|(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and bastardization of classic Unix
I would not be surprised the PRISM project includes Wikipedia, so NSA knows what article you have read, Katherine Maher definitely has the necessary contact as regime-change specialist. Which probably highly affects the content of articles on any political topic in which the State Department has even minor interest. See FPC Briefing- Wikipedia in a Post-fact World With Katherine Maher - YouTube
U.S. Department of State
Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing: Wikipedia in a Post-fact Word: Reliable sources, Open Sources and Knowledge with Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A full transcript is available at https://fpc.state.gov/270114.htm
The key article on the topic is Meet Wikipedia's Ayn Rand-loving founder and Wikimedia Foundation's regime-change operative CEO By Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal
Wikipedia has become a bulletin board for corporate and imperial interests under the watch of its Randian founder, Jimmy Wales, and the veteran US regime-change operative who heads the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher.
The foundation’s largest donors include corporate tech giants Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Craigslist. With more than $145 million in assets in 2018, nearly $105 million in annual revenue, and a massive headquarters in San Francisco, Wikimedia has carved out a space for itself next to these Big Tech oligarchs in the Silicon Valley bubble.
The process of editing of Wikipedia is by definition is highly subjective process and depends on what "informational clan" controls that particular topic. See The Dark Side of Wikipedia
Biased manipulation runs wild on Wikipedia, and the extent to which it influences the pages of that site will probably never be known. In the field of SEO, where every link counts, Wikipedia's reference links at the bottom of articles and their external links in the body text of articles were once considered search engine ranking gold. Early this year, Wikipedia moved to institute nofollow on all outbound links, and many presumed the controversy would die there. It hasn't.
I think the best way I can illustrate this massive problem is to attack the most common questions that come up around Wiki-hacking (yes, I'm inventing a moniker so I don't have to say "editing Wikipedia from a biased perspective in inaccurate, misleading or mis-representational ways" every time). Those who frequent Wikipedia would probably consider these edits to be "vandalism," but that's a very inaccurate representation of the actions that are actually happening.
Vandalism refers to intentional destruction or damage of property - in the offline world, think graffiti or bricks through a window. These Wikipedia edits are, primarily, intended never to be detected by other Wikipedia editors or the outside world - a better analogy might be the subtle manipulation of a news report to slant in favor of a political party or candidate.
Some major questions and issues:
Why Edit Wikipedia Pages if There's No Link Juice?
- Reputation Management - if Wikipedia has bad things to say about a topic, there will almost certainly be someone who wishes to see that information removed.
- Link Traffic - Wikipedia articles, due to their phenomenal overrepresentation in search engines, can drive a remarkable amount of traffic, so many wiki-hacks are simply attempts to boost click-throughs
- Promotion - If you were a cellphone company, you might seriously consider editing the Wiki article on cellphone retailers, possibly adding a link to a list of "highest rated" stores by consumers according to a bogus study you host on your site (or another site) and then copying that list in short-format on the Wikipedia entry. Other promotional tactics are less obvious, but often more difficult to identify. And, yes, that story is a modified version of a true instance of Wiki-promotion.
- To Spite - If your competitor is ranking ahead of you on Google, or kicking you around in sales, you might find that Wikipedia is an excellent place to create a page on their company and detail the long list of terrible misdeeds they've committed. What's great (or horrible) about this practice is that generally, they'll be the ones who later come in and look like spammers for erasing the content or trying to have it removed, which actually helps to bolster the veracity of information in the eyes of other editors or administrators. It's a dirty but highly effective tactic to leverage against an opponent. I've even heard a story about using this technique for blackmailing the company referenced in the negative article, and pretending to "switch sides" in the editorial debate on the talk page once the money had been paid (it's DMOZ all over again!).
- For Link Juice - Wait, I thought there was no link juice on Wikipedia... Well, not directly. But, Wikipedia is such a reference resource that if your site earns links on popular pages, you'll find that those links find their way into forums, blog posts, articles, and journalistic publications more often than not. This is probably one of the most clever ways to use Wikipedia, because you'll need to link to something worthy of being spread, anyway, which probably means that even a heavy-handed Wiki-editor won't remove it, as it's typically relevant enough and interesting enough to belong there. One might even argue that this isn't Wiki-Hacking at all (perhaps it's the linkbait of Wikipedia?).
- To Earn Credit - The Wikipedia hierarchy rewards frequent, positive edits, and for many Wiki-hackers this is a great way to build up a solid, respectable-looking profile and potentially even be rewarded with administrator status.
- Wiki-Jacking - Since I've written about this topic previously, I won't cover it again in-depth.
How Do Malicious Edits Happen?
- Anonymously - As of now, users can still make edits anonymously without logging in. Granted, Wikipedia will record your IP address, but you don't have to provide any personal information (not even fake stuff).
- Through Proxies - When one anonymous account just won't do, or you don't want the anonymous account to have any connection to your other account(s), using a proxy IP address lets you connect through to Wikipedia largely undetected (so long as the proxy provides solid anonymity).
- Through Trusted Accounts - For the more experienced Wiki-Hackers, a trusted account is a must have. Trusted accounts that make dozens of edits each day are much less likely to be accused of manipulation or have their content modified by another editor, even if complaints arise.
- Via Multiple Accounts with History - The savviest of Wiki-Hackers I've talked to runs more than a dozen unique, trusted accounts with positive history, and can use these
What are Some of the Best/Worst Stories I've Heard?
- The Sock Puppet Betrayer - This is second-hand, so the details might be fuzzy, but the basic approach was sheer genius. Basically, this Wiki-Hacker created several accounts on different IPs, then vandalized a number of pages, mostly small and under-the-radar, appearing to look like a competitor (adding links, references, promotional content, etc). He then "investigated" these pages through his trusted account, "found" the "spammers," removed their content, and was praised by some other community editors. Later, he used the newfound trust to create subtle, but effective references for his own client.
