Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Weakest Link of a Badly-Rusted Chain: the BLP

What should have been banned from Day One on Wikipedia are the Biographies of Living Persons because it's too easy to write an autobiography under an IP address or an assumed name, or "guarding" an article under a Single-Purpose Account. Beyond the hoaxes like the Bicholim Conflict and the incompetent Administrators, the biographies have been doing their fair share of damage to the project, thanks to their use of uncredited paid writers, Wikipedians slandering people they don't like, etc. The following are some of the more obscure examples:

Luis González-Mestres. Spanish physicist with a still-existing page on Spanish Wikipedia, "LGM" (as he was dubbed by Wikipedian Beyond My Ken*) created an English-language Wikipedia page in 2010 which was noticed by Dr. Michel Aaij a year later and reposted to the BLP Noticeboard. Kevin Gorman (yes, the UC Berkeley Wikipedia "ambassador") decided to obliterate it and started an Article for Deletion page, which was constantly lectured at by sockpuppets from France (because González-Mestres works at CNRS**, headquartered in Paris.)  Through an IP address, González-Mestres published a long rant claiming that "dissident" editors are "investigated" and "punished" by Wikipedia. Other outbursts by socks of LGM were hidden by Aaron Passley, and Beyond My Ken showed up during the AfD to fight with the sockpuppets. At the end of May 2011, the Luis González-Mestres article was deleted, and the following (alleged) sockpuppets were blocked: Haeretica Pravitas (supposedly the main account), Jaumeta, Queleralo, Boulgre, and (which is an IP address either in Colombes, a suburb of Paris, or in Gourin, which is near Lorient on the Bay of Biscay.) LGM's Spanish page was started in 2006, and added onto in 2011 by three French IP addresses and then by an SPA called Cerquet lo mon....nobody on Spanish Wikipedia has doubted Luis González-Mestres "notability."

Sandy Frank. Long-time TV creator-producer, Frank has had a Wikipedia page since 2004, and a lot of edits from then until October of 2014, when interest just petered out. Why all the action? Because Frank had imported a number of Japanese TV shows that he choppily edited down into dubbed direct-to-video movies....which were shown on the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. So it's fanboy nonsense plus sticking it to backroom Hollywood. In 2013 the page has this tacked to it: "....on August 24, 2010, Frank was involved in an altercation with his wife, Brenda Frank. Both were arraigned separately and obtained orders of protection against the other." A man named Don Waller sent Jimbo this plea on August 11, 2014:

Hi, Jimbo,

I recently did s site re-design for a client named Sandy Frank, and he contacted me last week about having his Wikipedia page removed from your system. I referred to your procedure for having this done and inserted the necessary code on the page to request removal, then gave it a week as your instructions state.

I got a call from the client this morning informing me that the page is still up, and when I went to the page I saw your explanation that you couldn't rely on an anonymous user's request to remove a page (understandable) and the link to message you, so here I am.

The client does not know who initially set up the page (it may have been a former employee who is now deceased), so they've tasked me with trying to get this done. My question to you is this - if the person who set up the original page is now deceased and no one in their organization has any knowledge of an account corresponding to the page, how do we go about proving to you that our request is legitimate? Would providing contact information to the company or the subject of the page help? I'm at a loss as to how to prove that my request is legitimate, and would really appreciate any pointers on how to provide you with sufficient proof to legitimize the request.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Don Waller seems to be DW Interactives, a web designer who works with "entertainment industry" types. Asking Jimbo was a useless gesture, because the war continued until it stopped, probably because Shout! Factory released more MST3K re-runs on DVD. 

Google employees. There are a number of these such as:

Chris DiBona, article started by Jacoplane (Jaap Vermeulen) in 2006, edited by a number of people including Vanessafox (ex-Google SEO consultant Vanessa Fox.)

Tim Bray, article started by one-shot IP address, repeatedly edited by Tim Bray himself, plus a number of `bots and gnomes.

Harald Tveit Alvestrand, biggest wheel on this list; member of the ICANN board of directors and the Internet Engineering Task Force, presently a Google employee, edited his own article under the account Alvestrand, along with articles on Carl Malamud and John Seely Brown (among others.)

Mark Pilgrim, article created by a one-shot SPA (Jack McAngus), article looked over by MarkPilgrim2, a MarkPilgrimRSA who turned out to be another person with the same name (!) and gnomed by Tim Bray for good measure. Interestingly, Mark Pilgrim himself ditched the Internet altogether. Good for him.

Fernanda Viégas, article created by Samuel Klein the WMF employee/Board member in 2006. Article was expanded by an SPA called VisualStory, who also wrote article on Viégas' partner Martin M. Wattenberg, and an unrelated article on artist Nina Katchadourian.

Amit Singhal, a man whose article was created by yet another SPA, Poshakag, and mostly looked over by `bots like Alaibot, CmdrObot, Luckas-bot (who tacked on a link to a Russian version of the article), and a bot run by Rjwilmsi.

This isn't the end of the BLP finger-pointing from me, but it's a good start. If Wikipedia ever wanted to be serious, they needed to start marking the articles with known paid editing, and they needed to crack down on the conflict-of-interest writing. That ship has sailed.

* Just so that all names are named, Beyond My Ken is Ed Fitzgerald, the off-Broadway stage manager, not the British doctor of the same name that he uses as a cover.

** Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique; In English, the National Centre for Scientific Research, the greatest basic ("fundamental") science research institute in Europe. I would say that the chances of González-Mestres living near Paris were far greater than that of him living near an old World War II U-boat base in Brittany.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, JOURNALISTS are also editing their own WP biographies, so none of this ever gets mentioned in public.