Depending on your search history and interests, there is a decent chance you’ve come across a number of articles written and edited across Wikipedia and RationalWiki and many other MediaWiki’s on the web that were curated by the infamous Oliver D Smith, aka Darryl L. Smith aka Dan Skeptic, aka Krom, aka Atlantid, aka Anglopyramidologist, aka GoblinFace and aka “a huge list of sockpuppet editing accounts” spread across Wikipedia, Rationalwiki, Encyclopedia Dramatica, and only Google knows what else.
Oliver has been featured extensively on Wikipedia We Have a Problem primarily because he is one of my well known online stalkers and harassers I encountered while developing this case study on Wikipedia consensus building.
Oliver D Smith has engaged in a four-year-long campaign to target and attack me, first as a method of editor suppression on Wikipedia, where he was working with a small group of “skeptic activists”, a small but influential subculture on Wikipedia, under an editing account Dan skeptic”
Dan Skeptic was actually more of a minor actor in the harassment that I received on Wikipedia during the Sheldrake “wiki war” in 2013, but his participation increased heavily immediately thereafter, as he was the creator of a number of other attack articles written about me, first on RationalWiki, then Encyclopedia Dramatica, then KiwiFarms.
It took about two years to finally track and expose Oliver D. Smith in this case study. I wasn’t even aware of his participation until I received an email from someone who proposed to me a curious and peculiar threat; “delete your articles on GoblinFace/Atlantid” or, as he linked to a discussion thread he created, under my real name, arguing against “biological evolution” in favor of “creationism”, he would “create 500 more just like these on the internet”.
By “these” of course he meant “impersonations”, one of Oliver’s key attack strategies on MediaWiki’s against other editors he encounters and conflicts with. Oliver D. Smith was impersonating me as a “creationist” so, he claimed, he could add this to my RationalWiki profile which, he noted, already listed me as a “promoter of pseudoscience”, which he inserted into RationalWiki’s “hit piece” on me as well.
Since combining me with either of these “labels” is completely removed from who I am, including what I do professionally and what I think privately, it was obvious to me that I was dealing with someone who did not have a firm grip on reality.
Disturbing to experience, however, was his ability to publish his own peculiar reality, of which I was a key “enemy”, across MediaWiki’s on the web about me, and then game those articles for peak Google performance in search.
More so than any other Wikipedia or RationalWiki editor, Mr. Smith has numerous times crossed the line from online harassment to criminal levels of slander and behaviors. His actions were so extreme at one point that I filed a report with the FBI, a nonworkable path to recourse that was my only option as this individual, a resident of the UK, not the US, continued to target me on the internet.
“You idiots don’t seem to realize that I made the Viharo and Jon Donnis pages here, then set up a whole load of other people and turned them against each other, as well as at Rationalwiki. I also added Viharo’s page at Rationalwiki.” – RationalWiki editor “Krom”, one of dozens of accounts operated by the Smith brothers, to sysops at Encyclopedia Dramatica, 2016
From my experience with him, it is likely that his psychology rather than any true ideology is what guides him. His editing history spans everything from white nationalism and neo-nazi MediaWiki MetaPedia, to articles on both the paranormal and skepticism, to left-wing MediaWiki RationalWiki to articles across the web the cover ancient Egypt, pseudoscience, anti-natalism, TombRaider, and whatever ideology he needs to adapt to become accepted by one community to target another.
Over two hundred Wikipedia accounts have been discovered on the Smith “sock farm”, some claiming to be his brother Darryl who is claiming he is responsible, then denying it, and back and forth with layers of confusion, deception all over the web, including impersonating women or other editors Oliver D Smith conflicts with.
“The only controversial thing I have ever done is create a Rationalwiki article on Rome Viharo.” MediaWiki editor “skeptic”, aka Darryl L Smith, aka Oliver D Smith, defending their actions on Encyclopedia Dramatica.
Oliver, in a manner virtually identical to our Twitter president, has a habitual practice of deception. This practice may be more of a result of delusion.
