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.


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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Wikipedia Brass Helpfully Engage On Reddit

Just a quick note. A few days ago we announced /r/TheGGGreatWork/ . This is intended to give us a more positive relationship with Wikipedia.

The problems between /r/KotakuInAction/, #GamerGate supporters and Wikipedia have been significant. On one side there is a legitimate complaint about the Wikipedia GamerGate article. On the other there are complaints about relatively clumsy socking and editing attempts.

After I announced /r/TheGGGreatWork/ . I was pleased to see a visit from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, as well as a couple of Wikipedia administrators, such as Jehochman. Far from demanding we close the subreddit, Mr Wales requested two fairly modest text amendments which we agreed to.

Having done so, we seem to be in compliance with the rules and it looks like the project is good to go with the knowledge of Wikipedia brass. Bear in mind, Jimmy Wales shares one thing with GamerGate which is that the same people are unfairly accusing him as us. The most contentious editor of Wikipedia on this topic is Mark Bernstein, having tried to link GamerGate to the Charleston shootings. However, he has also gone for Jimmy Wales and trashed the whole of ArbCom.

Wales has been thoughtful and sought to engage with us. He could have said, “The GamerGate Controversy Article is a Scholarly Masterpiece of Impartiality.” Instead he has repeatedly suggested we, or even other Wikipedia members, re-write the article. He could have said, “Ban the evil GamerGators”. Instead he came to talk to us.

Two days ago he said, “Carrite, as an experienced Wikipedian, you might be well-placed to try to do that rewrite, probably starting in your own userspace. I, for one, would be very interested to read and compare the two versions.–Jimbo Wales (talk) 20:24, 22 June 2015 (UTC)”

I for one think we should engage. I would repeat my invitation to KiA members to join /r/TheGGGreatWork/. It also looks like some of our opponents may be trying to brigade and downvote the main thread whilst the subreddit is still small, which in itself points to the potential of this project.

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How vicious GamerGate Wikipedia opponent and Guardian source Mark Bernstein, who caused outrage when he tried to gratuitously link GamerGate to the Charleston shootings, used the encylopaedia to edit his own company article, as well as those of products and business associates in flagrant violation of Wikipedia rules.


Wikipedia must not be used to promote personal commercial interests. Picture via Dreamstime.

Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia open to everyone. Amongst the few rules those of greatest importance are the Conflict of Interest rules. Wikipedia must not be used to advance personal commercial interests. As the policy says –

“COI editing is strongly discouraged. It undermines the public’s confidence in Wikipedia as an independent resource, and risks causing public embarrassment to the individuals and groups being promoted […] If it causes disruption to the encyclopedia, accounts may be blocked.”

It goes on –

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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


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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Guardian Confirms Investigation Into Complaint About Journalist Randeep Ramesh Who Wrote Wikipedia Story

The Witchfinder has some concerns about ethical journalism.

Before beginning this article, it is necessary to declare my interests. This is already stated elsewhere, however, cards on the table –

  • I am a Conservative blogger (and Party member)
  • I know Grant

Having said that, I have criticised Shapps stridently and impartially where appropriate in the past. and I intend to be impartial here.

The reason for my disclosures is that I have made a complaint about the journalist who wrote the Grant Shapps story, Randeep Ramesh, and the Guardian have now confirmed they are looking into it. This story sets out my reasoning as a follow-up from my earlier story, which has now been picked up by the BBC.

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Explosive! Grant Shapps MP Vindicated by Wikipedia Investigation! Accuser Contact With Guardian “was not appropriate” – Arbcom Voting on Sanctions Now

The Wikipedia Arbitation Committee (ArbCom) is a respected and thoughtful quasi-judicial body that has ultimate oversight of disputes on Wikipedia. It has been so successful as to be cited in academic articles as a model for dispute resolution. An investigation by ArbCom whose proposed findings were released a few hours ago has comprehensively devastated media claims that Grant Shapps MP edited his own or colleagues’ Wikipedia entries. Members of ArbCom have proposed dismissing his accuser and are voting now.


Grant Shapps MP – Innocent Victim of Political Smears

What sort of person has a username of “Chase Me Ladies, I’m the Cavalry“? Aside from the obvious drawback of taking a really long time to type, it has the secondary problems of being prima-facie sexist (as opposed to imaginary SJW sexism) and somewhat creepy.

When people like Anita Sarkeesian or @Eastgate talk about pervasive misogyny or a hostile environment your author often treats them with scepticism but in this case it looks pretty clear cut. Imagine setting that as a username or email address in any other workplace?

The username is that of Richard Symonds, the Wikipedia administrator and Liberal Democrat who accused Grant Shapps, who thinks it amusing. That alone raises questions about his judgement and suitability. The name itself has lent a slightly surreal air to the ArbCom proceedings and seems inconsistent with Liberal Democrat stated policy on equality.

It is frankly bizarre that the left would criticise the entirely reasonable decision of ArbCom over #GamerGate but ignore a person whose username is a hair away from, “Stick to the Kitchen Sink, Girls!”

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