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.
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.
I revealed that Gerard had previously been stripped of his CheckUser and Oversight privileges by ArbCom. After he made reference to defamation, and the possibility his career in IT would be damaged, ArbCom agreed in a statement (archive here – scroll down slightly) to redact its ruling but leave the sanction in place.
Since then Gerard has been the subject of significant further controversy, most recently as host, trustee, moderator and sysop at Rational Wiki. When I contacted him about demonstrably untrue allegations, he failed to responded but instead published my private email.
Delving deeper I discovered that Gerard was a also a staunch defender of the controversial pictures of the Virgin Killer album cover that led to Wikipedia being temporarily blocked in the UK in 2008. As reported in the Guardian (worksafe, with censored images) (archive here) a Wikipedia page for 1976 album ‘Virgin Killer’ featured a photo of a naked, underage girl. According to the Guardian, she was naked – bare breasted with her vagina covered only by a strategic lens crack.
The UK anti-child-porn watchdog at the time, the ‘Internet Watch Foundation’ (IWF) provided details of the website to a UK service called ‘Cleanfeed’, which blocks illegal websites for users of major ISPs with a false not found error.
Wikipedia, which has long been known to harbour vocal members of the paedophile rights movement, responded with outrage – mobilising the anti-censorship lobby to try to reverse the decision. Step forward David Gerard, who appeared on BBC Radio 4 in December 2008 to attack the IWF and oppose the blocking of the pictures. Link to impartial transcript on Wikipedia (archive here).
The controversy was of course only a few years after the ‘Pedophilia Userbox Wheel War’ case on Wikipedia – a lengthy ArbCom case that arose after users tried to introduce a userbox for individuals to announce their paedophilia. The case heard evidence from self-identified paedophile administrators of Wikipedia seeking sympathy for their depraved preferences. Disgracefully, at least one individual who admitted having sex with children was allowed to remain an administrator.
Gerard, speaking on the BBC as (at that time) an official Wikipedia spokesman, pointed out that the images had been legal at the time the album went on sale (it predated the Protection of Children Act 1978) and criticised the IWF.
Regardless of Gerard’s anti-censorship views and the legality of the image (which has never been prosecuted), it is likely that some of the other defenders of the image were in fact paedophiles, especially given those vociferously involved in Wikipedia at the time. No matter the intent of the Wikipedia leadership, some paedophiles doubtless obtained sexual gratification from the photo and to that extent Wikipedia (including Gerard) enabled them.
No one ever argues in favour of pornography, (whether legal adult material or illegal images involving children, the dead or animals) by announcing their desire to use it to enhance vigorous masturbation. Instead they speak of free speech and the opposition to censorship. Suffice to say that even as a Cultural Libertarian, your author wholly supports the current ban on indecent images of children.
Like Wikipedia but more recently, Rational Wiki has also played host to inappropriate paedophilia related comment. When #GamerGate critic Sarah Nyberg was accused of boasting of paedophilia, Rational Wiki said this,
“The evidence used against her is gleaned from nearly 10-year-old IRC chatlogs obtained from when Gamergaters hacked her personal websites wherein, and here’s the kicker, she is explicitly expressing disgust with having found pedophilic roleplaying on LiveJournal that she was not engaging in herself”.
Since then, Rational Wiki’s spirited defence of Nyberg has been undermined by the fact that Nyberg herself has admitted in a Medium article (archive here) that she did claim to be a paedophile and that contrary to Rational Wiki’s assertion, she was not taken out of context.
Nyberg admitted, for example, that she had claimed her hard drive had been “seized by police”. She described this as, “Outlandish lies I told nearly ten years ago to get a rise out of people”. It is therefore clear that in the IRC logs concerned, Nyberg was not “expressing disgust” as Rational Wiki claims, although she does now claim (10 years later, that she was lying). Despite this, Rational Wiki’s team of editors has yet to correct the entry, including the criticism of (now vindicated) YouTuber TheLeoPirate whose assertions they disputed.
On his website (archive here), David Gerard claims that he is, “a volunteer media contact for the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK”. This concerned your author, because it could create the appearance that the Wikimedia Foundation is supporting Rational Wiki – a site that viciously smears several prominent Wikipedia critics.
