The Wikipedia Post — Part 9: One Year Since the Fall

T. D. Adler
Aug 27, 2019 · 7 min read

As Wikipedia came up on a year since the GamerGate ArbCom case, prominent Wikipedia editor William Beutler included the fight as the second biggest Wikipedia story of 2015. He thoughtlessly repeated the fake news narrative Mark Bernstein propagated through the press of a “campaign” by “throwaway accounts” where only veterans “defending” the article from being slanted in favor of GamerGate were otherwise sanctioned. He had previously iterated this narrative in some detail earlier in 2015 and even regurgitated it in an article for Quartz. His piece with its false GamerGate narrative would be republished at Wikipedia’s Signpost newsletter in the final issue of 2015. Of course, it is often the case with GamerGate that the person pushing the false and incendiary narrative has serious conduct issues as well and is far from some perfect angel. So too, was this the case with Beutler.

Beutler runs a firm called Beutler Ink, whose most notable service is offering Wikipedia editing for pay. The practice of paid editing is a controversial one and, while Beutler’s operation ostensibly operates within the letter of the rules by disclosing their paymasters and not editing directly, his firm’s activities certainly bend the rules to the point of breaking them in spirit. For clients such as Obama-era U.S. ambassadors Colleen Bell and Robert Mandell, Beutler would have editors massage their pages to minimize criticism. His work in some case was done for the Democrat-affiliated PR firm SKDKnickerbocker and on the page for one of their consultants, Hilary Rosen, he had editors whitewash some of the more controversial aspects of her past work for the Recording Industry Association of America and focus on her receiving threats from people opposed to the hard-line the RIAA took against file-sharing during her tenure. Editors making these edits on his behalf were not random passers-by who offered to help, but people Beutler specifically flagged down for instance until someone acted and he would go back to those individuals if they did act in the hopes of repeat assistance.

Some of the people from whom he sought assistance are not entirely independent bystanders either. In several cases the people he solicited themselves had conflicts of interest concerning the topic, such as working with the U.S. government when Beutler requests assistance on a page about another government employee or consultant for the government. One user Beutler repeatedly asked for assistance on articles was later banned with the associated note indicating potential abuse of multiple accounts. Near simultaneous blocks of four other accounts would seem to suggest the same user was actively making use of those accounts. As one user noted, some of the edits made on Beutler behalf violated requirements to attribute edits when they are made on behalf of paid editors with clear disclosure that the material was created by a paid editor, disclosure of the paid editor’s name, and link to where request to make the edit was made. Despite Beutler’s paid editing work being well-known and prior coverage of his paid editing, he remains free to edit for pay, as do his various employees.

Horseman NorthBySouthBaranof a.k.a. Travis Mason-Bushmann, would continue his own Wikipedia editing where he had a conflict of interest due to his work in Public Affairs for the U.S. Forest Service, a federal land agency. As he had done during the original Bundy standoff in Nevada with another federal land agency, Bushmann was quick to begin editing articles related to the occupation of the headquarters for the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge by members of the Bundy family and other land rights activists protesting the incarceration of the Hammond family over dubious charges under a terrorism statute involving “arson” that included a backfire to protect their lands. Bushman edited articles concerning the protest to push the government’s claims against the Hammond family and described the occupation in more militaristic terms. Of these edits, Bushman sought to cast Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon Bundy, who was leading the protests, in an unflattering light by giving prominence to him stating he had prayed about whether to engage in the protest and felt God told him to act. In Bushmann’s framing, Bundy’s complaints about the government’s conduct were removed in favor of something painting Bundy as a religious zealot as opposed to a normal person of faith who prays about major life decisions.

On articles about the National Park Service, Bushmann stepped in and excised or spun a great deal of negative material from the federal land agency’s page about lawsuits against the agency. This included material noting their controversial deal with a park management company owned by an oil-driller that was engaged in fracking exploration on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The company withdrew its efforts when critics of the fracking operation tried to block the park management deal. While Bushmann claimed it was all cited to a “personal blog” he later claimed it was “original research” as he said neither source connected the two events. In fact, the cited news article directly linked the abandonment of the fracking operation with petitions against the park management deal. Much of the other material could be backed with sources directly linked from that news article as well. His main employer was not neglected, however, as Bushmann would also create another article about the Tongass National Forest where he worked at the time. Like previous articles, it read more like a brochure and cited government-affiliated websites. Getting away with more questionable BLP exemption claims, Bushmann would be given a pass for requesting deletion of an article on the infamous feminist “Big Red” a.k.a. Chanty Binx.

