Thursday, March 10, 2016

Is Lucia Black Dead? Is the WMF vs. NSA Legal Appeal a CYA Move?

This one is odd, sad, maybe a hoax, possibly real. Lucia Black was an editor who showed up in May of 2008, and was involved in editing articles on Japanese non-news media; i.e., comics, video games - all the neckbeardy gunk the kiddies like. After a lot of drama over seven years, late in February, an IPv6 address tells everyone on her talk page that she "deceased" three weeks earlier. A few people made condolences, Black's page got a "This Wikipedian is deceased" tag and that was it. The affair was noticed by Hex (Scott Martin) on the Wikipediocracy messageboard, then The Dark Knight posted it to our messageboard. Both threads became talking about suicidal Wikipedians and dealing with the problem, not recognizing that Wikipedia has allegedly been "hiding by distancing" Wikipedian suicides* for some time; Risker (Anne Clin) wrote the following in late February 2014 on Giano's talkpage as an aside: ".....I can personally think of half a dozen editor suicides....." She never said who those people were.

So this is the situation: we have a dramatic person editing Wikipedia who get in deep enough that she is willing to walk away for a year (2014) because it was driving her crazy. She returns to more drama, and it drives her to write things like "I'm just no longer mentally stable, nor am i wanting to really stay alive at this point", she walks away again, and then that anonymous message appears saying she is dead.The trick is, we don't know if "Lucia Black" was her real name, if she was actually a woman, or if this was a type of performance art. If this was a real suicide, her family has my condolences. If this was somebody walking away from a persona, they need to own up to it.

Secret Squirrel vs. Jimmy's Keyboard Kommandos: The Battle in Balmer

It runs for 92 pages, but the actual appeal doesn't start until page 21 due to all the disclosure agreements and other signed documents. As with all the best things, the lede is buried; according to page 16 (actually 43) Wikimedia makes a log every time somebody looks at edits a Wikipedia page; in May of 2015 they transferred 140 billion of these logs from foreign servers to US-based servers, essentially handing them over to the National Security Agency. The appeal names the program used against the WMF - it's called "Upstream" and it scans data flowing in undersea cables and in fiber optic infrastructure and the NSA has been doing it since 2008. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the WMF alongside Human Rights Watch, the Rutherford Institute, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, among others; they want to make an oral argument to a judge in Baltimore. Will it work? Probably not, but the Keyboard Kommandos will be there, adding kilobyte after kilobyte to the Wikipedia article on the case. Did Lila and Jimmy know? 

* Should have mentioned when this posted that Italian Wikipedia admins stopped a man from killing himself in 2013 by calling the Postal Police. So sanity does show itself at the project, just not in America.


  1. Regarding the Lucia Black matter, thank you for posing the question. While it's often considered distasteful to question stuff like that, it's very important, especially on a project like Wikipedia to verify facts. We usually don't declare editors dead just because an IP said so. Usually we find out via an obituary or family (who actually give their names). Regardless, it was clear she was taking Wikipedia too seriously so if she did choose to walk away of her own volition, good for her. If she truly took her own life, tragic.

    1. I meant to add it's also possible that someone just decided to troll an inactive/blocked user. For editors with long tenures it's not unheard of for them to make enemies. By the way, the IP geolocates to Los Angeles.