Users Petition for Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to Resign After he Admits to Editing Pro-Trump Comments

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Users of Reddit complain of ‘censorship’ and political bias at the increasingly troubled social media website.

Users of troubled social media website Reddit.com have created a petition calling for CEO Steve Huffman’s resignation after he admitted to replacing his name in user comments in the /r/The_Donald subreddit.

The controversy came after heated exchanges in the popular subreddit including highly critical posts about Huffman. Rather than responding in a courteous and professional way Huffman edited posts such that references to his user account /u/spez (archive here) were replaced with references to the moderators of the subreddit.

The controversy blew up against a backdrop of the early departure of previous CEO Ellen Pao, who had resigned after allegedly making a series of unpopular decisions and intense criticism from users. After Pao’s resignation, news sites reported that the decisions had in fact been taken by Alex Ohanian (archive here), one of the co-founders of Reddit. After Pao’s resignation, Huffman and Ohanian endorsed her decisions and took responsibility for them.

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Rational Wiki #2 – Wikimedia UK CEO Distances Herself from Rational Wiki and Sinister Paedophile Enabler David Gerard

Since the dramatic events of earlier this year, the UK branch of the Wikipedia movement, charity Wikimedia UK (WMUK) has a new Chief Executive, Lucy Crompton-Reid (archive here). Your author decided to ask her about David Gerard and some of his more … colourful history.

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Apparently wholesome new Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK, Lucy Crompton-Reid, confirms that David Gerard does not speak for Wikimedia UK. Photograph of Crompton-Reid used with permission. Photograph of David Gerard is an edited parody pursuant to s30A Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Strangely, replacing Gerard’s cold, dead, eyes with googly cartoon ones makes him *less* creepy. Incidentally, adding the cartoon eyes was the *only* change. The rest is all David. Click for full size.

In my previous article, “David Gerard and the Paedophiles of Wikipedia”, I began the task of exposing Rational Wiki, a site that has become controversial because of its habit of making serious allegations based on utterly inadequate, irrelevant or simply non-existent evidence. Examples I referred to included allegations against respected Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos based on a Tumblr post and smears against me based on (literally) a deleted user comment on /r/GamerGhazi.

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Wikimedia UK Response to Shapps – Claims to Have Destroyed the Evidence

In a recent article I revealed that after being wrongly accused of sock-puppetry and backstabbing colleagues by Richard Symonds, a staffer at Wikimedia UK, British MP Grant Shapps had served a disclosure request under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). Shapps has had a response, of sorts. It makes grim reading.

The great thing about data protection requests? They are not litigation correspondence, they are not subject to the implied undertaking / CPR 31.22 and they do not usually engage a duty of confidentiality. Other parties may not ordinarily impose a duty of confidence on documents disclosed under a statutory duty. So we can start by sharing this little gem –

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What sort of organisation fails to retain legally sensitive materials like allegations against Cabinet ministers?

According to Wikimedia UK Symonds has deleted his email to the Guardian ‘in the normal course of business’. This is a very concerning statement. Most organisations have clear data retention policies. Does Wikimedia have no such policy or does it not follow it? Does it really manage personal data so poorly? Another concern is that most organisations have email backups. Does Wikimedia or its provider not back up its email server? That is a serious governance concern.

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Shoulda Listened, Nick! Here is Some More Advice: Time to Fire Sam Biddle

Gawker’s response to its scandalous outing of a corporate executive has been chaotic. It is unclear what strategy the leadership has in place to stop the ongoing haemorrhaging of advertisers. The Witchfinder says that if Gawker wants to clean up its act it is time for  Nick Denton to put Gawker’s house in order. That means reaching out to #GamerGate in a serious and sustained way, covering some socially useful stories and cutting out the cancer at the heart of Gawker Media – it is time for that epitomé of morally bankrupt journalist, Sam Biddle, to go.

In February this year I emailed Nick Denton and Max Read to complain about an article on Gawker.com. By Sam F Biddle, it had two major flaws. Firstly, the headling was wildly untrue, far from being a rump of psychopaths GamerGate has continued to grow in size and power. At the time of writing the major forum KotakuInAction now has over 47 thousand members.

Key figures in GamerGate have continued to grow in power, with the fair Shoe0nHead for example now at 77 thousand subscribers, despite her infrequent videos. If June produced say 1-2 videos a week she could monetise and live comfortably – perhaps wealthily – on the advertising revenues.

