The Super-Rich Are Different From You And Me; They Can Pay Someone To Control Their Wikipedia Biographies
by E. A. Barbour
Obviously, as I’ve ranted before, serious criticism of Wikipedia’s questionable operations has been a near-complete bust. Unless you post embarrassing material on an unnoticed scandal somewhere (such as on the Wikipedia Sucks! forum), and some obsessed Wiki editor sees it and implements changes (it has happened occasionally), paid editors and COI (conflict of interest) editors will get away with it. Remember that there is a long, long essay on how to properly perform “paid/COI editing”. Not that it matters; I have come across literally hundreds of cases of COI abuse, especially on biographies and articles about corporations and nonprofits. Not to mention editing of WP content by government employees, which is so commonplace there are special Twitter accounts to keep track of them.
There are few better areas to throw virtual rotten tomatoes at Wikipedia insiders. They know damn well that COI editing is unseemly, against their own policies, and very easy to do. And typically they either mishandle it, or ignore it and hope it goes away on its own. In a few rare cases, as I’ve posted on the WS forum and Wikipediocracy, the COI editing is performed by WP insiders or Wikimedia Foundation employees, because the subject is a “close friend of the Wikimedia movement”. But for now we will look at one obscure billionaire, and show how he rewrote history.
Consider the story of Henry V. Nicholas III. You should know who he is, because he was one of the founders of Broadcom, a major manufacturer of RF and networking chips for use in cellphones. You could easily have a Broadcom product in your phone or your laptop or your tablet computer right now, and not know it was there. According to his Wikipedia bio, he is “number 626 on the list of Forbes' Billionaire's List, with a net worth of $3.6 billion”. Yeah, he’s important.
You see, there’s almost nothing in his WP bio about a bizarre media frenzy involving him, circa 2007-2009. And there used to be. I remember what the article about Henry T. Nicholas III looked like in 2009, having blogged about it at the time. His WP coverage was NOT complementary. There was much ranting about his “private sex dungeon” and “coke and ecstasy parties on his private jet” and so forth. Unfortunately I can't point you to an old diff on Wikipedia, because in 2010 the "Henry Nicholas" article was originally about a 16th-century German cleric. It was quietly renamed to "Henry Nicholis" and moved. The modern-day Henry Nicholas was put there, the original bio called ”Henry T. Nicholas III" was deleted, and its history was disappeared. This was done by an unnoticed “SPA”, or “single-purpose account”, called Toweltoweltowel. And another SPA called Littlebrownpill also mucked around with it. Plus several others, all very quiet and undeclared as paid editors (which they should really have done to meet the COI rules). quietly sanitized the article and boiled down the lurid orgy-cave and drugs business. A few other edit accounts, including a very dodgy one called Dstringer71 which grinds info about "Marsy's Law", also edited Nicholas's bio. Guess who the champion of Marsy's Law was.
Please bear in mind: Henry wasn’t really guilty of anything other than being a divorced man who went a little party-hearty with the sex-and-drugs and also did some nasty things to Broadcom’s stock — all things that are commonly abused in the magical little world of Silicon Valley. If what he did were “really terrible crimes”, hundreds of Valley big-shots would be in tiny prison cells right now. But Henry managed to fight off the criminal charges and even avoided a long sentence for securities fraud. The accusations of 2007-2009 had that charming reek of disgruntled employees taking revenge on him; as usual, he became fodder for UK tabloids, at least for a couple of years. The Sun or the Daily Mail would not have given a shit about Henry or his company otherwise. The “sex dungeon” or “sex cave” stuff is just hilarious, and REALLY reeks of small people trying to take down a guy with big stock options.
Today's Wikipedia content about Henry is far longer than it was in 2009, and blathers about his philanthropy and "great citizen" credentials. The “Marsy’s Law” article practically paints him as a saint. The scandals have been squeezed into a very small paragraph at the bottom. A few perennial "paid editor" types like Patapsco913 (who I have repeatedly pointed to as an undeclared paid editor, repeatedly, on both the WS forum and on Wikipediocracy before it) have been watching it carefully. Like that media hailstorm never happened. (There is a thread on the WS forum with links to some of the old media reports. Amazing he can’t bribe or threaten those organizations into removing it all. Sorry Henry, you’re not a demigod. Just filthy rich. But keep trying, we all need some lulz.)
Wanna see what Henry T. Nicholas III, the Wikipedia biography, looked like in 2009? Here you go, a complete quote of the raw text, minus formatting and references:
“Early life and education”
“Nicholas was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Marcella and Henry T. Nicholas Jr. At birth, he was the tallest baby born on record at Christ Hospital. Stands 6 ft. 6 inches (1.98 m). Nicholas lived in Glendale, Ohio until he was 4 years old. His father was an attorney with the IRS and his mother was a teacher and later an administrator at the Princeton School district in theatre. When his parents divorced, and he moved with his mother and sister Marsalee to Los Angeles, California, where his mother planned to get her Masters degree in drama from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA, she met Bob Leach, her second husband, and Nick’s "real dad". Nicholas attended elementary schools in Malibu and Santa Monica High School. Nicholas received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the UCLA, after having attended the United States Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, previously and then both a Masters Degree and Ph.d. in Electrical Engineering from UCLA. It was at UCLA that Nicholas met Dr. Henry Samueli, his future business partner.”