I contacted the Chief Executive of WMUK for comment and she responded. My first question was as to whether David Gerard was an official spokesman for WMUK as he claims. In an email to your author and to Grant Shapps MP (who has expressed a keen interest in the matter of WMUK, Gerard and RationalWiki) she commented –
“David Gerard is not a press officer for Wikimedia UK and does not speak for the charity. He occasionally makes himself available as a volunteer to give a Wikimedia community perspective, although this hasn’t happened since I joined the organisation in October; nor, as far as I’m aware, this year”
Hardly a ringing endorsement. I sought to discover whether anyone from WMUK was endorsing or directing Gerard and / or Rational Wiki. Crompton-Reid responded as follows –
“No, there has been no such direction by any person. I have myself never met or had any form of communication with David Gerard.”
It is clear that WMUK’s new Chief Executive is seeking to distance herself from Rational Wiki and the clean-cut Mr Gerard. However, this stance is undercut to some degree by the fact that Gerard’s contact details are still on the public WMUK Press Room Page (archive here).
Crompton-Reid also expressed ignorance of the Virgin Killer and Pedophilia Userbox Wheel War. Your author believes her because she is a new appointment who only joined the organisation in October.
As the UK Wikimedia supremo, Lucy Crompton-Reid faces genuine challenges. She seems to be a new and sensible broom for WMUK, but the organisation still retains some controversial individuals. As well as Gerard, WMUK still seems to employ disgraced former Wikipedia Functionary Richard Symonds. In an eerie repeat of history he too was stripped of his CheckUser and Oversight privileges by ArbCom earlier this year. Gerard and Symonds are millstones around the organisation’s neck and their presence could give the impression that WMUK is a dumping ground for Wikipedia’s dregs.
Commendably, Crompton-Reid publishes her own details (including her mobile phone number) on WMUK’s Press Room Page so journalists and bloggers seeking comment on the future of Gerard’s relationship with WMUK are able to get in touch with her. Please be polite and respectful.
I asked two followup questions of Crompton-Reid, which have yet to receive answers. I stated – “The only remaining question I have is whether it is appropriate for David Gerard to be advertised as speaking for the Wikipedia community when that community, via ArbCom, removed his privileges? Also when he is a senior figure on the disreputable RationalWiki site?”
Wikipedia editors may wish to share their views politely with Crompton-Reid via her public email address, which is also on the press room page.
As for Gerard, I for one feel that there is scope for legal action against Rational Wiki for his comments about myself and others. Of course, there are also other options. It is clear that Gerard and his colleagues at Rational Wiki rightly fear media scrutiny. His actions in causing ArbCom to remove their judgment are clear enough evidence of that.
Based purely on what has been revealed so far, Gerard should be effectively unemployable in any role requiring responsible use of information (such as an IT Administrator). Other editors of Rational Wiki need to realise that their actions make them a legitimate subject of public interest and criticism that may impact their lives or employment. One Rational Wiki editor, -Mona- stated recently that this blog, “Can’t dox me cuz I use my real name. And I’m in early retirement”.
Whilst she may not have an employer, -Mona- (Mona Holland or @MonaHol) seems remarkably unworldly to think that is the only person who would think less of her because of her connection to Rational Wiki. In her shoes, your author would be more worried about the opinion of anyone (neighbours, for example) who learned of her involvement.
A draft of this article was sent to all persons named by email prior to publication. An extension of time was offered if anyone disputed any factual matters or wanted time to take legal advice. The only exception was Mona Holland because she did not respond to a Twitter message asking for her email. David Gerard opened the email with the article shortly past 10pm last night.
Whilst Lucy Crompton-Reid has (obviously) responded, Gerard has not replied to inquiries. He has not denied the allegation that he enabled paedophiles, objected to the term, ‘paedophile enabler’ nor that he defended the presence of nude, provocative pictures of a child on Wikipedia. Whilst it is not alleged that he is a paedophile, nor is there any evidence of that, what he has done is one more instance of his appallingly irresponsible behaviour.
Wikimedia UK and Wikipedia as a whole were significantly damaged by their unjust treatment of Grant Shapps MP earlier this year. If Crompton-Reid wants to make a start in placating her organisation’s growing list of powerful enemies, she will need to start chopping away its dead and decaying wood.