Wikipedia We Have a Problem details a case study focusing on how a group of “skeptic activists” on Wikipedia leverage their dominant voices on a large swath of topics and biographies and suppress minority voices, often through violating Wikipedia’s own harassment policies and extending their activity to other MediaWikis, such as RationalWiki.
Specifically, from my direct experience and published in this study, “skeptic” editors do not just game Wikipedia’s rules, but misrepresent them to new editors, and frequently ignore or break them far more often than they accuse smaller voices in order to sanction them from editing.
What’s more, this community appears to be sanctioned within the Wikipedia community for doing so, including a few prominent voices in the Wikipedia and skeptic community.
This appears to create two sets of rules, in which we have Wikipedia’s Five Pillars, an encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” but which has a shadow community that believes “not everyone should”.
This is the stuff of wiki wars.
Editor suppression in consensus building
Editor suppression runs contrary to Wikipedia and WikiMedia’s own guidelines, rules, regulations.
From my perspective and direct experience – I view editor suppression in many instances to be a violation of human dignity and even civil rights within “minority viewpoints” in relationship to whatever culture is dominating a Wikipedia article.
Because of the cultural and technical complexity of internet culture, media, and technology – I believe these ethical violations and abuses have not been articulated into public discourse in a clear enough manner so as to clarify core issues and problems that are affecting numerous institutions, industries, and notable living people.
I focus on “skeptic activism” on Wikipedia because that was my first entry point into a wiki war, and “skeptic activists” are indeed a dominant culture on Wikipedia, guarding and editing countless articles on biographies, alternative and indigenous medicines, counter-culture philosophies or figures, devotional practices such as meditation, yoga, martial arts, ritual, or prayer, and experimental or fringe sciences or research. They also naturally proactively edit their own Wikipedia biographies of their own notable skeptics, skeptic events, websites, and podcasts.
The case for editor suppression on Wikipedia, complete.
Skeptic activists take their viewpoints very seriously, and can often appear and behave somewhat fanatical from my experience attempting to build a consensus with them on Wikipedia.
They treat Wikipedia as if a battleground for their activism, where online harassment, slander, bullying, character assassination, and public shaming, are all used as tactics to control editing permissions, evolving into wiki wars across many other platforms.
This has created a rather skewed interpretation of ‘Neutral Point of View‘ editing and a number of social issues dealing with what I believe to be a poisoned online culture of Wikipedia.
A few months back I posted specifically how one Wikipedia skeptic activist editor, Manul, continues to leverage Wikipedia’s rules, guidelines, and arbitration processes specifically to harass and raise concerns about Wikipedia editors who have views that Manul considers ‘outside of the mainstream’ .
Not stopping there, these suppression tactics can be applied to other Wikipedia editors if they had some associations with this website.
This March (2016), Manul, along with another WP ‘skeptic editor’, Jytdog, recently went after Wikipedia editor and representative to Deepak Chopra ‘The Capn’ (Askhrc) to remove him from editing on Wikipedia.
Their campaign was successful, he is now banned from Deepak Chopra’s article.
Editor suppression, “flag-waving” other editors.
The Cap’n (Askhrc) was a fully disclosed direct representative to Deepak Chopra on Wikipedia, as allowed by both Wikipedia and the WikiMedia Foundation. He also wrote an article on Huffington Post, detailing specifically a number of editorial abuses occurring on Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article.
Predictably, Manul along with Jytdog want to remove The Capn from editing on Wikipedia, trying to sanction him because he was associated with me, this publication, and by default SAS81, the account I created for resolving Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article.
In Manul’s sanction request against Ryan, they actually refer to Wikipedia We Have a Problem as an off wiki harassment website designed to provoke skeptics. More misinformation and damage control from the very same editors reported often in this study.
Manul’s ‘wiki suspense’ about this study was, true to form, a bit over the top, the signature of how serious this collective of editors on Wikipedia try to control permissions and the unbelievable lengths they go to to achieve it.
The Cap’n was grilled in his Wikipedia ‘trial’.
What did The Cap’n know and when did he know it?
Did The Cap’n betray Wikipedia by not informing them that SAS81 was the publisher of Wikipedia, We Have a Problem?
Shame! Shock! Evidence of a conspiracy to disrupt Wikipedia!
Next, Manul and Jytdog used this association with The Tumbleman, my Wikipedia editing account on the Sheldrake wiki war, as evidence that he could not be trusted to edit Wikipedia now almost three years later.
