openDemocracyUK: News

Tory MP’s Wiki page scrubbed of Azerbaijan lobbying – by user in Parliament

Bob Blackman’s biography was whitewashed of references to an openDemocracy investigation, but the edit was spotted by a bot

James Dowsett
23 February 2022, 3.20pm
Bob Blackman’s Wikipedia page was wiped by a parliamentary user
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Zefrog / Alamy Stock Photo

A parliamentary internet user has been caught repeatedly erasing information from a Tory MP’s Wikipedia page about his lobbying efforts for a corrupt and repressive regime.

The anonymous user scrubbed Bob Blackman’s online biography just days after the page was updated to include details of how the MP had been “fed” propaganda by Azerbaijan’s embassy and used it to lobby the UK government – a revelation first made by openDemocracy.

The changes to Blackman's Wikipedia entry were made on a device that has been traced back to the parliamentary estate through a unique IP address by the automated Twitter account @ParliamentEdits.

The purged text, which has since been reinstated, had cited openDemocracy’s story, including an admission made by the MP for Harrow East on a podcast. Blackman had said on the recording: “On a regular basis I put down positions on behalf of our good friends in Azerbaijan.”

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Also deleted was a reference to a series of briefings Blackman received from high-level Azerbaijani figures, including Azerbaijani MP Javanshir Feyziyev – who was at the centre of a high-profile court case in which an order was made to seize £5.6m of laundered cash from his family’s bank accounts last month. Feyziyev and his family were not implicated in any personal wrongdoing.

The entry had additionally cited a 2013 Guardian article mentioning that Blackman had, along with several other parliamentarians, taken an all-expenses-paid trip to Azerbaijan in 2011, funded by a now-defunct lobbying organisation. Transparency campaigners criticised the organisation for trying to enhance the country’s image abroad in the face of accusations of official corruption and widespread human rights abuses.

Related story

Bob Blackman landscape composite.png
Bob Blackman boasted: ‘On a regular basis I put down positions on behalf of our good friends in Azerbaijan’

openDemocracy recently found that Blackman had taken seven trips to oil-rich Azerbaijan since 2011. The three most recent were paid for by either the Azerbaijani parliament or its London embassy.

According to the editing history of the MP’s Wikipedia page, an anonymous user justified the deletions by saying: “The article in question has been found to be false on number of occassions [sic]”.

The same user had initially attempted to erase the text without explaining why, prompting a rebuke from a Wikipedia editor, who restored it, pointing out that it was reliably sourced.

It is not the first time that Blackman’s Wikipedia page has been tweaked from within Parliament to remove unflattering information.

In 2015 The Daily Telegraph reported that someone in Parliament had changed Blackman’s page to erase information about a sex scandal and edit a section that mentioned “inaccurate” expense claims.

Blackman has been approached for comment.

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