Wikipedia Watch    Jimmy Wales

This single page will eventually become a larger site that examines the phenomenon of Wikipedia. We are interested in them because they have a massive, unearned influence on what passes for reliable information. Search engines rank their pages near the top. While Wikipedia itself does not run ads, they are the most-scraped You can hotlink to me ! site on the web. Scrapers need content — any content will do — in order to carry ads from Google and other advertisers. This entire effect is turning Wikipedia into a generator of spam. It is primarily Google's fault, since Wikipedia might find it difficult to address the issue of scraping even if they wanted to. Google doesn't care; their ad money comes right off the top.

Another problem is that most of the administrators at Wikipedia prefer to exercise their police functions anonymously. The process itself is open, but the identities of the administrators are usually cloaked behind a username and a Gmail address. (Gmail does not show an originating IP address in the email headers, which means that you cannot geolocate the originator, or even know whether one administrator is really a different person than another administrator.) If an admin has a political or personal agenda, he can do a fair amount of damage with the special editing tools available to him. The victim may not even find out that this is happening until it's too late. From Wikipedia, the material is spread like a virus by search engines and other scrapers, and the damage is amplified by orders of magnitude. There is no recourse for the victim, and no one can be held accountable. Once it's all over the web, no one has the power to put it back into the bottle.

This is an open letter that was written to Jimmy Wales, the owner of Wikipedia. For more information on the context of this letter, see Google Watch.

Public Information Research, Inc.
PO Box 680635
San Antonio, TX 78268-0635

October 16, 2005

Mr. Jimmy Wales
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
200 2nd Avenue South, #358
St. Petersburg FL 33701-4313

Dear Mr. Wales:

I sent you an email a couple of hours ago requesting deletion of the article at and am following that email with this fax. I ask that this page be permanently deleted. It was started as a stub by SlimVirgin on September 28, apparently acting as an authorized agent of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. This anonymous person started the stub without my knowledge, and cited sources for information on me without vetting these sources.

She and I went back and forth on this piece for several days, and she reverted me more than once. In the end, I remained unsatisfied with my ability to influence this article about me, particularly with respect to the sources cited. At this point I renewed my original request to have the entire thing deleted.

Since I sent my email to you, she put it into delete status. She says that she was able to do this because she and I were the only two who contributed to the piece, and we both agreed to the deletion. She also says that any other admins can undo this speedy deletion if they add an edit.

I am asking you to insure that no other admins can undo the deletion. I presume that you and the directors of Wikimedia Foundation are legally responsible for the actions of your anonymous administrators.

I consider this entire episode a privacy violation. My only interest in trying to shape the article was to determine how much power I had to address this situation short of a deletion. I am now satisfied that I lack sufficient power, and ask that it remain deleted permanently.


Daniel Brandt

In a follow-up email to Mr. Wales, it was pointed out that SlimVirgin had an agenda before she began the stub on Daniel Brandt. Since Brandt was not notified of the stub posted on September 28, 2005, and knew almost nothing about Wikipedia, and had never heard of SlimVirgin, it was fortunate that he accidentally saw the stub on a search engine. This was just two weeks later, which meant that there was still time before it began spreading uncontrollably on the web. Soon he discovered that SlimVirgin was not as neutral as she pretended, and asked for a complete deletion. Here are some earlier comments from SlimVirgin:

"Daniel Brandt is not a reputable source. He is an extreme leftwing activist and conspiracy theorist. He soaks up any material people send to him so long as it suits his ideology and incorporates it into Namebase. He's the author of Google Watch. Slim 21:57, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)"

"Weed, I removed Daniel Brandt. He's not a credible source, not a journalist, and seems to write only for his own website i.e. he's a blogger. It's not appropriate to use someone's personal website as a source. There's no evidence that Roy Godson is an intelligence operative and the weasel catch-all phrase "representatives from intelligence-linked funding sources" is typical Brandt and typical LaRouche. This article is turning into an EIR piece. People are being associated with other people they once stood next to for 10 minutes etc. Please stop or this issue will have to go back to the ArbCom, with all the work for all of us that will entail.... Others should chip in with what they think of Daniel Brandt as a source. I know he wouldn't be used by mainstream journalists unless they checked his information independently, which isn't to say they wouldn't use him to point them in a certain direction. My main concern about Brandt is that he self-publishes. The few things I believe he published in the 80s were in outlets with little, if any, editorial oversight. Herschel, do you know whether he has published anywhere reputable; or whether he is quoted in the mainstream press? I know he's been quoted a bit regarding GoogleWatch, but it's not clear it's taken seriously. We can't use information from people who only self-publish on their websites, otherwise any of us could start up a website today then quote ourselves in Wikipedia. (Not that this would surprise me, mind you.) Slim 05:51, Jan 6, 2005 (UTC)"

On the basis of this evidence, Jimmy Wales should have apologized and revoked SlimVirgin's administrative privileges. Instead, he praised her and scolded Brandt, the victim. Even if there had been a sincere consensus among all involved for the article in question, Brandt would have needed to check in frequently to make sure that the article wasn't changed by other anonymous, hostile editors. This is a fundamental weakness in the Wikipedia development model.

Articles in Wikipedia are supposed to be neutral in tone, and assertions are supposed to be backed up with citations. What's happening is that any collection of citations that appears balanced is all that anybody expects. If the title or snippet in a link itself contributes to this impression, then the full text is not researched by anyone. No one has time for that. Just grab a few catchy snippets from Google and slap them at the end of the Wikipedia article. It's a full-circle dance: garbage in, garbage out, garbage back in. A few cycles of this, and it all turns into a big, stinking heap.

Wikipedia is a potential menace to anyone who values privacy. It needs to be watched closely.

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