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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