And not for any edits he has done in his past five year history on Wikipedia, but for edits they suspect he will make in the future.
Consider, The Cap’n is an archivist in probably one of the largest collections of academic research on alternative medicine from universities all over the world – so a dumb request for editors of an encyclopedia to make.
What is disturbing about this trend is that The Cap’n is getting sanctioned on Wikipedia not for what he does on Wikipedia, but for what he is suspected of thinking off Wikipedia, and specifically what he thinks about skeptic activists and editor suppression tactics.
The Cap’n is being sanctioned because they believe sometime in the future he might make an inappropriate edit, despite that his five year edit and contribution history never shows one example of this ever occurring.
Skeptic Broadcast Department Spokesmen, Tim Farley.
True to form, Tim Farley – who edits on Wikipedia as krelnik, tweeted out the damage control spin.
Did Tim’s tweet factually inform his skeptic audience that Wikipedia editor Manul got Cap’n sanctioned for being associated with this website?
No, Farley tweeted to his audience the “skeptic” propaganda. The skeptic narrative. Skeptic activists again using Wikipedia as a staging ground for their activism. Tim wants his audience to believe that tireless, dedicated Wikipedia editors have to deal with “fringe pushing” and suspicious “woo believers” that keep losing in their anti-science agenda. Another win for the skeptics.
He even garnished his tweet with a “sad” ending, a classic persuasion made more famous recently by our first Twitter president.
According to Tim Farley, skeptic influencer on Twitter, The Cap’n was sanctioned as ‘found out’ as one of Deepak’s editors. Tim misrepresents to his network of followers not just the facts of this event, but facts about how Wikipedia actually works.
The Cap’n was not “found out” on Wikipedia, he was operating with full transparency for months that he was Deepak Chopra’s representative as well as archivist for ISHAR.
Not only that, Wikipedia and WikiMedia allow for a notable subject to having a representative on the talk page, advising the community to treat them with respect. The skeptics got Deepak Chopra’s representative removed, the only pathway notable subjects have to recourse on Wikipedia.
And then Tim Farley broadcasts a cover story, embarrassing Deepak Chopra. That’s just flat out harassment and manipulation of Wikipedia by any fair standard.
These are the petty “battles to the death” that wiki wars take. If it feels like you’re stumbling into a script written by Kurt Vonnegut and directed by Terry Gilliam, or listening to an episode of “This American Life”, or watching a Cohen brothers movie, you’re not alone.
The surreal absurdity of this particular cultural fringe group (skeptic activists) and the seriousness they engage in these “battles to the death” for incredibly low stakes offers an enticing, gripping, suspenseful drama of epic proportions over nothing. All that is missing is a quirky musical soundtrack.
The case of editor suppression versus legitimate sanctioning.
The main purpose of this website is to prove editor suppression by detailing the pattern of behaviors Wikipedia editors take, with Manul being probably the core editor I focus on throughout my study (although there are half a dozen or so more)
When we look at the editing histories and behaviors, it is easy to distinguish between a genuine sanction against a problematic editor, and a sanction designed to suppress editors away from editing. These are entirely two distinct sets of behaviors (which can be accounted for programmatically, in principle).
I’ve detailed events on this website that clearly show Manul has for more than two years, performed battleground and harassment operations on Wikipedia alongside WP Editor Oliver Smith/ Goblin Face, creator of a large skeptic sockpuppet army of over fifty Wikipedia accounts, and other editors who edit articles all related to skeptic interests and points of view.
Oliver Smith continues to defend Manul around the web against charges made by Wikipedia, We Have a Problem.
Tim Farley even defended a number of Oliver’s sock puppets back on Wikipedia, and has engaged online with Oliver many times.
Why didn’t Manul, or Tim Farley, ever raise concerns with the Goblin Face/Dan Skeptic sock puppet if their concern is abuses on Wikipedia?
Why just raise the concern if it’s Tumbleman, or Askhrc, or SAS81, or anyone who attempts to form a consensus or disagrees with skeptic agenda based editing?
In the case of these editing accounts, the pattern is very clear.
No reference to any edit or any behavior was used to sanction these accounts away from editing, rather just attacks, harassment, and false narratives to trigger a sanction from an admin.
A history of editor suppression: Manul
Consider, Manul began their editing career as a ‘single purpose account’ for skeptic agenda based editing and instigated the wiki war on Rupert Sheldrake’s article with their very first edit back in July 2013.
