Former Wikipedia Admin Used Sockpuppet for Anti-Kavanaugh Editing Campaign

During the confirmation fight over Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, an editor called Sagecandor created numerous Wikipedia articles seeded with mentions of unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations against the judge and attempted to get them on the site’s front page. The editor was subsequently exposed and blocked as being former Wikipedia administrator Cirt, who had been banned from articles on people in politics.

Cirt was known to use Wikipedia for denigrating Republican politicians, including in a campaign to associate then-presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s name with a by-product of anal sex. As Sagecandor, he helped get articles on the front page denigrating President Trump.

Sagecandor first began editing articles related to Kavanaugh by providing mundane details about the career and life of his initial sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford, though many edits proved contentious as potentially hyping her credentials. He also made several edits about Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, who Ford also implicated in her accusations. When Judge’s page was nominated for deletion, arguing he wasn’t notable enough for a page, Sagecandor rebutted by citing Judge’s history as an author and began expanding the page with details about his writing.

Eventually, Judge’s page was kept, but as the discussion was still going, Sagecandor began creating articles on all of Judge’s books with every last one being seeded with references about the accusations against Kavanaugh. Sagecandor also created an article on Ana Maria Archila, the activist who confronted Senator Jeff Flake regarding his intent to vote for confirming Kavanaugh and added information on the confrontation.

While Judge’s books had received critical attention prior to Ford’s accusations, none of it was substantial. As a result, some articles contained reference sections filled primarily with recent articles on the accusations against Kavanaugh. Most articles on Judge’s books only contained a few references concerning Kavanaugh, but in an apparent violation of Wikipedia’s policies on original research, these references did not mention the book the article was about. The references were also only used for various extraneous unnecessary details, some of which could be supported by other references without mentioning Kavanaugh.

Not content with merely creating half a dozen articles related to the Kavanaugh allegations, Sagecandor also tried to get the articles on Judge and his books on the front page of Wikipedia in its “Did you know” section. Sagecandor had experience with using the “Did you know” section having got numerous articles on books about Trump on the front page, particularly favoring material with unflattering information. He also helped preserve a denigrating article on Trump’s handshakes long enough to get it on the front page (the article was deleted following Breitbart’s reporting on it).

Editor SashiRolls, a Jill Stein supporter, was the impetus for inquiries into Sagecandor. Coming into conflict over the “fake news” article early in Sagecandor’s tenure, Sashi noted he seemed oddly proficient with Wikipedia processes. Sashi would be banned from Wikipedia first six months and, after briefly returning, indefinitely for “harassment” due to him raising questions about Sagecandor’s political bias. During his bans, Sashi frequented Wikipedia criticism sites leading to Sagecandor’s identification as Cirt in a members-only section of criticism site Wikipediocracy. Evidence was then gathered and compiled on another criticism site.

Once a Wikipedia administrator, a user with special privileges, Cirt used Wikipedia’s front page to spotlight negative information about his targets and prominently display obscene language. Amidst the 2012 presidential race, Cirt edited in furtherance of an LGBT activist campaign to make Senator Rick Santorum’s last name a word for a combination of lubricant and feces resulting from anal sex. He massively expanded an article concerning the “santorum” word campaign and greatly increased the number of internal links to the article on Wikipedia, boosting the derogatory definition’s prominence. Cirt was consequently brought before Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, a volunteer body with oversight over administrators. He was banned from editing about people in politics, and lost his admin privileges. When Trump clinched the 2016 Republican nomination for President, Cirt stopped editing Wikipedia and resigned from administrative positions he still held on associated sites. Following Trump’s victory, the Sagecandor account appeared.

Knowing Sagecandor’s edits violated Cirt’s politics ban, Sashi alerted the Arbitration Committee that the two users were one and the same to no avail. Sagecandor suddenly claimed to be having health issues and ceased editing. Before departing he tangled with a paid editor for Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo whose article Sagecandor created to falsely smear him as a public relations representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin (Caputo worked briefly for the Russian state-owned oil and gas firm Gazprom). Attempting to correct Sagecandor’s smear got Caputo further smeared in the press.

Sagecandor’s return a year later for his anti-Kavanaugh campaign prompted re-examination of his identity, leading to one editor filing a report using the evidence compiled on Wikipedia criticism sites. An administrator found the evidence compelling and blocked Sagecandor within hours. The administrator stated Sagecandor did not deny being Cirt in an e-mail exchange. In response, Sagecandor’s requested front page appearances for his Kavanaugh-related articles were rejected. A month after Sagecandor’s ban, SashiRolls was able to successfully appeal his Wikipedia ban citing Cirt’s sockpuppetry as a mitigating factor.

The ban did not halt Cirt’s anti-Kavanaugh campaign. After years of dormancy, he revived his Cirt account on Wiktionary, the dictionary site associated with Wikipedia. Cirt expanded the definition page for “devil’s triangle”, a term Kavanaugh used in his school yearbook, with derogatory quotations about Kavanaugh and Trump describing it as sexual slang for a threesome. Kavanaugh stated in Congressional testimony that the term referred to a drinking game, though opponents insisted otherwise and claimed Kavanaugh lied under oath. The Wiktionary activity echoed Cirt’s prior history regarding Santorum. Following his politics ban on Wikipedia he filled a page on Wikimedia’s image site Commons with images related to the Santorum campaign.

Cirt’s obsession with generating voluminous content advancing his agenda and having as much of it appear on the front page as possible appears designed to exploit Wikipedia’s favored position on search engines. Any page linked from Wikipedia will similarly benefit, while those banned such as Breitbart are commensurately harmed. Placement on the front page of Wikipedia, which is regularly viewed over ten million times a day, amplifies the effect even further. Like others editing Wikipedia, such as those who got California Republicans branded Nazis in Google’s infoboxes, Cirt a.k.a. Sagecandor knew Wikipedia was an ideal site for pushing his political agenda.

(Disclosure: The author was involved in gathering and compiling the evidence linking the Sagecandor and Cirt accounts)