Secondly the article essentially amounted to picking an … eccentric … from the internet (who later turned out to be a hoaxer) and singling them out, bedlam style, for mockery. The article, like many before it from Sam Biddle, was a disgrace.

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Sam F Biddle makes use of stigmatising mental health tropes, singling out a vulnerable individual for ridicule.

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Imposter?

The Witchfinder notes some inconsistencies in Wikipedia Administrator Shii‘s statements about his age, and some details about his editing history. Your Inquisitor asks – How old is Shii really? And who is he? This is a brief skit about Shii – there is another much longer exposé about other Wikipedians to come in due course.

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Ashi Baka’s age here in this edit made on 10/10/2002 is inconsistent with his later claim to be 17 in 2006. Click for full size.

The BBC3 television show, ‘Monkey Dust’ was a dark, cartoon, comedy sketch show featuring a recurring ensemble cast of characters. One of them, a sinister looking, elderly man known as ‘chatroom pervert’, was an incompetent predator who attempted to meet children online by posing as a 12 year old boy called Benji.

The chatroom pervert regularly failed due to obvious bodges such as (for example) correcting a child’s grammar or by revealing he could not possibly be the age he claimed (by remarking he had been in London during WW2). When dealing with questionable characters online my mind often turns to this sketch and its black, observational comedy.

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Paedophiles of Wikipedia

The Witchfinder reveals how Wikipedia’s lax policies and laxer enforcement, from the project’s beginning to the present day, create opportunities for paedophiles, their apologists and other sinister denizens of the internet. Questionable characters, even one admitted contact offender, have been allowed to hold administrator roles. Matthew Hopkins News calls on Jimmy Wales to show leadership on the issue or risk being tarnished himself.

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Do parents know what sinister forces may be reaching for their children when they visit Wikipedia? Laptop and tentacles image via Dreamstime. Wikipedia logo via CC BY-SA 3.0 and Policy

Modern users of Wikipedia may be unfamiliar with its murky history, for example the appalling and enlightening 2006 ArbCom case entitled, “Pedophilia userbox wheel war” (Archive here). What is a ‘wheel war’?

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Vindicator – BBC in Humiliating Apology to Grant Shapps MP as Clouds Gather Around Wikipedia

Following recent ArbCom findings exonerating Grant Shapps the BBC has apologised over its lacklustre coverage. Furthermore, the Witchfinder can exclusively reveal that Shapps has now written to Wikipedia’s UK chapter, the charity Wikimedia United Kingdom (WMUK), formally demanding disclosure of documents and expressing concerns about the charity’s political involvement. At the same time, a number of other powerful institutions are expressing frustration over legitimate concerns about bias, harassment and ineptitude at the encylopaedia.

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Ominous clouds are gathering around the embattled online encyclopaedia as powerful and aggrieved individuals and institutions queue up to vent their frustrations. Clouds picture via Dreamstime. Wikipedia logo via CC BY-SA 3.0 and Wikipedia Trademark Policy

The BBC, which spent a whole day on Grant Shapps’ alleged editing of Wikipedia, was curiously less forthcoming on apologising – leaving Shapps with legitimate complaint. It is a foolish move for an institution whose very existence is under threat to alienate its few allies. Shapps, now the Minister of State for International Development, is one of the minority of Conservatives who does not favour the BBC’s abolition.

Mr Shapps is also not the only public figure with grievances about the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. He finds himself in company with left-wing journalist David Auerbach, right-wing media organisation Breitbart and the enormous consumer movement known as #GamerGate – one of whose forums KotakuInAction alone now boasts over 40,000 members and whose key figures like SargonOfAkkad have hundreds of thousands of followers.

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Sinister

The Witchfinder exposes the way in which shoddy left-wing journalism has lent credibility to and empowered troublesome Wikipedia users such as Mark Bernstein, as well as a suggestion as to what ethics campaigners can do about it.

Title music – The Escape – (c) – Machinimasound (Commercial license purchased)

Wikipedia sign up here. The Great Work Subreddit is now open here.