Manul’s very first actual edit on Wikipedia was removing ‘biologist’ from the lede sentence on Rupert Sheldrake’s WP article, and replacing it with ‘former biochemist’ and ‘considered as pseudoscience’ in the first sentence as a biographical credential on a biography of a living person.
I highlight this to show an intentional animosity with the subject of the article, with an intention to embarrass or shame the subject, somewhat weaponizing Wikipedia for their world view. I also show this as a matter of record, Manul sought no consensus for that original change. It was an aggressive edit by a fresh editing account.
To support my claim, I merely need to reference Sheldrake’s credentials as a biologist, which is standard and non controversial.
He has published over 80 scientific papers and Cambridge University, as well as Encyclopedia Brittanica, also lists him as a biologist. Specifically Sheldrake is referenced as a biologist in numerous primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
This is not just an essential feature to Sheldrake’s biography, it is an essential piece of the man’s own dignity. To deny a man the dignity of his own hard earned credentials and abusing a NPOV to do so is, I believe – evidence of intent.
Manul’s first edit on Wikipedia was the original cause of the Sheldrake Wiki War.
This singular event by Manul is exactly what created the ‘battleground’ in Sheldrake’s wiki war that attracted dozens of Wikipedia editors to the page, including myself, the Capn and a slew of others, along with the attention of Forbes, the BBC, New Republic and the blogosphere.
Once Manul made those changes, despite more than a dozen editors protesting this change, they made themselves ‘sheriff’ on the article and blocked all attempts to put ‘biologist’ back in the lede sentence and sought sanction against editors who disagreed.
Far more editors on Wikipedia disagreed with Manul and other skeptic editors decisions, and were all rebuked in various ways using what appeared to me to be mind numbingly horrible logic to support their viewpoints for this removal of a basic credential.
With Deepak Chopra, his problem with agenda based skeptic editors is far more extreme yet tactically very similar to Rupert Sheldrake.
Again – skeptic activist editors do not want to list Deepak Chopra as a MD, despite the fact he has a medical license in the state of California and employs a medical staff at his center.
These two wiki wars give two examples of what I believe is agenda based editing allowed to run rampant on Wikipedia within this small niche of skeptic activists.
They believe that Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra, and those like them, do not deserve the credibility and dignity of their very own academic credentials, and believe that if they are listed – they would be given that credibility and dignity their titles allow them.
If any editors disagrees with them on these small biographical points, they are likely to be blocked, banned, and harassed until most just throw their hands up and quit.
Specifically – it is these types of clear editing abuses which is what attracted me originally to this problem.
The elephant in the room that neither Manul nor JytDog can acknowledge to both themselves and Wikipedia is that SAS81 whom they dismiss as simply as a ‘sock’, acted as a transparent, rule abiding and effective representative to Deepak Chopra on Wikipedia, and, just like Tumbleman which Manul also sanctioned quite inappropriately, followed the rules on Wikipedia 100%.
Same with TheCap’n, acting as Deepak Chopra’s representative.
Third party corroboration
As an uninvolved editor (with no intention of involving himself) I have to say that there’s a problem where SAS81 is up against a bunch of involved editors with clear bias against the subject, judging by the repeated use of pejoratives here and elsewhere. ….Come up with a better solution than having a user with a declared COI and valid intentions go up against a small army of vociferous skeptics and wiki warriors. This should be handled neutrally from both ends. We can’t ask SAS81 to be “nice” to us when they are assailed at every turn because they have a COI (!), or because we don’t like his boss. ….. But this situation tends to reflect badly on us as a community. And MastCell has a point, but all that excessive posting and forum shopping might simply be a reflection of SAS81’s frustration at running into the same walls over and over. FreeRangeFrogcroak 18:50, 29 April 2014
SAS81 is not the problem here. He is representing the BLP subject on the talk page. The BLP policy allows this (see WP:BLPKIND and WP:BLPSELF), and the Foundation has asked that “anyone who has a complaint about how they are described on the project’s websites be treated with patience, kindness, and respect.” There would have to be significant disruption before a subject or his representative were removed, and nothing like that has happened here. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:00, 10 June 2014 (UTC)
More misinformation, WWHP is a editor “harassment” website.
Manul claim sin the AE against Ryan that Wikipedia, We Have a Problem is an ‘off wiki harassment website’ designed to harass Manul and skeptic editors on Wikipedia, a claim they make about me on Encyclopedia Dramatica and Rational Wiki.
This is identical to the message of Oliver Smith, who is Wikipedia editor Goblin Face who sends me threatening emails and goes around the web defending Manul and Tim Farley against this publication.