- The Account Buyer - Supposedly, this fellow has been tracking down Wikipedia editors and offering to buy their account user names and passwords for the "trust" they've earned. According to him, he's only got 4 so far, but these have all been used effectively to help create and then "back up" favorable changes to a number of pages in a specific vertical.
- The Talker - One of the smartest Wiki-Hackers, in my opinion, is barely an editor of content at all, but simply uses a well-liked editorial account on Talk Pages, helping to sway the discussion in favor of keeping/removing links & content. On rare occasion, rather than actually making changes, the Talker will simply suggest that certain edits be made, then use a secondary or anonymous account to complete them if there's no pushback.
- The Bad Mouther - This particular Wiki Hacker got caught by another editor and in order to save himself, dug through every edit his accuser had ever made, and ended up being able to keep not only his account, but his edits by making it appear that the accuser was actually an "SEO," whose perspective and judgment were biased.
Why Don't Administrators Stop this Behavior?
They do, actually. You can see this popular project page called WikiProject Spam, where a "spamstar of glory" (yes, seriously) is awarded for stopping spammers on Wikipedia. A fairly immense to-do list exists on this page, and it's actually one of the Wiki-Hackers' most feared pages. Unfortunately, it's also a tool - Wiki-Hackers who want information removed or who want to build up the "trust" of their own accounts will actually become spam investigators and reporters. One of the best ways to reach administrator level is actually to catch some of the "trusted" accounts that are actually other Wiki-Hackers, and thus the community of Wiki-Hackers is not on particularly good terms with one another. Turning in other hackers puts you above suspicion in a way that few other actions on Wikipedia can, and thus, it's one of the holy grails of the infiltrator-style hackers.
How do You Know All This, Rand?
Two ways, really. First, I've played around first-hand with some of the pages with Wikipedia. In fact, prior to the "nofollow" implementation on links, I personally had a few editorial accounts through proxy IP addresses, though I probably haven't actively edited Wikipedia pages in the last 9 months. Instead, I've been connecting over email and in-person with a lot of folks who run reputation management and link building campaigns that do leverage Wikipedia. The number of stories, depth of detail, and actual examples (which I obviously can't share without betraying a lot of trust), including the stories I've recounted above, paint a fairly dark picture of what's actually happening at Wikipedia.
Granted, because of my profession, I'm almost certainly getting an overrepresentation of the more manipulative aspects of what happens on Wikipedia. It's only natural. While lots of experienced Wiki-Hackers love to share their favorite stories of manipulating the site, very few of the truly quality editors are
A) ever going to meet me at a party or go get some drinks with me at a conference bar, or B) boast about the terrific article they created about 70s-style tube socks as fashion accessories.
Please do note that the specific stories I've recounted above have had details removed or even slightly modified to keep the identities of my sources anonymous. A couple, as I noted, are second-hand, as well, so I'm guessing some details may be missing. However, even with the details missing, you can still get a sense of the tactics for manipulation and the extent to which people are willing to go to in order to change Wikipedia in their favor.
One Quick Example from the Site
This comes from two friends at Wikipedia who really are legitimate editors and spam fighters, Jon Hochman (one of the foremost authorities on Wikipedia & SEO) and Durova (who spoke at SMX Social in October and had this terrificly informative interview over chat with Jim Hedger). From Durova's Talk Page Archives:
I just spent 50 minutes playing cat and mouse with a vandal, and WP:AIV still hasn't acted on my block request. I guess its time to ask for the tools. What do you think? Jehochman (talk/contrib) 04:45, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
- Done, 24 hour block. Sometimes it feels good to have the tools. Thanks for the heads up. Cheers, DurovaCharge! 04:48, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
- This one is using proxies. He's over here now: 22.214.171.124 (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · logs · block user · block log) Jehochman (talk/contrib) 04:53, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
- I think we are dealing with a black hat SEO who may be using some sort of script. I see a pattern in the edits. My suspicion is that they want one specific reference gone, and are attacking all of them to create confusion. Can we semi-protect the targeted articles, starting with Traffic Power? Jehochman (talk/contrib) 05:04, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
- Am I caught up on the blocks? Keep me apprised; I'm working on a complex investigation with another editor atm. DurovaCharge! 05:05, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
- Semi-protecting. Give me the full list. DurovaCharge! 05:07, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
- Blocks are good. Here are the targeted articles. I think he'll be back soon. Jehochman (talk/contrib) 05:11, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
Obviously, this example above is a very amateur attempt, and Jon & Durova are all over it. Professional-level Wiki-Hacking is much more difficult to rat out.
The most frustrating part for Wikipedians has to be that they themselves receive no financial reward for their efforts, yet their opposition, the Wiki-Hackers, benefit monetarily and directly when they have success penetrating the spam police.
Do all of these Wiki-Wars Really Matter?
The most accurate answer is probably "it depends." It's very hard to gauge how much the public trusts information on Wikipedia. My gut tells me that, sadly, a lot of people simply accept whatever Wikipedia says without checking real sources of information (yes, I'm saying that Wikipedia by its very nature is untrustworthy, even if 95%+ of the information there is factual, which is probably a big stretch). However, I can say with some certainty that businesses and individuals get a great deal of value and suffer a great deal of loss when Wikipedia contains positive/negative information about them (very similar to Google or other search engines). Thus, a secondary "black" market will always exist to exploit the site and attempt to change information. Even if Wikipedia went into immediate lockdown mode, there would be auctions for trusted editorial accounts, devious manipulation, and, probably, an even higher price on all of the Wiki-Hacking style activities.
There's no real solution to the cat-and-mouse game, unless Jimbo wants to turn Wikipedia into some sort of Mahalo-like resource, where only those invited can edit (and even then, I'm guessing it will just mean higher prices, not an end to hacking).
p.s. Yes, the nofollows on all links to Wikipedia are intentionally "nofollowed." Someone should create a blog plug-in to auto-nofollow Wikipedia links so the site stops ranking atop every query in existence.
p.p.s. None of the content in this post is intended to suggest that I don't respect the project, its aims, or the lofty aspirations of many of the hardworking people trying to make it a good resource. In fact, I believe quite the opposite - that folks like Durova, in particular, and others like here have a noble, self-sacrificing streak that's both rare and praise-worthy. But, depending on your view of Wikipedia and black/gray hat social media practices as a whole, you might find some of her opponents equally admirable, or at least, impressively creative.
