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Outing of editor causes firestorm

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By The ed17
Editor's note: Outing and other privacy-related issues are taken very seriously on the English Wikipedia. Given the sensitive nature of this story, readers are requested to respect these policies in any comments they make below.

"WP:OUTING", the normally little-noticed policy corner of the English Wikipedia that governs the release of editors' personal information, has suddenly been brought to wider attention after long-term contributor and featured article writer Cla68 was indefinitely blocked last week. This snowballed into several other blocks, a desysopping by ArbCom, and a request for arbitration.

Alleged outing

The saga stems from a post by Cla68 on the talk page of User:Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia and its sister sites. There, Cla68 asked her to comment on a post published on Wikipediocracy, the successor to Wikipedia Review, which outed User:Russavia.

Wikipediocracy includes articles written by current, blocked, banned, and retired English Wikipedia editors. Its mission statement says that it exists "to shine the light of scrutiny into the dark crevices of Wikipedia and its related projects; to examine the corruption there, along with the structural flaws; and to inoculate the unsuspecting public against the torrent of misinformation, defamation, and general nonsense [from Wikipedia]." The site's founders conceived Wikipediocracy as a successor to Wikipedia Review, seeing the reincarnation as an attempt to return to Wikipedia Review's "better days" (as opposed to its worse days, when it gained a reputation as a toxic attack site). In at least one part, the project succeeded: the Signpost notes that Wikipediocracy is more active than Wikipedia Review, which has not allowed new registration since April 2012 and has one moderator left.

Long-time Signpost readers will remember Russavia's involvement in several arbitration cases, including Russavia–Biophys, Eastern European mailing list, and enforcement of the earlier Eastern Europe. He was blocked for 12 months from the English Wikipedia in May 2012, but this was lifted on 7 March by the Arbitration Committee after a successful appeal. He is also a prolific contributor, administrator, and bureaucrat on Wikimedia Commons.

Twenty-two hours after the post, User:Beeblebrox oversighted it and blocked Cla68 indefinitely. In most cases, an outing is accidental and the situation is swiftly resolved with an apology and promise to not do it again. Cla68, however, asked for an unblock in a statement on his talk page that again could be construed as outing. The names Cla68 used in this statement were quickly suppressed by Someguy1221. A second similar appeal was also rejected, and Cla68's access to his talk page was revoked.

The oversighting team was hampered by long-standing conventions that prevent them from publicly discussing oversight actions, but Beeblebrox pointed out that the block "was discussed at length on the oversight mailing list and there is broad agreement that the oversighting, the block, and the revocation of talk page access were all not only permitted by policy but the right thing to do."

The net widens

The story quickly gathered pace, with watchers of Cla68's talk page chiming in on both sides of the debate. Cla68 told the Signpost that he did not see the original post as outing, as "[Russavia's] real name was linked to his [Wikipedia] username on two official, public mailing lists that are hosted on WMF servers. Since links to those mailing lists are used in Wikipedia and many, if not most, are presented as being an official part of Wikipedia, then it appears that he self-outed on Wikipedia." Cla68 also highlighted other self-outings that, in his view, suggest that Russavia had already outed himself and that Cla68's subsequent unblock request was within the outing policy.

Defenders of Cla68 used much the same reasoning. Beeblebrox rebutted these arguments to the Signpost, saying "whether the information is available on some other website is not the point—there has never been such an exception to the outing policy. Each of us has the right to choose not to use our real name on Wikipedia regardless of whether or not we tie [our] account name to our real name elsewhere." Cla68 noted, though, that "each individual Internet user is responsible for their own privacy. If someone is at least making an effort to be private, then Wikipedia should try to help them ... however, the editor in question was not making much effort ... to protect his privacy. In that case, it makes Wikipedia's administration look very foolish to act like a serious violation of privacy had occurred."

Supporters of the block additionally discovered that Russavia had previously blocked Cla68 on Wikimedia Commons, leading to accusations of petty revenge. Echoing similar positions, Prioryman stated that "while Cla68 didn't write the blog post in question (I assume), his act of posting a link to it also clearly constitutes an act of harassment ... Honestly, none of this is rocket science."

