update: 2017-06-22 Wikiwars forking into new “wikis”, specifically “Infogalatic” mentioned below was just covered by Wired Magazine
My three year journey into investigating harassment, editor suppression, and a host of generally nasty online behaviors initiating on Wikipedia has been my own personal decent into Dante’s Inferno.
Beginning on Wikipedia, the circles of hell and the psychologies encountered get increasingly more disturbing and more bizarre to downright illegal and malicious as one tracks it.
Each circle spiraling lower than the previous, expanding to RationalWiki, Encyclopedia Dramatica, Metapedia and a host of micro communities on Reddit, to lolcows and kiwifarms.
A visit into Dark Psychology’s list of troll personality types will somewhat give you an idea.
This is the peculiar landscape I’ve covered frequently on this website.
The world of ‘wiki wars’, where many of these communities target and attack each other in somewhat of a digital dystopian blitzkrieg, using clever information, misinformation, and disinformation campaigns as a kind of ‘payback’ on the other by weaponizing things like Google search, WikiMedia software, and various social media platforms.
Featured extensively on this website is known internet user Oliver Smith, who actually worked himself into this study primarily because I was targeted by him for publishing it.
Oliver himself was somewhat of a master, creating multiple sock puppets on many WikiMedia based platforms such as Wikipedia, RationalWiki, Encyclopedia Dramatica, MetaPedia, and KiwiFarms. From there, various personalities, impersonations, and faked or staged dramas were written and performed by Oliver along with his brothers. The Smiths created drama, and then weaponized real users reactions to it to fuel and enrage the drama further.
I’ve tracked this weaponization of Google search and social media the entire time.
Like Dante’s Inferno, the narrative about me gets more and more deceptive and the minds encountered more and more demonic, starting with Manul on Wikipedia (where their harassment is only Wikipedia focused) to encountering the Smith brothers on RationalWiki and a host of other forums.
It’s a devil’s pastime to watch these behaviors take place and emerge online without much scrutiny.
Eerily, it exposes how easily it is for any agenda based group (and I’ll get to our political landscape shortly) to conduct any type of propaganda or misinformation campaign online.
It also shows how effective it can be with very little resources and manpower. Even one individual who is clever enough can begin to create outcomes in real world events by manipulating such platforms and software.
It even sheds some light on what happened in the 2016 election with various online operations happening within political teams. It is not difficult to extrapolate what sort of damage or affect can be done with large teams of individuals performing in unison.
It is not my intention for WWHP to get political and use this as a platform to promote my political viewpoints.
That being said, it should be fair for me to say that in the 2016 election, I took a less than favorable approach to Trump’s campaign and my social media feeds will inform you more of my political thoughts more than this blog will.
No matter where my own political bias is (I consider myself more progressive and centrist leaning) it is irrelevant to this study.
From my experience, groups online that identify with the ‘SJW’ tag (as found on Wikipedia and RationalWiki, where they dominate) have just as many disturbing online tactics as do groups working within the alt right (#gamergate) online.
The lesser demons, SJW’s versus the ‘alt right’ and the coming wiki wars.
Online, as in real life, the SJW’s, or #socialjusticewarriors, are to the left of the political spectrum, while the #altright is the opposite.
They are both polar opposites as well as polar counterparts in an information war being battled about the web through social media, blogs, and wikis.
Don’t let their “ideas” fool you – while their ideas are at opposite ends of the spectrum, their behaviors and choices are so similar as to be indistinguishable.
And this where it gets interesting for Wikipedia.
Mainstream America saw ‘alt-right’ community emerge on Wikipedia during the GamerGate controversy, where they encountered the ‘SJW’ dominate communities on Wikipedia.
Like many, I was shocked as early as 2015 when I saw the alt right community emerge online with 4chan and /pol extending their reach into social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Since the Trump presidency – the far right propaganda engine has had more exposure and indeed more global suspicion, with ties to Russian interference in our election and sophisticated trolling operations to subvert viewpoints and enflame others.
This online movement is now emboldened with the success of the Trump campaign, and there is some evidence this polarized culture war we are in will get more and more dramatic on Wikipedia as articles covering things like fake news and Trump’s cabinet picks and executive orders become a battleground in this culture war.
