Block wars

Administrators fight over two controversial blocks

Wikipedia administrators became involved in two separate block wars last week, one of which had to be stopped by taking the underlying matter before the Arbitration Committee.

Rumsfeld, the Stalinist?

The first incident began with a relatively common situation, where an editor without an account was making inflammatory edits to a highly controversial article. A user identifying himself as "Tamas Feher from Hungary", but editing from the IP address, surfaced to make two edits last Wednesday to Joseph Stalin. The edits, which Gadfium described as "pushing a POV", were promptly reverted by other users.

In response to the reverts, Feher proceeded to post on the talk page, where Everyking responded and tried to explain the Neutral point of view policy. Feher responded to this with another post, which Everyking described as "a rather extended screed about me being an apologist for Stalinism." (It also compared Everyking to Donald Rumsfeld.)

This second message of Feher's on the talk page was soon noticed by 172, another editor active on the Stalin article. Rather than giving a warning, at 20:41 (UTC) on Wednesday (five minutes after Feher's post), 172 blocked the IP address for a week, citing as his reason, "Trolling, personal attacks, ranting".

Fred Bauder intervened to reverse the block, saying that 172 was involved in the dispute and the block was improper. For his part, 172 contended that the block was appropriate and supported by the precedent of other blocks applied for similar behavior. He restored the block the following day at 19:22 (UTC), after which the cycle repeated itself four times in under ten hours before 172 finally gave up trying to impose the block.

While this was the most active block/unblock war, the situation arose from nowhere and soon dwindled in significance. By comparison, the blocking of Gzornenplatz attracted a lot more attention and discussion, as the question of his identity with Wik finally came to a head.


Wik was the subject of two arbitration cases focused on excessive reverting and failure to discuss the reasons for reverts. After being placed on revert parole in the first case, which he violated several times, the second case resulted in a one-week ban, issued 21 May 2004.

In response to the ban, Wik indicated that he was leaving Wikipedia permanently. Many users left goodbye messages on his talk page, ranging from sad to hostile and gloating. This, along with vandalism to Wik's user page and subpages, apparently prompted the appearance of a vandalbot, which retaliated with vandalism against some of Wik's tormentors.

The appearance of the vandalbot produced a major escalation, as it subsequently went on to rapidly create throwaway accounts and use these for page move vandalism, and wreaked havoc by moving frequently edited pages with lengthy histories such as Vandalism in progress and the Village pump. Administrators spent several days trying to protect pages being targeted, block the accounts, and undo the page moves before the vandalbot finally stopped.

Wik apparently claimed responsibility for the vandalbot in an email to Jimbo Wales, and developer investigation supported this claim. Comments by Wales and others seemed to suggest that Wik was considered permanently banned at this point, but since it was assumed that Wik had departed once the vandalbot episode ended, no explicit announcement of a formal ban was made.


As things quieted down, Gzornenplatz, who had made a few contributions before Wik was banned, increased his pace of editing. He eventually also ended up involved in an arbitration case, and as part of the evidence there, Yup commented, "There is a striking similarity between Gzornenplatz's edit pattern and behavior and that of Wik." The similarities mentioned included involvement in identical edit wars and opposition to some of the same administrator candidates as Wik. (Yup, incidentally, has never made any other contributions to Wikipedia.)

The issue was never actually addressed further, although subsequent comments from arbitrators Raul654 and Fred Bauder indicate that they believed Gzornenplatz and Wik to be the same person, as do a number of other people familiar with both users.

The block war

One of the disputes connected to Gzornenplatz's arbitration case involved dueling image uploads with Simonides (the two were fighting over how to show Jammu and Kashmir on the various map images for the states and territories of India). When this continued after the arbitration ruling was issued in December, Simonides first sought page protection, then on 23 January asked on the administrators' noticeboard that Gzornenplatz be blocked.

At this point the issue again came up of whether Gzornenplatz was the same person as Wik, and whether he should be blocked for that reason as well. After some discussion, Silsor imposed an indefinite block of Gzornenplatz on Friday at 18:08 (UTC). Supporters of the block argued that Wik was permanently banned after the vandalbot incident, either by the community itself or based on Jimbo's comments.

Here 172 stepped in, this time to unblock, arguing that Gzornenplatz should not be blocked as a reincarnation of Wik because the Arbitration Committee had decided not to deal with that question in previous cases. Two other admins, Snowspinner and RickK, then tried to reimpose the block over 172's objections.

172 speculated that the timing of the block, which he called "random", might have been chosen because Danny, one of Gzornenplatz's supporters, had announced he was taking an indefinite break from Wikipedia, but Silsor responded that Danny's departure did not come until after the initial block.

Arbitrators called in

The matter moved into arbitration when Angela made a request to have the underlying issues addressed - whether previous statements about Wik amounted to a formal ban, and whether the rejection of previous arbitration requests meant that Gzornenplatz was not covered by such a ban. The arbitrators immediately accepted Angela's request (waiving their newly instituted 24-hour delay), and followed with a temporary injunction that Gzornenplatz was not to be blocked as a reincarnation while the case was open.

With that, arbitrator Neutrality removed the latest block and things settled down to await the Arbitration Committee's deliberations (see related story).

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