The Witchfinder has noted the controversy over Rational Wiki (RW) and its highly tendentious articles about #GamerGate. Your author feels it is time they felt some scrutiny in return.
Earlier this year, Milo Yiannopoulos wrote scathingly of Rational Wiki (archive here), “RationalWiki entry for GamerGate says I’m guilty of “ethical violations.” The proof offered is… a link to Tumblr.”
Yiannopoulous had a legitimate gripe. RW was started as a sceptical, rationalist wiki. As a fan of such authors as Eliezer Yudkowsky of HPMOR I have no problem with this. However over the years RW has drifted more and more into a less serious snarky site. Unfortunately its members do not seem to understand that publishing allegations about real world individuals requires care and due process, both in ethical and legal terms.
Recently, RW has published multiple articles about #GamerGate, including a main article and a timeline. The user mostly responsible, Ryulong, was apparently eventually ‘vandalbinned’, and RW moderators invited aggrieved parties to go along and politely explain any perceived errors with the articles.
RW’s “Timeline of Gamergate” (not linked) accused me of harassment in its entry for 29/08/2015, based on a deleted post from GamerGhazi. The allegation now has no sources mentioning me. I raised this and other issues politely on the talk page.
Within minutes I was permabanned without warning or discussion. The reason for this, opined moderators at their forum (the aptly named chicken coop), was that I had engaged in ‘smearing’ users on Wikipedia as paedophiles and ‘harassment’ of people (archive here). One ‘sysop’ (administrator) even took my failure to sockpuppet as evidence of bad faith (archive here).
Dealing first with the ‘smearing’ allegation, let us take a trip down memory lane to my article, “Paedophiles of Wikipedia”. I accused some Wikipedia editors of being paedophiles. As the article recounts, this was because some Wikipedia editors and administrators had filed formal witness statements admitting to being paedophiles, including one contact sex offender and claiming to be oppressed. This is not even a chatroom – these are formal witness statements.
For example, Administrator FreakOfNurture said, “[…] From time to time, I have admitted via a public IRC channel, to having had sexual intercourse with teenage girls below the age of consent […]”. Scandalously, FreakOfNurture was not banned at the time, although Jimmy Wales personally sanctioned some others involved in the dispute. There is a link to the evidence page here (archive here). Before I published that article I put the allegations to Wikipedia and those accused and received no denial. No defamation proceedings have been commenced.
I also accused an editor and recent Arbitration Committee candidate Mark Bernstein of significant amounts of conflict of interest editing (CoI). To avoid ambiguity Mark Bernstein is not accused of being a paedophile but per my article the evidence of his CoI editing is pretty clear. Bernstein eventually received ‘advice’ from a Wikipedia administrator about his conduct, which was ridiculously lenient in light of the stated rules. In the recent ArbCom elections, Bernstein was in the bottom 3 of 28 candidates and actually had a negative overall voting tally of -268. Results here (archive here).
Turning to harassment, the specific allegation referred to on RW as their source has been deleted. More generally, it should be remembered that the only allegation of harassment against me ever actually investigated led to a police apology, management action against an officer (the most lenient type of sanction) and coincided with the resignation of my accuser as I documented in my article here. I actually rate the police for this, they have so far played it straight down the line. I would not bring this up again but to refute the allegations made by Gerard and his pals at RW.
So the two allegations against me raised by the administrators at RW are demonstrably false. More sinisterly, they are wilfully and mendaciously sanctioning me for exposing paedophiles. Rather than respond in public, I emailed the founder David Gerard, who is also a serving moderator and trustee, to complain.
Gerard is a controversial figure himself. He was abruptly removed as an administrator of the Wikimedia Foundation UK site without warning (archive here). Although they removed him summarily, they did apologise, saying, “I apologize, though, for the hasty implementation of this decision! I didn’t intend to express any disrespect or distrust.”
Gerard also had his CheckUser and Oversight flags revoked on Wikipedia. According to the Register, after legal threats, a deal was brokered – Wikipedia removed their critical ruling explaining their decision on advice from their lawyer (who conceded it might appear procedurally and in some respects factually unfair) but in return Gerard agreed to resign the user rights. A full Register article is here (archive here).
Gerard had posted on the RW Coop expressly supporting my ban in his official capacity. Clearly, in this case, Gerard’s behaviour remains true to form. On receipt of my email complaint and text to his mobile, he did not reply but posted the email on the coop page. Clearly, RW has no intention of dealing with concerns confidentially or in good faith.
In short, whilst there is no evidence to accuse Gerard of being a paedophile, he is clearly supporting false allegations that I was, ‘smearing’ admitted paedophiles. To that limited extent he is supporting admitted child sex abusers. Furthermore, he was sent the link to my article with the police letter and he has had an opportunity to check the ‘evidence’ in the RW article I complained of. The only reasonable explanation that I can see is malice. Even US law does not protect malicious or reckless allegations (although Gerard lives in the UK, as far as I can tell).
Whilst your author is morally opposed to doxing (releasing personal details) I do consider it legitimate to unmask those who hide behind false names online whilst engaging in wrongdoing. The issue is moot in this case however because Gerard puts his email, real world name and phone number on his RationalWiki page (archive here). Gerard invites people to contact him about Rational Wiki via these details, so feel free to get in touch. As Gerard shares his details please use them responsibly and be courteous and respectful. Being ‘courteous’ does not prohibit being robust.
I would never expose anyone’s address and phone-number (Gerard has released them himself), however I consider that the identities and names of the other members of the Rational Wiki moderator team are the subject of legitimate journalism and intend to do a series on the site. For example, as he is the originator of the ban Gooniepunk is also of legitimate interest. Gooniepunk’s college may be less impressed with him when they learn of his unjust online conduct. It is unfortunate that his exams are next week, but it is his choice of timing not mine.
Finally, I note that for all his bluster, David Gerard lives in the UK. Gerard is a current trustee, administrator, host and moderator of RW and also the founder. He has personally put his weight behind the allegations against me. Unlike the last person I threatened with defamation proceedings he cannot say he did not identify me – my name is used on the site. Gerard cannot say someone else posted the allegation – he officially put his weight behind it with his own post. He cannot say he was acting at the direction of a committee – he is on the committee and indeed holds pretty much every conceivable position on the site.
As a matter of interest it appears Gerard is also a data controller. I see no reason why a claim in defamation or under the Data Protection Act 1998 should not succeed. Having tried a relatively informal complaint email, I shall, if necessary, explore this with Mr Gerard in due course by way of a formal letter of claim.
A draft of this article was sent to Mr Gerard. The allegations against him remain unchanged although I have tidied the article, corrected typos and fleshed out some sections relating to other people. Mr Gerard has not responded nor denied any of the asserted facts. Gerard was offered an extension of the deadline if he had any concerns. It was explained that UK law requires libel claimants to mitigate losses (See Mawdsley v Guardian Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 1780 (QB)). Being offered the facts before publication (and an extension to take advice), a subject has the opportunity to 100% mitigate losses. Mr Gerard is a press officer and is familiar with his rights.
I note that the tracking software reports that not only did Gerard receive and open my email shortly after it was sent yesterday evening, he has in fact read it 36 times at the time of finalising this article. The timestamps suggest he has been considering it all night.
User comments are invited below.