Discussion on Cla68's talk page has led to nearly 100,000 bytes of text, while the snowball has also been rolled large enough to capture User:Kevin, who unblocked Cla68 without approval from ArbCom's Ban Appeals Subcommittee. This led to his desysopping under Level II procedures and even greater amounts of debate. The saga has led to a request for arbitration, and a motion proposing the return of his administrator rights is pending and currently succeeding. The committee is allowed to refuse a reinstatement of the administrator right, but for this a full arbitration case is required.

Beeblebrox told the Signpost that he believes Kevin's unblock was an "extraordinarily poor idea. This should have been handled by the ban appeals sub committee ... because they are experts [who] specialize in handling difficult or sensitive block situations like this." For his part, Kevin told the website (in an article written by banned English Wikipedia editor Gregory Kohs):

Also caught up in the controversy was User:MZMcBride, who was blocked by User:David Fuchs for "Disruptive editing: WP:OUTING, IDIDNTHEARTHAT, trolling" in regards to comments made on the Arbitration Committee's noticeboard.

The Wikipediocracy question

The Signpost asked Cla68 to provide a hypothetical reply to editors who think Wikipediocracy is unhealthy for the Wikipedia community. He told us:

Commenting on the same topic from another point of view, User:Risker stated:

In brief

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Discuss this story

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  • "where they can't be bullied or intimidated" A site which they then use to bully and intimidate Wikipedia editors? That doesn't seem all that appropriate. Especially since just as often as they are "exposing" something, they are also making attacks on innocent editors that they attacked because they disliked things they said or edits they made. SilverserenC 20:09, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I know that feeling. Apparently according to their members I'm an ADHD science dork, Anti-religious (maybe my "This user believes that Monotheism and Religion are not the source of the World's problems" userbox wasn't big enough) , and was possibly kicked out of a Christian Science family and involved in some editing related to the troubles in the North (new to me). If this is what counts as important review work by wikipediocracy, it's a little pathetic. Much like a bunch of conspiracy theorists, they posit deep meaning to benign incidents and happenstance. IRWolfie- (talk) 17:03, 8 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • One would think from reading much of this, and some of the other stuff that goes on here, that the only criticism of Wikipedia that is acceptable is criticism that has first been vetted and approved by leading members of Wikipedia. It is this very form of groupthink that can be very offputting to new editors. Just one newish editor's opinion. Intothatdarkness 20:15, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Criticism is criticism. Actual constructive criticism of Wikipedia's purpose, its aims, how it goes about things, and individual incidents is fine. But Wikipediocracy doesn't go for that. All Wikipediocracy is about is the ad hominem, the insult. The purpose of it, or at least the purpose that it has ended up expressing, is to insult as many people on Wikipedia as possible, to dig up as much dirt (or what they think is dirt) as possible, and to then attack the editors they dislike as much as possible. That is Wikipediocracy in a nutshell. SilverserenC 20:26, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Not especially familiar with Wikipediocracy, but it's been my observation that criticism (no matter how constructive) doesn't seem to be tolerated unless it's in line with the thoughts of senior members of this project. That may not be a long term or serious trend, but it is the perception that gets put across here and reinforced with some regularity. You may not agree with that observation, and that's obviously fine. But I'd also point out that the rosy view of Wikipedia isn't necessarily universal, and the Byzantine mechanisms that pass for control here are not confidence-inspiring to a relative newcomer. Intothatdarkness 22:19, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Silver, since you're one of the usual "anti-Wikipediocracy" crusaders, let's just say you're not exactly a 'reliable source' on this topic.Volunteer Marek 20:53, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
And since you're a Wikipediocracy member saying that, you're a reliable source how? SilverserenC 21:03, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
