Persistent hoax

Media coverage of Wikipedia hoax results in article

An attempt to post a fake vanity biography on Wikipedia made news last week, even though the article had been created months ago and deleted as a hoax. As a result of this attention, the article has been re-created and now focuses on the news coverage about the hoax's perpetrator.

Hoax created and deleted

The subject, Alan Mcilwraith, apparently edited Wikipedia using the account User:MilitaryPro, which he used to add himself to the List of honorary British Knights on 4 October 2005. This was reverted two hours later by Necrothesp, who noted that "Google has never heard of him — pretty good for someone supposedly knighted this year". Mcilwraith proceeded instead to create a supposed biography of his career and uploaded several photos of himself in military uniform. Average Earthman added a Cleanup-verify tag, noting, "This smells like a hoax to me."

Finally, RussBlau submitted it to Articles for deletion on 20 October. The article spent the usual five days going through that process, and near the end Mcilwraith apparently noticed this and tried to blank the article. Comments were unanimously in favor of deletion, and the article was then deleted by Woohookitty.

When the article was re-created in December, Average Earthman noticed it again and tagged it for speedy deletion, but this was changed to a cleanup tag by Brookie. Deltabeignet finally deleted it two days later after Average Earthman re-tagged it for speedy deletion. Average Earthman jumped on yet another attempt to re-create the article in February within minutes, and Katefan0 then deleted it, leaving a protected placeholder to prevent further re-creation.

Media gives it new life

Mcilwraith, in reality a call-centre employee in Glasgow, had apparently also been passing himself off as a decorated war hero to local civic groups. This led the local paper, the Daily Record, to publish an exposé on 11 April 2006 and mention his Wikipedia antics. Coverage then spread to a number of other British publications. Responding to media interest in the Wikipedia angle, David Gerard wrote an extensive explanation as a case study in how Wikipedia deals with hoaxes.

While the press frequently mentioned Wikipedia in their coverage, they typically did so briefly, such as to quote from Mcilwraith's faux biography. Average Earthman complained that the stories gave the impression Wikipedia had only just discovered the hoax, appearing as they did some time after the situation had been dealt with. A similar previous incident happened when Joshua Gardner tried to pass himself off as a Duke of Cleveland by writing an article about his claimed persona (see archived story). This happened in May 2005, and the hoax was promptly identified and deleted, yet media coverage about the story didn't hit until January 2006.

In response to the media coverage, Henrygb unprotected the placeholder and recast the article as the story of the hoax itself. Alkivar restored the deleted revisions for the hoax version of the article, so that the full sequence can now be traced in the article's history.

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