Why do you publish Wikipedia We Have a Problem, and why do you believe it is important?
Wikipedia claims it is an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia also has a number of very reasonable guidelines around things like editing with a neutral point of view and the interaction between editors being collaborative.
However, the reality is that various points of view can dominate Wikipedia articles through various forms of what I can only call editor suppression.
Since editor suppression runs contrary to Wikipedia’s editing guidelines, various tactics and forms of harassment are used to intimidate other viewpoints away from editing.
Specifically, these forms of harassment entail online strategies that are conducted to damage people’s reputation, first on Wikipedia in consensus building, and then in more extreme cases carry over on the internet.
So, I created a fully documented first person narrative of my experience, somewhat like a diary, of these events as they happen to me in real time while I look under the hood of what is happening behind the scenes on Wikipedia that allows all of this to happen.
These tactics are a bit more sophisticated than the mainstream is aware of. They are socially disgusting and frequently illegal methods. Cleverly, these behaviors intentionally leverage Google page ranking in search returns using Wikipedia and ‘fake encyclopedias’ like RationalWiki, Metapedia, Conservapedia, ‘mock’ encyclopedias like Encyclopedia Dramatica, fan encyclopedias like Wikia, and social media sites like Twitter and Reddit.
Although harassment happening on Wikipedia is finally leaking into the mainstream news, ‘what’ actually happens is incredibly complex and difficult to follow for third party observers, and ‘how’ it is achieved is never fully documented.
I believe this helps to diffuse these issues as they happen to others, so they can make sense of what is happening to them.
How is harassment different on Wikipedia instead of other platforms dealing with it, like Twitter?
Mainly because harassment on Wikipedia is used to influence contextualization around knowledge and education, leveraging Google’s high page ranking for Wikipedia pages. So there is a ‘prize’ attached at the end of it that is not there on other platforms.
Contextualization is a big problem on the web, everything from ‘false news stories’ to ‘joe jobbing’ campaigns are used by any and all interest based groups. On Wikipedia, these become ‘wiki wars’, a more complex and often even interesting conflict to control editing permissions on an article.
On Wikipedia We Have a Problem, I attempt to show how Wikipedia itself can become a battleground between ideological groups who can go to extreme steps simply to control a single word in a lead sentence, and the extreme steps they can take to damage control their activities.
What happened to you on Wikipedia in these ‘wiki wars’?
This harassment against me started simply at first while editing on a controversial Wikipedia article, the biography of Rupert Sheldrake.
It was a well publicized wiki war, mentioned on the BBC, Forbes, and a number of blogs back in September of 2013.
Rupert was claiming that editors were being harassed away from editing his article by skeptic organizations. I went in to see for myself.
Petty claims like I am a sock puppet, troll, and ‘conspiracy theorist’ were first used to discredit me as an ‘internet crank’.
At first it was so over the top I didn’t think anyone would take it seriously. I thought it would be easy to work through the noticeboards and expose the abuse. I was wrong about that.
Six weeks later I was banned indefinitely from Wikipedia as a disruptive troll who was not interested in improving the encyclopedia, all from this narrative of me being spun around the community by these editors.
After I was banned, a few days later this narrative about me carried over into RationalWiki where these same Wikipedia editors also edit articles and created one about me.
And it has continued ever since, many times crossing the legal threshold.
Since publication of Wikipedia, We Have a Problem, this defamatory campaign expanded this online narrative about me further, stretching me into a ‘promoter of pseudoscience’, what ever that is, as well as someone with an anti social personality disorder, a persecution complex, a paranoid drug user, cocaine addict, and an internet stalker who targets underage kids.
Then, to top it off, a RationalWiki editor writes on my biography page that WWHP is nothing but a delusion of someone who has a persecution complex, all RationalWiki is doing is simply exposing my shenanigans while they are the very same editors from Wikipedia and the same individuals spreading and writing these fake biographies around the internet.
David Gerard, one of the founders of RationalWiki, refers to these type of campaigns as ‘battles to the death for incredibly low stakes’, and everyone should take him at his word for that.
RationalWiki is leveraged as a safe space for those conducting these type of campaigns and I was shocked to see how these type of fake encyclopedias operate and justify their online behaviors.
Surely Wikipedia, We Have a Problem is also published to protect your online reputation, something skeptic blogger Tim Farley claims is the only reason you do this.
One thing I am not doing is trying to ‘cover up’ something from my past that these Wikipedia editors on RationalWiki have ‘discovered’ about me.
I’ve not done anything online or offline to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, ever. Anyone who knows me personally or works with me also knows I work with a high degree of integrity, skill, and good intentions.
What I am doing is confronting attempts to intentionally damage someone’s reputation using deceptive tactics as a manner of personal payback or even more petty, editor suppression on Wikipedia. I am then using that as a case study so these methods are easier to diffuse for others when they happen to them. Since election 2016, we are witnessing these type of trolling tactics happen at a much larger scale, this is a very serious issue.
On the personal side, currently I’m the founder and CEO of a tech start up, and I have to report to investors and other companies seeking partnerships. I have companies doing diligence on me all the time, and I’ve had to address this on more than one occasion in professional and personal settings. I’ve also had to pause progress on another platform because of this harassment.
So yes, I also publish this website as well to protect my professional reputation, which is under attack often by a small group of editors on Wikipedia and RationalWiki.
I am also a single father, and yes my son can read these personal attacks against me online and it is hard to express how utterly complicated it is to be harassed on the internet like this and have to explain it to my own child.
If RationalWiki’s article did not show up as number #1 in search for my name, perhaps I wouldn’t care so much, but since the creation of a very distorted article on RationalWiki happened immediately after being banned on Wikipedia by these editors, it created a more personal necessity to expose it.
What brought you to investigating wiki wars on Wikipedia in the first place?
‘Wiki wars’ hold an interest to me because I am a designer of a collaborative consensus building platform called aiki.wiki. I have not yet launched this platform. So investigating how conflict breaks down in wiki wars is informative to me because I’ve designed solutions architecture for building a trusted online consensus especially where there are ideological clashes and questionable behaviors.
How many have you been involved in?
Are you ideologically driven to do this?