You and your keep buddies in your anti-Wikipediocracy crusade keep using this term... "members". As if there was some secret initiation ritual, one had to burn a picture of Jimbo, and swear an oath to the dark one. But as you very well know, since you were on there yourself at one point AFAICR (at least WR), there's no such thing. Aside from some administrators and moderators there's no "members". Just people who comment on there. I do. So do a number of Wikipedia editors, admins, arbs and oversighters (one of whom you tried to get desysopped recently I believe, tough luck with that one). So don't try to mislead people by calling plain ol' commentators "members".Volunteer Marek 21:20, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Good point. But even by a more stringent standard, you would still be considered a "member", because of your direct, repeated involvement in the discussions that includes harassment of Wikipedia editors. SilverserenC 21:21, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
You're lying. Again. Please stop that.Volunteer Marek 22:24, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Alas, discussion of personal actions doesn't advance the discussion here. What benefits can Wikipediocracy provide to Wikipedia? Are these being outweighed by abuse of Wikipedia editors? Do we have evidence for either? Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:39, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
There's easy recent evidence of the abuse, considering the outing and threatening of two Wikipedia editors. SilverserenC 21:50, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • It drives me nuts the way that Wikipedia-Critic-critics use the phrase "Wikipediocracy members". It's a website with a message board, okay?!? User:Silver seren should know better since he himself was a registered user at the predecessor site, Wikipedia Review. A "Wikipedia Review member" if one is to replicated this hackneyed verbiage... Ridiculous. His having registered and posted there can in no way be used to imply that he supported the extreme views of some of the trolls and toads that frequented that site; nor should SS attempt to lump all registered posters at Wikipediocracy (of which I am one) with the most extreme views or statements expressed by some of the most extreme anti-Wikipedia critics who post there. There are a range of participants with a range of views, and we all clash frequently. One doesn't call a person who registers and posts in the comments section at the New York Times website a "New York Times member," does one? Same exact thing. Wikipediocracy is nothing more or less than an "opposition newspaper" to the Wikipedia movement. Lead articles there have been both been fair and unfair, raised valid criticism and escalated molehills into mountains. Like it or not, the site serves a valid function as a source of criticism of abuses, real and imagined, at Wikipedia — and the first step to the rectification of problems is their identification. I'm a working "Glass-Three-Quarters-Full" Wikipedian — but you'd better believe I appreciate the benefits of an opposition press with respect to The Project. We all should. Carrite (talk) 22:17, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Maybe I should clarify my definition. I consider someone a member if they are actively involved in perpetuating the attacks and harassment. I wouldn't consider you to be a member because you don't do that, for the most part, you try to more or less represent Wikipedia and point out when the others on there are going overboard or not making sense. I used to try to do that with WR, but I gave up, because I realized their point isn't to be a proper critic of Wikipedia, but just to attack the people that edit Wikipedia. There are plenty of people that have an account on there that I wouldn't call members, including a number of Arbs and admins. SilverserenC 22:37, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Might I add that a true, proper opposition press would moderate itself and would kick out those who are only there to be foaming mouth hatemongers. Because the point of an opposition press should be to elevate the discussion while also pointing out specific criticisms about the system and never devolving to the point of just attacking people. SilverserenC 22:39, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]


Sequence of events should not have an entry marked "(viv)", that is not proper roman numerals.Naraht (talk) 20:43, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks for the note, I've corrected the typos. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 20:52, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
...and I apparently do not do well with ROman numerals. Thanks to Mgiganteus1 for the further correction. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:39, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Guilt by association

