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 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
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
Public Information Research, Inc. |
PO Box 680635
Antonio, TX 78268-0635
October 16, 2005
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
200 2nd Avenue South, #358
St. Petersburg FL 33701-4313
Dear Mr. Wales:
sent you an email a couple of hours ago requesting deletion of the
article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Brandt 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
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.
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
"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.
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.
is a potential menace to anyone who values privacy. It needs to be watched
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