If Manul makes this claim, I’m not sure Manul understands what harassment, is considered on Wikipedia’s community guidelines, which Manul and other skeptic editors often abuse, as well as Wikipedia editing policies and misrepresent them to new or unexperienced editors.
We should probably define harassment in this case.
Wikipedia Harassment is defined by the community as digging into editors past editing histories, passing around or exposing their personal identities , casting aspersions around them or off wiki anonymous activities on the web, to rile up a mob.
Wikipedia harassment guidelines already cover Manuls actions and targeting of Ryan Castle, myself, and other editors. However “legal” harassment also covers slandering users as trolls and other aspersions such as conductors of social media experiments or or having an ‘anti personality disorder’, faking diffs in an AE hearing to get them sanctioned or blocked, and then top it off with writing articles to embarrass individuals on Rational Wiki for what they do on Wikipedia, citing their own claims as references to support their narratives.
That’s harassment and slander. And that is what this case study focuses on, specifically those activities, available as open source public records archived on Wikipedia directly, and nothing else.
Defensive actions required when no recourse available.
Once Manul starts harassing, libeling and slander editors on Wikipedia and then carry that slander and harassment onto Rational Wiki and Encyclopedia Dramatica, those individuals have the right to protect and defend themselves however they believe they need to if Wikipedia admins offer no recourse for such activities.
Editors targeted for suppression should not beholden to a high standard of conduct while they try and defend themselves against Manul or any aggressive Wikipedia editor, who is abusing that very standard of conduct to harass them further.
Evidence: No recourse available for notable living people being misrepresented on Wikipedia
The point of this study is to show and detail a very disconcerting fact about Wikipedia. If a notable individual feels harassed by editors on Wikipedia regarding the status of their biography, there is simply no recourse. All of either Wikipedia, or WikiMedia’s guidelines were followed, with exhaustive resources, to no avail.
Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, or any individual has the right to fair and neutral representation, regardless of what they do or claim. They have the right to be listed as a biologist, or an MD on Wikipedia because those are significant facts about their biography.
A broader issue of human dignity, privacy, and civil rights.
By blocking Ryan Castle and by default Deepak Chopra from participating responsibly on Wikipedia like anyone else, skeptic editors are attempting to sanction certain individuals on Wikipedia simply for what their beliefs are. This shows a ‘hidden bias’ deeply entrenched in a culture.
Skeptic editors on Wikipedia do not believe that anyone who engages in any spiritual or alternative medical practice or fringe scientific research, in addition to anyone that they should associate with, or any individuals that have an interest in those subjects for any reason, should be allowed to edit those articles on Wikipedia.
They believe there should be one set of rules for those with these beliefs, and another set of rules for those who refute them.
Since this belief they have is clearly outside of Wikipedia policy along with common decency – these editors create an environment of suspicion where none is warranted to enforce their own agendas while suppressing the common rights of others.
This is very concerning for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the ‘woo’ of these subject matters.
This is more than just an open violation of Wikipedia’s own Five Pillars, it’s moving one step closer to violating civil rights, privacy, and human dignity.
I don’t have to agree with Deepak Chopra, or follow him, or like him, or promote him – to make that statement.
Wikipedia, We Have a Problem
Disclaimer: As mentioned a number of times on this site, in 2014 after the publication of Wikipedia We Have a Problem I was approached by Deepak Chopra for assistance and advice on his Wikipedia problem. As well I became the architect and creator for the ISHAR digital library. This relationship lasted perhaps eight months and ended less than harmoniously in November of 2014. I have no relationship, connection or contact with either ISHAR, Ryan Castle, the Chopra Foundation, or Deepak Chopra since.
Every post that Wikipedia, We Have a Problem posts about harassment coming from this group of editors is followed up by a ‘operation’ somewhere on the web by WP editor Goblin Face, whom is now identified as Oliver D. Smith. Oliver Smith has carried out a shocking amount of online impersonations, email threats, and social disruption campaigns attempting to silence this publication.
Update: That event predictably happened. There were two very Goblin Face like sock puppet accounts created on Wikipedia which posted material and discussion on Manul’s Talk page on March 28th, one day after the publication of this article. An admin deleted this exchange on Manul’s talk page (citing defamatory content) but this diff (archived page) shows the partial exchange with Goblin Face’s socking army having some exchange in relationship to Manul and their new ‘attack Viharo’ website called wikipedia we don’t have a problem.