I see you have a quote from me, that you then try to discredit by casting aspersions on the person I spoke to. That seems like particularly poor journalism to me. Surely Greg Kohs has no bearing on the credibility of my statement? Kevin (talk) 21:43, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Actually if you are going to use that quote you should put a link to the Examiner article, as a reference. WP:BLP and all that. Kevin (talk) 21:46, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Which you know full well contains outing. Seriously, what's wrong with you? I don't understand how any of you are okay with doing things like this. SilverserenC 21:49, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
So we should ignore one policy in favour of another? That can't be right. Kevin (talk) 21:58, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
(edit conflict) I apologize for how you feel, but we quote your words directly, so I would assume that readers realize that the statement is credible. I used that wording because I did not want to give the impression that this was receiving true third-party press coverage. With regards to linking to the Examiner article: due the sensitive nature of this topic, we took great care in crafting this story to avoid exacerbating the situation, which included omitting links to external websites that out Russavia. Regards, Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:02, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Seriously? isn't an external link? NE Ent 22:05, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Show me an example of where we quote someone and link only to the front page of the media outlet. I say this only to point out that the rules are only rules where it is convenient. Kevin (talk) 22:15, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
@The ed17 - Shouldn't the readers make up their own mind on the type of press coverage it is? Your characterization of Greg Kohs only offers one opinion. Adding a link and letting people decide is much more neutral, that not being possible here, your characterization should be omitted. Kevin (talk) 22:15, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
We are allowing them to decide, but with all of the necessary information (i.e. Kohs has been involved with Wikipedia in the past). Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:26, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
OK, obvious that I'm not getting anywhere here. Kevin (talk) 22:30, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • It's time for all of us to stop smearing Greg Kohs like he's the Antichrist. He and I have had our differences — more than one or two — but let me tell you this about my erstwhile nemesis: Mr. Kohs got tossed from WP for being the first to come up with the idea of paid editing at WP for clients. This is arguably not even block-worthy by today's standards; the community differs as to whether it is a violation at all, Jimmy Wales' opinion about a "bright line" notwithstanding. And, guess what, he undoubtedly still contributes content today. Ooo, that's "editing around a ban" — huge party foul under this site's Alice In Wonderland rules... Burn the witch! Hey, so what? The encyclopedia is all about the content, not the editor, right? As long as this site has no real name registration and Sign-In-To-Edit procedures, there is absolutely no way on the planet to stop anyone with a modicum of cleverness from editing around a block or ban. Them's facts. As far as I know, Mr. Kohs' surreptitious writing has never run afoul of site standards for notability and content. So, be nice and stop talking trash about your fellow working Wikipedian, Greg Kohs, okay? Carrite (talk) 22:35, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • I do disagree with his original blocing. That was completely inappropriate and Jimbo (kinda) admitted as such afterward. So, I assume you have access to all the articles he's written or worked on then? I mean, National Fuel Gas is alright, I guess. Though Alec Head is really bare bones. Though he's even admitted before that he's written articles for pay that don't quite meet the notability criteria, such as with this one SilverserenC 22:56, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Isn't Kohs current ban related to the compromised admin account he obtained and an experiment in mainspace in which he made inappropriate edits to unwatched biographies of living people? I'm less concerned about spam than either of those incidents. ϢereSpielChequers 15:22, 8 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

MZMcBride's block

This article fails to make clear the circumstances of user:MZMcBride's block (and/or contrast those circumstances to Cla68's block). As I recall it, MZMcBride posted a direct link to the Wikipediocracy blog post on Wikipedia talk:Arbitration Committee/Noticeboard in the discussion about Cla68's block. They were warned by User:Fluffernutter and the edit was oversighted. This is the same link that Cla68 placed on Sue Gardner's talk page and for which they were indef blocked without prior warning. After being warned, MZMcBride posted the link again (and it was again oversighted). MZMcBride was then blocked for 72 hours by ArbCom member User:David Fuchs, who did not leave a block notice on MZMcBride's talk page. Since some edits were oversighted, it is not possible for most people to confirm this sequence of events, but this is my recollection of them. It should be obvious that there are rather marked differences in how these two cases of posting the same link were handled. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 23:46, 7 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Latest development. AGK upped the block to indef. This is getting messy. OhanaUnitedTalk page 03:36, 13 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
There were some intervening events - MZMcBride's original block expired. They again posted a link to Wikipediocracy on Wikipedia talk:Arbitration Committee/Noticeboard. AGK removed the link and warned MZMcBride, "If you do that again, I will indef you". MZMcBride replaced it. AGK indef'd MZMcBride. Note that those links have not been oversighted. Note also that it appears that no one has a problem with being written out as I just did here, so long as it is not linked. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 03:51, 13 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Steward reconfirmation

May I add "In addition, the annual reconfirmation of all stewards resulted in three removals and two resignations"? Bennylin (talk) 11:21, 8 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

If that is the case, please add, Bennylin. Tony (talk) 12:15, 8 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Indeed, one steward elected not to undertake reconfirmation and one resigned during the process, hence we did have two resignations. Snowolf How can I help? 12:17, 8 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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