia entries and edits, "wikiastroturfing", unfortunately, has become an all too inviting option for businesses and individuals with shady ethics.
The wikiscanner's ability to out such incidents of astroturfing makes it a powerful new tool in the fight against unethical PR and business practices.