Oliver D. Smith believes he is a white knight, a hero on the internet who attacks his foes based on his own “pizzagate” interpretation of reality, that is, one that is disconnected from consensual reality but relies on emotional reactions to “keywords” he believes he finds on the web about his targets.
Once Oliver finds a “keyword” written on the web by his targets, he then takes that emotionally charged keyword back to online communities and attempts to build “personal armies”, developing an emotional and distorted consensus so these platforms will not only join in the attacks but give Oliver a safe harbor to continue them.
The strategies Oliver D. Smith employs to accomplish this extend far beyond him just editing articles on various wikis around the web about his targets, they also entail online impersonations of other users editing accounts, which not only deflects blame from Oliver, but places blame on other users which then riles up communities against each other on the web. This was one of the factors that has contributed to it taking Wikipedia, We Have a Problem over two years to finally identify the author of significant harassment and targeting that I’ve received.
This is how highly toxic digital wildfires and troll farms are able to build communities like PizzaGate or QAnon. Oliver D. Smith shows us how to do that too. His attacks actually show the trail these type of campaigns create on the web. Once an internet user is emotionally charged with any given keyword, they throw critical thinking skills out the window and fail to investigate the “flag-waving” of sources which misrepresent original context.
What is curious about Oliver, however – is his ability to do this with communities that identify as “skeptic activists” on the internet, communities like RationalWiki and thought leaders of skeptic Wikipedia editing like Tim Farley, communities that would appear to be more critical. Oliver’s abuses on the internet I believe help to expose a remarkable vulnerability of the web that all of us are more susceptible to than we are aware. Oliver is taking advantage of a flaw, deeply rooted in human nature and in the software design of MediaWikis.
Oliver Smith always claims his innocence, and always confesses his guilt.
Oliver D. Smith may be unaware of the very extreme contradictions he makes attempting to cover his tracks across MediaWikis, which are glaringly apparent to anyone who encounters him.
“I never met you on Wikipedia 4 years ago, that was one of my brothers. So you targeted my whole family out of a grudge of a silly Wikipedia dispute/ban.” Oliver D. Smith, in a direct email to me, on file, 2017
Because he both confesses and denies all of his activity on the web, everything Oliver D. Smith says is highly suspicious.
“There is no brother involved. I made it all up to mislead people stalking me, or trying to investigate who I was (this goes back to when I had trolls following me 24/7 on other websites like Encylopedia Dramatica, Kiwi Farms etc). There’s plenty of other false information I fed them and I found the situation rather funny since I fooled most, or all these stalkers.” Oliver D. Smith, in a direct email to me, on file, 2018
Whatever guides Oliver D Smith, whether a brother who is deeply involved with Wikipedia editing and certain skeptic activist groups or an out of balance psychology, also has a significant influence on the web via Google search, and this is the tragedy of MediaWiki software.
MediaWiki software, the engine the drives Wikipedia communities and dozens of more platforms around the web, in combination with Google search, provides significant global influence via individuals like this, along with the troll farms and agenda operators who collaborate with Oliver and those like him.
The other problem with MediaWiki software is there is nothing that can be done about it, at all.
That is really what Wikipedia, We Have a Problem validates, the utter failure of all of these communities, platforms, institutions, and even the legal system to do anything about this significant problem.
While, in principle, online misinformation, targeted harassment and manipulation can find a solution on Facebook or Twitter, on MediaWiki’s – there is literally no solution available. Since the participation is small, even insignificant in comparison to harassment occurring on large platforms of users like Reddit or Twitter, this problem does not obtain much mainstream attention.
“Pass the buck” open source architecture
MediaWiki’s, as developed in open source by the WikiMedia foundation, put all of the responsibility of the management of the platforms on the users who edit them. As in a legally binding contract. This includes all paths to recourse for any misinformation, slander, fake news, attacks, etc.
As long as the community who participates is well-intentioned, rational, and have integrity with the principles of the platform, this isn’t a problem. Unfortunately, the web is anything but that.
MediaWiki’s are one of the few last artifacts of the early, idealistic web – so it is not surprising that the zeal mentioned in many early TED talks (my own included) opined on the great value of software that “anyone could edit” would easily overlook the social reality that occurs, a silent policy of “not everyone should”.