Gab bookworm seo Goldenberg | November 20th, 2007Tom Critchlow | November 20th, 2007
I've made Wikipedia edits myself, though much more garden variety. I used to do it a lot more, particularly when I had something helpful to contribute. Adding other sites besides your own is a useful tactic as well, as that way you're not being entirely self-promotional.
The interest for me personally was in the traffic, which I liked in, of and for itself.
Thanks for sharing these various tactics Rand!
BTW, you didn't finish your sentence:
•The Bad Mouther - This particular Wiki Hacker got caught by another editor and in order to save himself, dug through every edit his accusor had ever [........???......]
(Oh, and while I have your attention, I still haven't gotten a response from you or Jeff on whether I earned a premium membership last month?... Feel free to delete this part of the comment if/when you get back to me.)
Final thing I thought I'd mention: if you can't rank for it, you can get W to rank for it and slide some links to yourself from the W page. Consider it a SERP monopolization effort. Plus the fact of getting more links to a page from around Wikipedia (gradually, over time, making edits to the page equally gently) can help earn trust.
Nice comprehensive post Rand - although it's blatantly obvious that things like this will be going on it's nice to take a peek into the actual tactics used.
shanada | November 20th, 2007
Well, the auto-insertion of nofollow tags into a blog post should be rather straight forward, a simple matter of using regex to find any wikipedia links and insert the nofollow tag into them. Hell, Jeff should be able to whip a simple script up rather quickly :)
It'd make interesting link bait too - I'm sure there are many SEOers out there who would like to 'get one back' at wikipedia via a wordpress plugin or something similar (perhaps a plugin that allows you to customise the URLs that get nofollowed?)
Another, most subtle (devious?) way to get better general usage would be to include it as a minor 'feature' in a more general plugin that a wider audience would use. For irony bonus, perhaps an anti-spam plugin? :p
Sean Maguire | November 20th, 2007
Fascinating post. Not sure which I like better - your new moniker "Wiki-Hacking" or your new word "Terrificly". I think the latter.
Every tactic you've described comes right out of the Mafia playbook - especially "The Talker" - this passive aggressive sinister mind reveling in criminal mischief. Of course, it's common knowledge that the Mafia doesn't exist, so that leaves me wondering if your post is simply the ramblings of yet another paranoid CEO? (Which btw, I highly recommend if you haven't already).
"Do all of these Wiki-Wars Really Matter? The most accurate answer is probably "it depends."
Rand, I think you're being overly kind when you say "your gut tells you a lot of people simply accept whatever Wikipedia says..." You mean people like, say...um.....GOOGLE?!!!
Is it possible that you're jaded by your good fortune of being surrounded by so many intelligentsia - the people that actually have the good sense to question "things", as opposed to the other 95% of society that would beleive anything written on pressed wood pulp?
Conversely, when you consider that when politicians speak you can't beleive half of what they say, 95% accuracy is pretty darn good! Of course, then there's the good old US Post Office. (Don't get me started).
Reminds me of that Seinfeld episode when Newman tells Jerry he didn't get the coveted transfer to Hawaii. "They knew it wasn't me doing my route. Too many people got their mail! Close to 80%. Nobody from the post office has ever cracked the 50% barrier! It's like the 3-minute mile!
One thing's for sure Bugs - This is one cwazy wiki-whacky world we're wiving in.
feedthebot | November 20th, 2007
I would keep in mind that much as the vast majority of Google users do not know or care about SEO, the same is true of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is an enormously important resource to tens of millions of people.
That there are attempts to manipulate it is just a measure of their success. They are indeed a resource, for good reason, they are a massively useful place to people who are trying to learn.
Bear with me as I say this, but the truth is that I am disturbed when you call for a nofollow plug. Wait, don't get mad yet...
To have such an enormous amount of information online in so many languages is massively important for education all over the world.
For every entry that somehow promotes a product, there are probably ten thousand that don't.
As someone who didn't have the luxury of a public education, I am very concerned about the few options that people do have to attain one. Wikipedia is the best multi language tool for education that exists right now and I think that if mind power was put into the improvement of it, rather than the destruction of it, then it would become even more useful.
I completely understand the frustration we have (and I have too sometimes) with the blanket authority that is given to Wikipedia by Google. It does suck, and is often completely unfair.
The bigger picture (as my silly self sees it) is that in one tiny sector (SEO) there are alot of negative feelings for Wikipedia, but in the vast majority of users, there are mostly positive feelings.
If the only solution you see to our small (seo) sectors problems with it is to attempt to destroy Wikipedias usefulness, then I am sorry you feel that way. I disagree.
Wikipedia benefits tens of millions of people all over the world who are unable to have the education we get to have, perhaps there are better ways to look at this problem than to call for destructive and manipulative techniques (nofollow plugins, etc.) to be used against it.
This articles title "The Dark Side of Wikipedia" could easily be replaced with "The Dark Side of SEO".
Are we really going to try to destroy things, no matter how valuable they are to others, because they don't please or profit us personally?
Sean Maguire | November 20th, 2007
I don't see anyone here trying to destroy Wikipedia. Rand is simply pointing out the inherent flaws in a system that is ripe for malicious intent.
If anything, I think this post brings a necessary awareness to a pervasive problem. If that serves as a catalyst for Wikipedia to take steps to improve the system and in the process, the accuracy of the content, then those that count on it for education can be grateful that their education will be based on fact rather than fiction.
Do a Web search on any popular product, event, company, person, whatever. What's the first site that shows up? Chances are it's Wikipedia. For better or for worse, people assume that anything they find in Wikipedia is Gospel truth. That's very foolish. It now seems that some of Wikipedia's writers and editors have sold out the truth for their own gains.