Ryulong did dabble towards the end of 2015 at the Japanese Wikipedia, but he stopped not much later after trying to tell them a thing or two about local dialects. He would still influence English Wikipedia through his proxy efforts. This proxy-editing again involved, over a year after Ryulong’s ban, repeatedly restoring inaccurate romanizations (as with “Condol Legs” I am certain the correct version is Gold Drive not “Gord Drive”). Fortunately, it didn’t take long for this error to be acknowledged by Ryulong’s proxy friend. On RationalWiki, one of Ryulong’s friends proxy-edited for him there and tried to eliminate one of his former opponents to no avail. He would also find himself getting banned two years from the Wikia Fandom site dedicated to the Bleach anime series over his repeated hostility with users restoring a minor error that proved difficult to discern. Ryulong was previously banned a year in 2013 for cursing out a staffer over the issue. Sure sucks when people repeatedly restore errors created during rough translation of Japanese words. Jay “Tarc” Herlihy, though not openly involved in wikidrama, did file a trolling petition towards the end of 2015 calling for the arrest on “terrorism” charges of then-presidential candidate in the Republican Primaries Carly Fiorina.

Vanishing at the end of 2015, TheRedPenofDoom seemingly removed himself from Wikipedia with his page eventually tagged as being of an “inactive” user. However, months later in 2016 a curiously similar account named “ThePlatypusofDoom” would appeared and showed strikingly similar editing interests to RedPen. Were the account RedPen, as opposed to it being a coincidence or impersonation, then the ban he had received from gender-related controversies and GamerGate would have been breached in several discussions, including one where Platypus took the side of an administrator deemed sympathetic to GamerGate who anti-GamerGate editors sought to preclude from taking administrative action. PlatypusofDoom even made an edit directly to the GamerGate article. The White Knights of the horsemen also kept busy. Future Perfect was advised by the Arbitration Committee to avoid incivility and inappropriate use of his administrator position after a controversy involving his blocking of two established editors during a conflict. Gorman, even as he was running for the Arbitration Committee, would be brought before the Committee for various bits of misconduct. His past opposition research into someone editing the Anita Sarkeesian article was raised as one issue. The case concluded with Gorman stripped of administrative privileges. An unfortunately disgraceful outcome, as Gorman would sadly pass away mere months later.

Others involved in pushing an anti-GamerGate agenda in the dispute on Wikipedia would land in trouble as well, such as DracoEssentialis a. k. a. Nathalie Collida, the wife of Andreas Kolbe who authored the doxing piece on two GamerGare sympathizers Kolbe spammed on Twitter. She was blocked a month after engaging in personal attacks against former Executive Director Sue Gardner over Gardner’s insufficient commitment to feminism. She returned later to fight over the page of former Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos following his ban from Twitter. Collida repeatedly sought to shame Yiannopoulos by noting a page about him under his previous name, which she claimed he created, and also removed his defense against the claimed reasons for the Twitter ban. She then tried to add details about his supposed Wikipedia activity and other unflattering material directly to his page. Her obsession with Yiannopoulos was apparently the cause of her being banned from Wikipediocracy. She took strong exception to then-domain owner Gregory Kohs tweeting to Yiannopoulos a blog post, which suggested people affiliated with a summit where Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was speaking might have removed mention of Yiannopoulos criticizing the summit.

The 500/30 restriction, imposed to combat pro-GamerGate editors appearing to question the bias of the article on the controversy, inevitably expanded further after already being extended to Arab-Israeli conflict articles and Indian caste articles. Initially enforced with a filter to block edits, discussion formalized the restriction into another level of page protection called “extended confirmed” protection. It was further expanded by ArbCom and the community to cover areas where ban-evading accounts have been able to repeatedly circumvent lower forms of protection. Editors subsequently pushed for a discussion on the use of this new protection outside cases covered by the Arbitration Committee remedies. The result was that “extended confirmed” protection was promoted to just another former of page protection to be used in any case where it was deemed necessary. As occurred on many other sites, attempting to stifle GamerGate rolled into the stifling of the wider community on Wikipedia as well.

Next: Part 10: A Knight Dismounted

Previous: Part 8: Beginning of the Crackdown

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T. D. Adler

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T.D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators.

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