Before we even address the inherent flaws of the software itself, there apparently is a very high appeal of MediaWikis by those who are “on the spectrum” with autism, aspergers, or social anxiety disorders. Within Wikipedia’s own editing culture, Wikipedia itself is referred to as a “honey pot” for editors on the spectrum.
“Autistics” can be remarkable editors who are incredibly diligent. The result of this, however, is a community that is unlikely to have much social empathy, a trait often lacking in those with the condition.
This naturally exasperates the problem that MediaWikis carry with them. All MediaWiki’s empower the users to restrict or police other users activities, within certain boundaries. This means the software that anyone can edit is synonymous with the software that “anyone can police”, and MediaWiki’s give users tools which block, ban, or restrict other users participation.
Therefore, MediaWiki software’s core design flaw lay in how it creates competition instead of collaboration.
This makes MediaWiki’s even more problematic – while the software design increases user competition, the rules that govern the community usually instruct collaboration, a contradiction that makes it impossible for a community to responsibly manage itself without a high degree of social empathy.
Wikipedia is now being leveraged as the “good cop” of the internet on Facebook and YouTube, creating more tensions to the prime real estate value to agenda groups and the inherent tensions of the design.
I’m all for spontaneous collaboration on the web, but if Wikipedia is the only solution Silicon Valley is offering us in defense of fake news and online misinformation, the web could be lost forever.
This tension created by the design flaw in MediaWiki has created dozens of various ideological spin-offs of Wikipedia around the web, all using the same software with slight modifications, including the commercial version of MediaWiki, Wikia.
Google’s own search algorithm also “rewards” not just Wikipedia with a high ranking, but any MediaWiki platform. MediaWiki platforms are very easy to optimize for search engine results, and likely in most search returns internet users discover.
Oliver D Smith, MediaWiki master.
I’m vague on the details, but apparently, Oliver has finally been banned from RationalWiki.
It took RationalWiki six years to finally boot him off of their platform. Six years of Oliver using RationalWiki as a platform to target anyone he considered an enemy. Six years of influence on global search results all over the world.
After six years, is the web finally free of Oliver D Smith abusing media wikis and Google search?
Booted from RationalWiki, Oliver found a new home on another MediaWiki fansite called RationalWiki,Wiki.
Since MediaWiki’s create a copy of themselves via “spats” within the previous community, RationalWiki now has “RationalWiki, Wiki” on Wikia and Oliver D Smith once again as an editor.
The unique distinction in this MediaWiki is that it is Wikia, a paid advertising commercial platform MediaWiki site.
Like Wikipedia and MediaWiki software, Jimbo Wales commercially successful Wikia was meant to accommodate, and commercialize, niche communities and the advertisers that want to appeal directly to them. It’s Wikipedia with a business model. More than just a software platform that “anyone can edit”, Wikia is a MediaWiki that “anyone can publish”, simply by creating an account.
The “RationalWikiWiki” is literally a “fan” wiki that covers all the RationalWiki articles that Oliver edited on RationalWiki, now primarily edited by Oliver who now just writes under his real name, Oliver D Smith – including a RationalWikiWiki article about himself, defending himself from his RationalWiki ban and many events detailed in this study.
Oliver uses RationalWikiWiki to continue to attack all of his “enemies” all over again, of which Wikipedia, We Have a Problem and yours truly is uniquely featured.
And you can see that he is the sole author of this latest attack article from the editing history.
Wikipedia has blocked over 200 hundred of Oliver’s editing accounts, yet it is easy for him to use a fresh IP, and continue where he left off.
If that doesn’t work, he goes over to RationalWiki, or Encylopedia Dramatica, to continue his obsessions.
Even though it took six years to finally remove him from those platforms, he has finally found a new MediaWiki home on Wikia, one that has all the benefits of a high Google search ranking, advertising dollars, and both an algorithm and a set of rules that will allow him to continue for as long as he wants.
Welcome to the very real problem of MediaWiki software and the poster boy who teaches all of us developing solutions for the web all the ways these platforms can be readily abused by just about anyone, for any reason – and without any path to recourse.