As reported by Violet Blue, two Wikipedia insiders, Roger Bamkin and Max Klein, have allegedly written, edited, and placed Wikipedia articles for paying clients.
The facts appear damning. Klein's consulting business untrikiwiki comes right out and states: “A positive Wikipedia article is invaluable SEO: it's almost guaranteed to be a top three Google hit. Surprisingly this benefit of writing for Wikipedia is underutilized, but relates exactly the lack of true expertise in the field. ... WE HAVE THE EXPERTISE NEEDED to navigate the complex maze surrounding 'conflict of interest' editing on Wikipedia. With more than eight years of experience, over 10,000 edits, and countless community connections we offer holistic Wikipedia services.”
Oh yeah, that sure sounds like a Wikipedia editor and not a shill. Since the scandal broke, Klein has tried to spin his business, “We’ve never made a single edit for which we had a conflict of interest on Wikipedia – ever. Although we have advertised such a service, we’ve not aggressively pursued it – and we have not accepted any clients interested in on-Wikipedia work.” So, Klein advertises a service in ALL CAPS in true spammish fashion, but he's never done it? Interesting.
He went on, “We believe – strongly – that there’s nothing inherently wrong with accepting for-profit engagements that involve contributing to Wikipedia, as long as it’s approached in a transparent and ethical fashion.” Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder would appear to disagree: Wales wrote in 2009 that “It is not ok with me that anyone ever set up a service selling their services as a Wikipedia editor, administrator, bureaucrat, etc. I will personally block any cases that I am shown.”
Bamkin has since resigned as a Wikimedia UK trustee . Klein is still listed as a Wikpedian in Residence for OCLC Research. The Wikipedia internal conflict over whether their actions should be condemned or whether the accusations are unfair attacks from outsiders continues in the site's discussions forums. The mere fact that many Wikipedia insiders are unable to see the problems speaks volumes.
For years, Wikipedia has danced around scandals about its reliability and transparency. The worst example of this, before this current scandal, was when a major Wikipedia site administrator and employee called Essjay, who claimed to be “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph. D. in theology and a degree in canon law,” was proven to be a high-school dropout. Wales first defended him but then distanced himself.
Aside from the scandals, Wikipedia's unique combination of self-righteousness and know-it-allism has long led it to deny experts from outside its closed circle from writing and editing stories. The most egregious recent example was when Wikipedia's editors wouldn't correct an entry about a novel by famous American author Philip Roth when the writer himself reported the error.
In a New Yorker article Roth explained, that he had asked for a serious misstatement about his novel “The Human Stain.” be removed. I'll let Mr. Roth explain what happened next:Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”
So there you have Wikipedia in all its glory: Touched with corruption, employing fakes, and so sure of its own correctness that it won't listen to the real experts. Have fun faking up your reports from Wikipedia articles kids!
Wikipedia is frequently touted as a marvel of collaboration, a model of peer production. But it may be more instructive as a laboratory of pathologies of social interaction. While perhaps - like sausages- it's better not to see the product being made, any familiarity with how Wikipedia operates should give rise to enormous scepticism about its alleged example of harmonious collective action.
Wikipedia's success has led to many sites focused on its foibles. One such site, the "Wikipedia Review", was the locus of much investigation into the "EssJay" scandal in which a highly ranked administrator falsified academic degrees and lied to the New Yorker (tinyurl.com/22an3d). It also mocks Jimmy Wales's repeated denial of co-founder status to former employee and Wikipedia creator Larry Sanger (larrysanger.org/roleinwp.html) - now running rival site citizendium.org - by dubbing Wales the "Sole Flounder".
The combination of feuds and relentless focus on negatives associated with Wikipedia creates an obsession by some devoted Wikipedians about the evils visited upon them. Tensions can also be intensified by the fact that since Wikipedia supports accounts with no identity verification, nobody can ever be sure if a pseudonymous user's opinion is sincere or a sham. You could in theory have several such accounts (called "sock puppets"), and operate them to give the impression of having several supporters for one viewpoint. Abusing this facility is against policy, though preventing it is difficult.
This toxic mix of paranoia, fear of infiltrators and a social system where status can be acquired by fighting off threats (real or imagined) exploded recently into a governance scandal familiar to any observer of bureaucratic politics. A prominent Wikipedia administrator unilaterally revoked the account of a highly regarded contributor. When questioned, the response claimed the evidence was too sensitive to be released to the public, but had been vetted at the highest levels. Shortly after, the administrator reversed the action, apologising and citing new information. The end of the matter? No. It had barely begun.
The secret dossier was leaked, and turned out to be a deeply flawed quasi-profiling purportedly establishing the suspected contributor as, paraphrased, a sleeper agent for an enemy cell (that is, from Wikipedia Review) bent on disruption. Yet official actions were taken to stop the leak from being posted in Wikipedia discussion under the pretext of "policy and violating copyright" (tinyurl.com/ytj9qo).
Jimmy Wales himself was none too pleased. Although he preaches that Wikipedia is built on trust and love, he can be notably unloving to those untrusting of his pronouncements. One long-time editor who posted the leaked evidence was said by Wales to be trolling (being deliberately disruptive): "He knew he was trolling, and I doubt if he will last much longer at Wikipedia because of it" (tinyurl.com/2q9jdg). A formal attempt was made to virtually ban that editor, which narrowly failed. The administrator stepped down, and quasi-judicial proceedings ended with several admonishments.
It's not that Wikipedia participants are expected to transcend humanity. Rather, it's that looking beyond the rosy marketing picture reveals little but bureaucracy implemented poorly - including fiefdoms, cliques and sycophancy to the charismatic leader.