“After graduating from UCLA in 1987, Nicholas worked at TRW in Redondo Beach, then went to PairGain Technologies in Cerritos, California, where he was director of Microelectronics. He left PairGain, which was later acquired by ADC Telecommunications, to co-found his own endeavor, Broadcom Corporation in 1991.”
“In 1991 Nicholas and Samueli each invested in $5,000 and worked out of Nicholas' Redondo Beach home, moving to Irvine four years later and took the firm public three years later in 1998. At Broadcom, Nicholas was President and Chief Executive Officer. He and his partner Dr. Henry Samueli made significant developments in wireless technology. Today, Broadcom makes semiconductors for wired and wireless communications enabling the networking of voice, video and data services. He was known to enforce a dress code throughout the company, requiring employees to don business attire, unlike more relaxed Silicon Valley workplaces. Nicholas resigned as Broadcom's CEO in 2003, saying that his resignation "was driven entirely by personal issues related to family separation and divorce". In June 2008, both Nicholas and William Ruehle, the former chief financial officer of Broadcom, were charged with improperly backdating stock options, forcing Broadcom to take a $2.2 billion write-down.”
“Nicholas is a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Nicholas is currently retired.”
“Nicholas was the recipient of an Orange County Titan Award, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Electronics, was named as one of the Top 20 Entrepreneurs by Red Herring magazine and one of the World’s Top 50 Cyber Elite by Time Digital Magazine.”
“The Henry T. Nicholas, III, Foundation focuses on improving the quality of life through investments in education, youth sports, medicine, technology, law enforcement and national defense.”
“In 1983, while he was in graduate school, Nicholas' sister, Marsalee ("Marsy") was brutally murdered. Since then, he has been an advocate for criminal justice and with a focus on the rights of victims. Nicholas has assisted his parents in expanding Justice for Homicide Victims, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports the victims of homicide. He was the 2005 recipient of the Ronald Reagan Award for Pioneering Achievement in Criminal Justice, and has been honored frequently by law enforcement organizations for his work supporting victims’ rights.”
“Partnering with retired Judge Jack Mandel and the Episcopal Diocese, Nicholas announced that his education foundation will open "Academic Centers" in Orange and Los Angeles Counties to provide a safe and nurturing school environment to help high-potential, underprivileged students realize their educational goals. Nicholas pledged $10 million over 20 years for the first Nicholas Academic Center in Santa Ana, which opened in January. In 2004, Nicholas announced a $10-million gift to St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in Orange County and the formation of a partnership with UC Irvine’s engineering school.”
“In 2004, California voters were considering Proposition 66, which would have weakened California’s Three Strikes Law. Ten days before the election, polls indicated it was going to pass by as much as 75% of the vote. Nicholas became involved, supporting a bipartisan coalition of elected officials including past California Governors, celebrities and grass roots organizations, and personally speaking in television and radio spots, recounting the tragedy in his own family. The ballot measure narrowly lost.”
“Nicholas married in 1987; he and his wife Stacey, a former electrical engineer, had three children, Brett, Matthew, and Shelby. They all go to St. Margaret's Episcopal School.  Dr. Henry Nicholas is now divorced.”
“Drugs and alcohol”
“Nicholas has been linked to drugs and alcohol abuse in the last decade. In April 2008, he voluntarily checked himself into a Betty Ford clinic for alcohol abuse, as he struggled with a divorce and the death of his stepfather. A hidden video of Dr. Henry Nicholas surfaced on YouTube shortly before the indictment. The video was confirmed when "Nick's" attorney confirmed the video was indeed Dr. Henry Nicholas III. In the video it appears that he snorts cocaine and smokes crack cocaine. He is currently under indictment for felony drug conspiracy (SA CR 08 - 00140, Central District of California, Southern Division). Nicholas is undergoing treatment at Cliffside Malibu while awaiting trial on federal charges of drug distribution and securities fraud. He lives in Newport Coast, Newport Beach, California.”
“Alleged sex cave plans”
“In 2007, a construction team sued Nicholas, alleging he had failed to pay them for a proposed underground sex cave, where he could indulge his "manic obsession with prostitutes" and "addiction to cocaine and Ecstasy." ”
Now, is THAT enough to convince you Wikipedia has a serious problem with COI abuse? If not, I can always post hundreds of other cases. There are so damn many that I’ve basically stopped collecting them — it’s a full-time job and I am not being paid to collect “dirt”. Also, I’m far from the only person to have noticed this: a few years ago Wikipediocracy trustee Greg Kohs prepared a report by studying 100 randomly-chosen articles about corporations for COI abuse, and he concluded that at least 50% of the articles showed signs of paid editing. Feel free to bring this up at the next Wikimania. And don’t blame me if they kick you out.
Also: don’t be too surprised if the diffs above, showing how the old Henry T. Nicholas III article disappeared, also disappear. They’ve abused the “oversight” function to hide scandals before, and they might do it again when they see this. Have a nice day, suckers.