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Guardian Responds … Inadequately

The Witchfinder has received an unedifying response from the Guardian, and comments –

(preamble removed for brevity and to remove non-public information – my quotes in Green)

“[…] However, I believe at the heart of your complaints are two substantial allegations:
1) You say Ramesh only spoke to Richard Symonds and not other Wikipedia administrators
2) You believe the Guardian story may have been technically untrue when it went up because it went up 15 minutes before the Wikipedia page confirming the story.
You are mistaken on both counts. Ramesh has followed the career of Grant Shapps for some time and has written many stories about him. He noticed that many of these stories – examining Shapp’s business career for instance – were never to be found on his Wikipedia page. He thought that was unusual and noted that there many comments to that effect. He made his own study of the editing pattern on Shapp’s Wikipedia page and his suspicions grew. He legitimately took those suspicions to a Wikipedia administrator and a press officer for Wikimedia on April 2.
That Wikipedia administrator was too busy to investigate and Richard Symonds, a senior investigator, contacted him and said he would take a look. Ramesh gave his analysis with supporting evidence to Symonds.
The Guardian asserts there were multiple administrators but does not say who they were or provide any verifiable evidence. For the sake of argument, I will accept this – although on the Guardian’s account Symonds is the main, figure and the others seem peripheral. However it does not answer the central question about timing.
In addition Symonds was able to access CheckUser data. There was none for the earlier edits because, as you know it expires within 90 days, but as I understand it there was for later edits. Symonds could not release that CheckUser information because it would have been a breach of privacy. However, by April 17 Symonds had completed his investigation and was able to confirm in an email reproduced below that he believed this was a case of sock puppetry by Shapps or someone on his behalf. The Guardian story was correct when it went up and the use of the words “Wikipidia’s  administrators” came from the email confirming the results of the Symonds investigation.
This does not address the central point. The 21/04/2015 story that stated Contribsx had been blocked, opening with the phrase “Wikipedia has blocked a user account […] was factually incorrect because Contribsx, per ArbCom had not in fact been blocked and was not blocked until 17 minutes later.
Furthermore the Wikipedia process for investigating Sockpuppetry requires on-wiki posting and deliberation which had not happened until Richard Symonds opened his 1 minute investigation. The private investigation by Mr Symonds does not by itself follow Wikipedia process.
Whatever happened subsequently the Guardian’s 21 April story was absolutely correct and legitimately gathered therefore there has been no breach of the Guardian’s editorial code. I have gone a great deal further than I would normally have done in giving you the background to this story but your allegations were very serious. I can go no further.
Best wishes
Chris Elliott
Readers’ editor […]”
Partial emails provided by the Guardian
The next two paragraphs are what the volunteer administrators believe and are their words:

Wikipedia’s administrators believe that the account Contribsx is a “sockpuppet” of Grant Shapps’ previous accounts on Wikipedia. A sockpuppet is a second user account created for an improper purpose, such as to mislead other editors, disrupt discussions, distort consensus or avoid sanctions. The administrators believe, based on the evidence they have, that the account is either run by Shapps directly or being run by someone else – an assistant or a PR agency – but under his clear direction.

The administrators believe that Shapps has used alternative accounts that were not fully and openly disclosed in order to split his editing history, so that other editors were not able to easily detect patterns in his contributions. While this is permitted in certain circumstances, it was not in this case: it is clear that the account was created in order to confuse or deceive editors. Further, the website’s Terms of Use prohibit engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation. As the account has misrepresented its affiliation, and the account is clearly controlled by Shapps, this is a violation of the Terms of Use.

This final section is Wikimedia UK’s quote:
 

A spokesperson from Wikimedia UK, the UK charity which supports Wikipedia, said “We would welcome any MPs who choose to become editors, and are happy to provide training sessions to anyone who wants to learn. However, the Wikipedia project is founded on trust, and anyone who tries to deceive our volunteers and readers in order to further their own ends should think very carefully about the morality of what they’re doing. Eventually, the public will find out.”

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Wikipedia Votes to Terminate Richard Symonds Admin Status, Unbans Alleged ‘Shapps’ Account and Releases Hugely Damaging Ruling Regarding Guardian Newspaper

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The Guardian published an article claiming that Contribsx had been banned as a sockpuppet of Grant Shapps MP 17 minutes before the 1 minute trial, conducted by a Guardian source, even opened.

The Witchfinder reports on astonishing developments in the Grant Shapps MP / Contribsx Wikipedia Case, which has closed a few minutes ago. As a reminder the case before ArbCom concerns allegations reported in the Guardian Newspaper by journalist Randeep Ramesh that Grant Shapps MP operated a sockpuppet account called Contribsx, used to puff himself and badmouth political rivals in his own party.

Another body at Wikipedia has now made a further ruling unbanning Contribsx on the grounds that his ‘trial’ was a shambles, with disturbing revelations including the fact that the Guardian reported the result online before the investigation page was even created.

[Edit – now incorporating Guardian responses to my complaint 12/06/2015]

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