For all Jimmy Wales's self-promotion regarding his supposed ability to build good communities, it's apparent his skill is instead in knowing how to sell a dysfunctional community effectively. One subtext of the Wikipedia hype is that businesses can harvest an eager pool of free labour, disposable volunteers who will donate effort for the sheer joy of it. The fantasy is somewhat akin to Santa's workshop, where little elves work happily away for wages of a glass of milk and a cookie. Whereas the reality is closer to an exploitative cult running on sweatshop labour.
Secret mailing list rocks Wikipedia • The Register
High School Musical 3
But underneath, there's trouble brewing.
Controversy has erupted among the encyclopedia's core contributors, after a rogue editor revealed that the site's top administrators are using a secret insider mailing list to crackdown on perceived threats to their power.
Many suspected that such a list was in use, as the Wikipedia "ruling clique" grew increasingly concerned with banning editors for the most petty of reasons. But now that the list's existence is confirmed, the rank and file are on the verge of revolt.
Revealed after an uber-admin called "Durova" used it in an attempt to enforce the quixotic ban of a longtime contributor, this secret mailing list seems to undermine the site's famously egalitarian ethos. At the very least, the list allows the ruling clique to push its agenda without scrutiny from the community at large. But clearly, it has also been used to silence the voice of at least one person who was merely trying to improve the encyclopedia's content.
"I've never seen the Wikipedia community as angry as they are with this one," says Charles Ainsworth, a Japan-based editor who's contributed more feature articles to the site than all but six other writers. "I think there was more hidden anger and frustration with the 'ruling clique' than I thought and Durova's heavy-handed action and arrogant refusal to take sufficient accountability for it has released all of it into the open."
Kelly Martin, a former member of Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, leaves no doubt that this sort of surreptitious communication has gone on for ages. "This particular list is new, but the strategy is old," Martin told us via phone, from outside Chicago. "It's certainly not consistent with the public principles of the site. But in reality, it's standard practice."
Meanwhile, Jimbo Wales has told the community that all this is merely a tempest in a teacup. As he points out, the user that Durova wrongly banned was reinstated after a mere 75 minutes. But it would seem that Jimbo has done his best to suppress any talk of the secret mailing list.
Whatever the case, many longtime editors are up-in-arms. And the site's top administrators seem more concerned with petty site politics than with building a trustworthy encyclopedia. "The problem with Wikipedia is that, for so many in the project, it's no longer about the encyclopedia," Martin wrote in a recent blog post. "The problem is that Wikipedia's community has defined itself not in terms of the encyclopedia it is supposedly producing, but instead of the people it venerates and the people it abhors."
On November 18, Durova banned a Wikipedia editor known as "!!". Yes, "!!". Some have taken to calling him "Bang Bang." At Wikipedia, everyone has the right to anonymity, and user names are often, shall we say, inexplicable.
In banning this account, Durova described it as an "abusive sock puppet," insisting it was setup by someone dead set on destroying the encyclopedia. "This problem editor is a troublemaker whose username is two exclamation points with no letters," read the block. "He is a ripened sock with a padded history of redirects, minor edits, and some DYK work. He also indulges in obscene trolling in German, and free range sarcasm and troublemaking. If you find this user gloating, or spot his nasty side, hit him with the banhammer." DYKs are edits made to the "Did You Know" section of the Wikipedia home page.
Durova then posted a notice to the site's public forum, insisting the ban was too important for discussion outside the purview of the Arbitration Committee, Wikipedia's Supreme Court. "Due to the nature of this investigation, our normal open discussion isn't really feasible," she said. "Please take to arbitration if you disagree with this decision."
But it was discussed. At length. Countless editors were nothing less than livid, many arguing that the banned user was actually a wonderfully productive editor. "Durova, you're really going to have to explain this," wrote one editor. "I see no transgressions of any kind on the part of this user; indeed, with over 100 DYKs, he seems to be a pretty positive force around here."
Meanwhile, Durova continued to insist that she had some sort of secret evidence that could only be viewed by the Arbitration Committee. "I am very confident my research will stand up to scrutiny," she said. "I am equally confident that anything I say here will be parsed rather closely by some disruptive banned sockpuppeteers. If I open the door a little bit it'll become a wedge issue as people ask for more information, and then some rather deep research techniques would be in jeopardy."
Then someone posted a private email from Durova in which she divulged her evidence - and revealed the secret mailing list.
Next page: Wikiparanoia
Basically, Durova's email showed that Bang Bang was indeed a wonderfully productive editor. She was sure this was all a put-on, that he was trying to gain the community's "good faith" and destroy it from within.
We're not joking.
This sort of extreme paranoia has become the norm among the Wikipedia inner circle. There are a handful sites across the web that spend most of their bandwidth criticizing the Wikipedia elite - the leading example being Wikipedia Review - and the ruling clique spends countless hours worrying that these critics are trying to infiltrate the encyclopedia itself.
Bang Bang was a relatively new account. Since this new user was a skilled editor, Durova decided, he must be "a vandal" sent by Wikipedia Review. "I need to show you not just what Wikipedia Review is doing to us, but how they're doing it," she said in her email. "Here's a troublemaker whose username is two exclamation points with no letters: !! It's what I would call [a] 'ripened sock'...Some of the folks at WR do this to game the community's good faith."
Former Arbitration Committee member Kelly Martin confirms that this bizarre attitude is now par for the course inside the Wikipedia inner circle. "Anyone who makes large changes to anything now is likely to get run over by a steamroller," she says. "It's not a matter of whether your edit was good or bad. All they see is 'large edit my person not known to me' and - boom! They smack you on the head because vandals are so bad."
As it turned out, Bang Bang was an experienced user. He had set up a new account after having privacy problems with his old one. Once her secret email was posted, Durova removed the ban, calling it "a false positive."
Durova then voluntarily relinquished her admin powers, and over the weekend, the Arbitration Committee admonished her "to exercise greater care when issuing blocks."
But this particular false positive was only part of the problem. With her email, Durova also revealed that the ruling clique was using that secret mailing list to combat its enemies - both real and imagined. "The good news," she said, was that the Wikipedia Review "trolls" didn't know the list existed. And then she linked to the list's sign-up page.