This tit for tat war, I predict, will mean that any article on US Politics on Wikipedia will solely be comprised of editors and admins involved on either side of a political agenda, and Wikipedia will be the prime real estate for agenda operations in the world due to its search rankings.
Just take a look at Reddit’s /r/the_donald, where in numerous discussions over Wikipedia, including operations, have been discussed the past few months alone.
More recently, since the Turkish election with the constitutional referendum to exceed the allowance for Erodogan to stay in power, Erodogan’s very own biographical article was attacked on Wikipedia. This wiki war ‘strike’ is consistent with the patterns detailed in this study. (update 4/17/17)
If anyone thought Wikipedia and Wikimedia was unable to handle harassment and abuse in the past, they may be woefully unable to handle what is coming.
It does seem to have a lively presence and funding – but I don’t believe this will redirect the political tensions that exist on Wikipedia between editors for reasons stated below.
Infogalactic does appear to make a sincere appeal to objectivity and the removal of bias. I don’t see it going down the road of a Conservapedia or RationalWiki where abuses are tolerated, which at face value is refreshing. While Infogalactic claims their intention is to remove ‘bias’ creeping into a collaborative encyclopedia, which is at face value a worthwhile pursuit. However this is a bias the alt right objects to as enforced on Wikipedia, which has a more mainstream, progressive, or liberal group of editors.
Is there a mechanism in Infogalactic’s algorithm that can remove their (the alt right) own bias from editing?
This appears to be resolved as they introduce a relativity guideline, so those with one set of bias can read and edit one version of the article while readers of another point of view are shown one curated to their viewpoint. I’m not sure if that will ultimately be a productive solution or not, but I do admit I find that intriguing and I look forward to seeing how it plays out.
But unless Infogalactic has some special ability to leap frog Google page ranking, adoption to their platform by online readers I predict will likely be dismal.
This is primarily why I do not believe having a separate platform will resolve bias issues on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia has an audience.
And that is what the real battle is about, not about just having an encyclopedia article on the web that anyone can edit, but a platform that has universal adoption by hundreds of millions of global online users.
That’s the real estate that wiki wars are fought over, and until then I predict the wiki wars on Wikipedia will still hold a prize for both the alt-right and the SJW’s who want to influence or correct public perception on various events and people.
The greater demons, white nationalists, and kiwifarms.
My initial inquiry into Wikipedia editor suppression lead to me being targeted originally via many ‘SJW’ editors on Wikipedia/RationalWiki for exposing their abuse. This trail I followed has now lead to me being targeted by a few white nationalists and far right characters online on Encyclopedia Dramatica and Kiwifarms, both hotbeds for far right activity and illegal targeting of individuals online, including underage children.
So when I look at a Google search return for my name now, I see my narrative about me distorted along the same political divisiveness as is polarizing the US right now.
What has happened to me in this case study is exactly how weaponization of the internet was, is, and will continue to be used as a form of intimidation and disinformation.
More concerning is our political landscape, which means anyone on social media like Twitter and Facebook will be targeted in these weaponized reputation campaigns, much like I’ve been.
I won’t end this post on a dark note.
In 2011, my old friend Maf Lewis and I gave a TEDx talk called Google Consciousness, which we used as a playful metaphor to talk and predict that social media will evolve eventually to replace ‘government as we know it today’.
Today, Mark Zuckerberg posted a massive vision statement for the future of Facebook, seeking to incorporate some sort of algorithm that can sift through these disturbing social and political trends and offer a more productive global shared space online.
With the election of 2016 being fought online, and with Facebook’s recent announcement, our prediction appears more and more likely to emerge sooner than we anticipated.
I’m closer than I’ve ever been to launching aiki.wiki – and the world is closer now than it has ever been to adopting something like it.
Despite the dark trends, we are closer to internet paradiso than ever before, and the darker psychologies attempting to game the internet right now will actually help us in ways they cannot imagine.
Like I’ve mentioned in my many posts, I welcome and in some ways invite these attacks on my reputation through the continued publication of this study. My detractors, both the SJW and the Alt Right, are providing with me pitch perfect data, and I hope they continue to assist me in building my case.
And while the internet right now is in a very dark phase, it is only because more disturbed online psychologies have had time to learn and master how to manipulate social media.
Now that they have given the world this behavioral knowledge, we can do something productive and collaborative to overcome it.