The list is hosted by Wikia, the Jimmy Wales-founded open source web portal that was setup as an entirely separate entity from the not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation that oversees Wikipedia.
The sign-up page explains that the list is designed to quash "cyberstalking" and "harassment." But it would seem that things have gotten a bit out-of-hand. Clearly, the list is also used to land "the banhammer" on innocent bystanders.
"The problem is that their false positive rate is about 90 per cent - or higher," says Kelly Martin. "It's possible that every last person Durova has identified is innocent."
Recently, in another effort to quash "harassment," several members of the Wikipedia elite tried to ban the mention of certain "BADSITES" on the encyclopedia, and naturally, Wikipedia Review was on the list. Dan Tobias was one of the many editors who successfully fought this ban, and as he battled, he marveled at how well organized his opponents seemed to be.
"Over the months that I've been fighting people over issues like the BADSITES proposal, it looks like a lot of these people I was fighting were on this secret email list - at least I suspect they were," says the Floridia-based Tobias. "They always seemed to be show up in right place, at the right time, to gang up on people."
Yes, it all sounds like the most ridiculous of high school squabbles. But Tobias was merely trying to protect free speech on a site where free speech is supposedly sacred.
The irony, Tobias points out, is that in using this mailing list, the Wikipedia inner circle is guilty of the same behavior they're trying to fight. "They're villainizing the so-called attack sites because these sites are promoting pernicious ideas about Wikipedia," he says. "The argument is that when a bunch of like-minded people get together, they're sounding boards for one another, and they end up getting way off base because there's not an opposing viewpoint around.
"But you could say the exact same thing about this secret email list: a bunch of like-minded people are encouraging each other's possibly wacked-out views and, in the end, making trouble on Wikipedia."
If you take Wikipedia as seriously as it takes itself, this is a huge problem. The site is ostensibly devoted to democratic consensus and the free exchange of ideas. But whether or not you believe in the holy law of Web 2.0, Wikipedia is tearing at the seams. Many of its core contributors are extremely unhappy about Durova's ill-advised ban and the exposure of the secret mailing list, and some feel that the site's well-being is seriously threatened.
In a post to Wikipedia, Jimbo Wales says that this whole incident was blown out of proportion. "I advise the world to relax a notch or two. A bad block was made for 75 minutes," he says. "It was reversed and an apology given. There are things to be studied here about what went wrong and what could be done in the future, but wow, could we please do so with a lot less drama? A 75 minute block, even if made badly, is hardly worth all this drama. Let's please love each other, love the project, and remember what we are here for."
But he's not admitting how deep this controversy goes. Wales and the Wikimedia Foudation came down hard on the editor who leaked Durova's email. After it was posted to the public forum, the email was promptly "oversighted" - i.e. permanently removed. Then this rogue editor posted it to his personal talk page, and a Wikimedia Foundation member not only oversighted the email again, but temporarily banned the editor.
Then Jimbo swooped in with a personal rebuke. "You have caused too much harm to justify us putting up with this kind of behavior much longer," he told the editor.
The problem, for many regular contributors, is that Wales and the Foundation seem to be siding with Durova's bizarre behavior. "I believe that Jimbo's credibility has been greatly damaged because of his open support for these people," says Charles Ainsworth. And if Jimbo can't maintain his credibility, the site's most experienced editors may not stick around. Since the banhammer came down, Bang Bang hasn't edited a lick. ®
Jun 16, 2020 | thegrayzone.com
Wikipedia has become a bulletin board for corporate and imperial interests under the watch of its Randian founder, Jimmy Wales, and the veteran US regime-change operative who heads the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher.
Born from seemingly humble beginnings, the Wikimedia Foundation is today swimming in cash and invested in many of the powerful interests that benefit from its lax editorial policy.
The foundation's largest donors include corporate tech giants Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Craigslist. With more than $145 million in assets in 2018, nearly $105 million in annual revenue, and a massive headquarters in San Francisco, Wikimedia has carved out a space for itself next to these Big Tech oligarchs in the Silicon Valley bubble.It is also impossible to separate Wikipedia as a project from the ideology of its creator. When he co-founded the platform in 2001, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales was a conservative libertarian and devoted disciple of right-wing fanatic Ayn Rand .
A former futures and options trader, Wales openly preached the gospel of " Objectivism ," Rand's ultra-capitalist ideology that sees government and society itself as the root of all evil, heralding individual capitalists as gods.
Wales described his philosophy behind Wikipedia in specifically Randian terms. In a video clip from a 2008 interview, published by the Atlas Society, an organization dedicated to evangelizing on behalf of Objectivism, Wales explained that he was influenced by Howard Roark, the protagonist of Rand's novel The Fountainhead.
Wikipedia's structure was expressly meant to reflect the ideology of its libertarian tech entrepreneur founder, and Wales openly said as much.
At the same time, however, Wikipedia editors have upheld the diehard Objectivist Jimmy Wales, as the New York Times put it in 2008, as a "benevolent dictator, constitutional monarch, digital evangelist and spiritual leader."
Wales has always balanced his libertarian inclinations with old-fashioned American patriotism. He was summoned before the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Operations in 2007 to further explain how Wikipedia and its related technologies could be of service to Uncle Sam.
Wales began his remarks stating, "I am grateful to be here today to testify about the potential for the Wikipedia model of collaboration and information sharing which may be helpful to government operations and homeland security."
"At a time when the United States has been increasingly criticized around the world, I believe that Wikipedia is an incredible carrier of traditional American values of generosity, hard work, and freedom of speech," Wales continued, implicitly referencing the George Bush administration's military occupation of Iraq.
The Wikipedia founder added, "The US government has always been premised on responsiveness to citizens, and I think we all believe good government comes from broad, open public dialogue. I therefore also recommend that US agencies consider the use of wikis for public facing projects to gather information from citizens and to seek new ways of effectively collaborating with the public to generate solutions to the problem that citizens face."
Wikipedia Jimmy Wales Senate Homeland Security committee Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales testifying before the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Operations in 2007 In 2012, Wales married Kate Garvey, the former diary secretary of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Their wedding, according to the conservative UK Telegraph, was "witnessed by guests from the world of politics and celebrity."
Wales' status-quo-friendly politics have only grown more pronounced over the years. In 2018, for instance, he publicly cheered on Israel's bombing of the besieged Gaza strip and portrayed Britain's leftist former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite.
The Wikimedia Foundation's Katherine Maher: US regime-change operative with deep corporate links Jimmy Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation claim to have little power over the encyclopedia itself, but it is widely known that this is just PR. Wikimedia blew the lid off this myth in 2015 when it removed a community-elected member of its board of trustees, without explanation.
At the time of this scandal, the Wikimedia Foundation's board of trustees included a former corporate executive at Google, Arnnon Geshuri, who was heavily scrutinized for shady hiring practices. Geshuri, who also worked at billionaire Elon Musk's company Tesla, was eventually pressured to step down from the board.
But just a year later, Wikimedia appointed another corporate executive to its board of trustees, Gizmodo Media Group CEO Raju Narisetti.
The figure that deserves the most scrutiny at the Wikimedia Foundation, however, is its executive director Katherine Maher, who is closely linked to the US regime-change network.
Katherine Maher NDI Atlantic Council Wikimedia Foundation CEO Katherine Maher (right) at a "Disinformation Forum" sponsored by the US government regime-change entity NDI and the NATO- and Gulf monarchy-backed Atlantic Council Maher boasts an eyebrow-raising résumé that would impress the most ardent of cold warriors in Washington.
With a degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from New York University, Maher studied Arabic in Egypt and Syria, just a few years before the so-called Arab Spring uprising and subsequent Western proxy war to overthrow the Syrian government.
Maher then interned at the bank Goldman Sachs, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations and Eurasia Group, both elite foreign-policy institutions that are deeply embedded in the Western regime-change machine.
At the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Maher says on her public LinkedIn profile that she worked in the "US/Middle East Program," oversaw the "CFR Corporate Program," and "Identified appropriate potential clients, conducted outreach."
At the Eurasia Group, Maher focused on Syria and Lebanon. According to her bio, she "Developed stability forecasting and scenario modeling, and market and political stability reports."
Katherine Maher LinkedIn Council on Foreign Relations Eurasia Group
Maher moved on to a job at London's HSBC bank – which would go on to pay a whopping $1.9 billion fine after it was caught red-handed laundering money for drug traffickers and Saudi financiers of international jihadism. Her work at HSBC brought her to the UK, Germany, and Canada.
Next, Maher co-founded a little-known election monitoring project focused on Lebanon's 2008 elections called Sharek961. To create this platform, Maher and her associates partnered with an influential technology non-profit organization, Meedan, which has received millions of dollars of funding from Western foundations, large corporations like IBM, and the permanent monarchy of Qatar.
Meedan also finances the regime-change lobbying website, Bellingcat, which is considering a reliable source on Wikipedia, while journalism outlets like The Grayzone are formally blacklisted.
Sharek961 was funded by the Technology for Transparency Network, a platform for regime-change operations bankrolled by billionaire Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network and billionaire George Soros' Open Society Foundations.
Maher subsequently moved over to a position as an "innovation and communication officer" at the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF. There, she oversaw projects funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), an arm of the US State Department which finances regime-change operations and covert activities around the globe under the auspices of humanitarian goodwill.
Soon enough, Maher cut out the middleman and went to work as a program officer in information and communications technology at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which was created and financed directly by the US government. The NDI is a central gear in the regime-change machine; it bankrolls coup and destabilization efforts across the planet in the guise of "democracy promotion."
At the NDI, Maher served as a program officer for "internet freedom projects," advancing Washington's imperial soft power behind the front of boosting global internet access – pursuing a strategy not unlike the one used to destabilize Cuba.
The Wikimedia Foundation CEO says on her LinkedIn profile that her work at the NDI included "democracy and human rights support" as well as designing technology programs for "citizen engagement, open government, independent media, and civil society for transitional, conflict, and authoritarian countries, including internet freedom programming."
After a year at the NDI, she moved over to the World Bank, another notorious vehicle for Washington's power projection.
Katherine Maher LinkedIn World Bank NDI
At the World Bank, Maher oversaw the creation of the Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA), an initiative that uses new technologies to impose more aggressive neoliberal economic policies on developing countries.
Maher's LinkedIn page notes that her work entailed designing and implementing "open government and open data in developing and transitioning nations," especially in the Middle East and North Africa.
At the time of her employment at the World Bank, the Arab Spring protests were erupting.
In October 2012, in the early stages of the proxy war in Syria, Maher tweeted that she was planning a trip to Gaziantep, a Turkish city near the Syrian border that became the main hub for the Western-backed opposition. Gaziantep was at the time crawling with Syrian insurgents and foreign intelligence operatives plotting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Katherine Maher ✔ @krmaher
Planning to go to Gaziantep in a few days. A timely NYT report from the Turkish-Syrian border: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/13/world/middleeast/on-edge-in-turkey-as-syria-war-inches-closer.html?pagewanted=2&smid=tw-share
1 12:25 PM - Oct 13, 2012 Twitter Ads info and privacy
See Katherine Maher's other Tweets Just two months later, in December, she tweeted that was was on a flight to Libya. Just over a year before, a NATO regime-change war had destroyed the Libyan government, and foreign-backed insurgents had killed leader Muammar Qadhafi, unleashing a wave of violence – and open-air slave markets.
Today, Libya has no unified central government and is still plagued by a grueling civil war. What Maher was doing in the war-torn country in 2012 is not clear.
Katherine Maher ✔ @krmaher
I'm on the plane to Libya. Holy wow, batman.
View image on Twitter 2 3:21 AM - Dec 9, 2012 Twitter Ads info and privacy
Maher's repeated trips to the Middle East and North Africa right around the time of these uprisings and Western intervention campaigns raised eyebrows among local activists.
In 2016, when Maher was named executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, a prominent Tunisian activist named Slim Amamou spoke out, alleging that "Katherine Maher is probably a CIA agent."
Amamou briefly served as secretary of state for sport and youth in Tunisia's transitional government, before later resigning. He noted that Maher traveled to the country several times since the Arab Spring protests broke out in 2011, and he found it strange that her affiliations kept changing.
... ... ...
Slim Amamou ✔ @slim404 · Mar 13, 2016
Katherine Maher is probably a CIA agent. She's been in Tunisia multiple times since 2011 under multiple affiliations https://twitter.com/Wikimedia/status/708438130626408449
Wikimedia ✔ @Wikimedia
Chief communications officer Katherine Maher (@krmaher) named interim executive director of Wikimedia Foundation. http://blog.wikimedia.org/2016/03/11/katherine-maher-interim-executive-director/
Slim Amamou ✔ @slim404
Wikmedia foundation is changing.. and not in a good way. It's sad, because rare are organisations that have this reach in developing world
2 11:18 AM - Mar 13, 2016 Twitter Ads info and privacy See Slim Amamou's other Tweets
In April 2017, in her new capacity as head of the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher participated in an event for the US State Department. The talk was a "Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing," entitled "Wikipedia in a Post-fact World." It was published at the official State Department website.
Maher spoke about the libertarian philosophy behind Wikipedia, echoing the Ayn Randian ideology of founder Jimmy Wales.
When journalists asked how Wikipedia deals "with highly charged topics," where "some entities – sometimes countries, sometimes various other entities – are often engaged in conflict with each other," Maher repeatedly provided a non-answer, recycling vague platitudes about the Wikipedia community working together.
The Grayzone has clearly demonstrated how Wikipedia editors overwhelmingly side with Western governments in these editorial conflicts, echoing the perspectives of interventionists and censoring critical voices.
A few months later, in January 2018, Maher appeared on a panel with Michael Hayden, the former director of both the CIA and NSA, and a notorious hater of journalists, as well with a top Indian government official, K. VijayRaghavan.
The talk, entitled "Lies Propaganda and Truth," was held by the organization behind the Nobel Prize.
The moderator of the discussion, Mattias Fyrenius, the CEO of the Nobel Prize's media arm, asked Maher: "There is some kind of information war going on – and maybe you can say that there is a war going on between the lies, and the propaganda, and the facts, and maybe truth – do you agree?"
"Yes," Maher responded in agreement. She added her own question: "What are the institutions, what is the obligation of institutions to actually think about what the future looks like, if we actually want to pass through this period with our integrity intact?"
... ... ...
Wikimedia Foundation CEO Katherine Maher in a panel discussion with CIA director Michael Hayden Hayden, the former US spy agency chief, then blamed "the Russians" for waging that information war. He referred to Moscow as "the adversary," and claimed the "Russian information bubble, information dominance machine, created so much confusion." Maher laughed in approval, disputing nothing that Hayden said. In the same discussion, Maher also threw WikiLeaks (which is blacklisted on Wikipedia) under the bus, affirming, "Not WikiLeaks, I want to be clear, we're not the same organization." The former CIA director next to her chuckled.
Wikipedia Katherine Maher Open Technology Fund US government Wikimedia Foundation executive director Katherine Maher is a member of the advisory board of the US government's technology regime-change arm the Open Technology Fund (OPT)
Today, Maher is a member of the advisory board of the US government's technology regime-change arm the Open Technology Fund (OPT) – a fact she proudly boasts on her LinkedIn profile. The OPT was created in 2012 as a project of Radio Free Asia, an information warfare vehicle that the New York Times once described as a "worldwide propaganda network built by the CIA." Since disaffiliating from this CIA cutout in 2019, the OPT is now bankrolled by the US Agency for Global Media, the government's propaganda arm, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Like Maher's former employer the National Democratic Institute, the OPT advances US imperial interests in the guise of promoting "internet freedom" and new technologies. It also provides large grants to opposition groups in foreign nations targeted by Washington for regime change.
Katherine Maher Truman National Security Project
While she serves today as the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher remains a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, a Washington, DC think tank that grooms former military and intelligence professionals for careers in Democratic Party politics.
The Truman Project website identifies Maher's expertise as "international development."
As The Grayzone's Max Blumenthal reported, the most prominent fellow of the Truman Project is Pete Buttigieg, the US Naval intelligence veteran who emerged as a presidential frontrunner in the Democratic primary earlier this year.
The extensive participation by the head of the Wikimedia Foundation in US government regime-change networks raises serious questions about the organization's commitment to neutrality.
Perhaps the unchecked problem of political bias and coordinated smear campaigns by a small coterie of Wikipedia editors is not a bug, but a deliberately conceived feature of the website.
Ben Norton Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
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Meet Wikipedia's Ayn Rand-loving founder and Wikimedia Foundation's regime-change operative CEO By Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal
The Dark Side of Wikipedia
WikipediaDark side of Wikipedia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Also here is another one you forgot
Also to answer your PS request
Here is the original wikipedia nofollow plugin.
Britannica - and that would be a good thing.
you know, or are thinking about wikipedia and what you are going to do with it you should be thinking about Virgil Griffith and the wikiscanner. You can google around and see what people do on wikipediaWikipedia through official channels have all of their concerns taken seriously. Hack jobs are regarded just as poorly as puff pieces in the Wikipedia culture.
This is one cwazy wiki-whacky world we're wiving in.
Wikipedia user Igor Berger article submission talk
Her administrative recall page is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Durova
The joint Arbitration Committee case against her and JeHochman is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration#Durova_and_Jehochman
JeHochman was questioned just last week for similar abuses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard/IncidentArchive324#Bizarre_behavior_from_Jehochman
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