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By Harry Mitchell

The most significant item on ArbCom's agenda this fortnight has been the closure of the Wifione case and subsequent fallout, although the fallout from GamerGate continues to linger. Meanwhile the committee has become deadlocked on all manner of trivial issues, holding up progress on the larger issues, even where arbitrators are in broad agreement.

In depth: Wifione

The Wifione case recovered from a delay during the workshop phase and was finally closed on 13 February with Wifione—formerly an administrator and well-regarded editor—receiving an indefinite ban from the English Wikipedia.

The central allegations to the case were that Wifione (talk · contribs), who was an administrator from 2010 until the case's final stages, had been manipulating Wikipedia to advance the interests of an Indian business school. The abuse included a reputation management campaign, sanitising the institution's article and the articles of people connected with it by removing unflattering material and using disingenuous policy arguments in order to retain poorly sourced but flattering material, for example calling the institution's founder a "business guru". Jehochman also presented evidence that Wifione had embarked on a search engine optimisation campaign on Wikipedia, in order to pad search engine results with irrelevant or flattering material with the intention of decreasing the prominence of unfavourable coverage in search engine results. Several editors alleged that this was part of a long-term campaign by the institution to manage its online reputation.

Of greater concern, Wifione also manipulated the articles of rival institutions and biographies of people associated with them in order to retain damaging content, including coverage of a rescinded arrest warrant against the founder of one rival institution which consumed two thirds of the founder's article. Wifione appears to have begun this campaign shortly after registering their account in 2009; they became an administrator in 2010 after receiving minimal opposition and were able to use their position and their knowledge of Wikipedia's policies to support their campaign by making specious and duplicitous arguments against any edits which did not suit Wifione's preferred narrative.

In addition, extensive evidence was presented during the case, backed up by analysis from Jayen466 in the workshop, that Wifione was likely a reincarnation of an editor who was blocked for extensive sock-puppetry in 2008, after abusing dozens of accounts to conduct a similar campaign over a period of several years which included threatening editors who persistently challenged the abuse. Arbitrators were sufficiently satisfied by the evidence of sock-puppetry that they passed (by a majority of ten to two) a finding of fact stating that Wifione was likely a sock-puppet, and thus that the account was created in violation of a block.

The proposed decision was posted on 9 February and it quickly became apparent that Wifione was to be stripped of their administrator status and banned. Nonetheless, implementation of the decision was delayed by a variety of factors: arbitrators struggled to agree on the exact scope of a topic ban that would run concurrently with the siteban (and would continue in the event that the siteban was lifted); Wifione resigned their administrator tools, leading arbitrators to embark on an exercise of dubious usefulness by crafting a new remedy to state that the soon-to-be-banned Wifione would be ineligible for automatic restoration of admin tools (the tools are normally returned as a matter of course when an admin voluntarily resigns unless they do so "under a cloud" as Wifione did); and the talk page became bogged down in a lengthy discussion of whether paid editing (of which Wifione was not accused) was against Wikipedia policy.

The case was eventually closed on 13 February, shortly after publication of last week's Signpost, with the result that Wifione may regain administrator tools only after a new RfA, is subject to a broad topic ban, and is banned from the English Wikipedia for a period of not less than one year.

Several editors remarked that it was a matter of deep concern that Wifione was able to fool the community for so long, and questioned the effectiveness of processes like requests for adminship. There has been much discussion over the years of increasingly unattainable standards for prospective administrators, including questions about whether these standards are responsible for the dearth of new administrators (the number of editors to pass an RfA has been in decline for several years). This case, though, raised questions (commented on on the proposed decision talk page) about whether RfA was focused too heavily on arbitrary statistics and was failing to thoroughly vet candidates for what is a position of great trust—especially in the light of another concern raised during the case, which is the difficulty of removing an administrator, even one whose editing has been fundamentally at odds with Wikipedia's mission. Although this case was resolved relatively quickly by modern standards, it still took six weeks from start to finish, while serious questions had been lingering over Wifione's editing since at least the end of 2013, and concerns had been raised in various fora on several occasions from early in Wifione's editing career. A proposed finding of fact to that extent in the workshop attracted comments from multiple arbitrators and other editors—several of whom observed the failure of these discussions to get to the bottom of the issues and their tendency to produce more heat than light.

Before the dust from the case could settle, an amendment request was filed by Smallbones—a result of the paid-editing discussion on the proposed decision talk page. The request asks the committee to rescind or alter principle 6, which states that the committee "has no mandate to sanction editors for paid editing as it is not prohibited by site policies". The filer and others believe the principle to be inaccurate as editors who receive remuneration for their contributions are required to disclose their potential conflict of interest in order to comply with the Wikimedia Foundation's Terms of Use, which were changed in June 2014. Others suggest that ToU enforcement is a job for foundation staff rather than volunteer editors, that the limits and enforcement mechanisms are undefined, and that proving paid editing would be difficult to do without violating the "outing" section of Wikipedia's Harassment policy. Arbitrator GorillaWarfare proposed a motion to strike the principle, which at the time of writing is supported by two arbitrators and opposed by four, with one abstention.

Other cases

Christianity and Sexuality

At the time of writing, the workshop phase of this case was set to conclude shortly. Five editors have made proposals for consideration, including—somewhat unusually—the drafting arbitrator, Dougweller, who proposes remedies against four editors and the authorisation of standard discretionary sanctions for the topic area. The proposed decision is due on 25 February, and the arbitration report in a fortnight's time will cover the case in more detail.


The evidence phase in this expedited case to review the restriction on Pigsonthewing (themselves the result of 2013's Infoboxes case) closed this week with 19 editors presenting evidence (full disclosure: including the author). As of last update from drafting arbitrator Courcelles, a proposed decision was almost ready for posting publicly and was expected to be posted shortly after press time, although—in the absence of a workshop for this lightweight review—several editors have been presenting analysis of each other's evidence on the proposed decision talk page. This will also be covered in more detail in a fortnight's time, after the proposed decision has been published.

Other business

Next week...

This column in next week's Signpost will be dedicated to the first in what the author hopes will be a series of interviews with current and former arbitrators, starting with veteran arbitrator Newyorkbrad who recently retired from the committee after seven years' service.

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  • Just for the record: regarding "Jehochman also presented evidence that Wifione had embarked on a search engine optimisation campaign on Wikipedia...", Jehochman re-presented Vejvančický's evidence, and Makrandjoshi's analysis (linked to in Vejvančický's evidence).
Vejvančický is also responsible for the evidence you cite in your paragraph beginning "Of greater concern...". He repeatedly drew the attention of the community to Wifione's problematical behaviour, only to resign his adminship in disgust after being consistently ignored.
Makrandjoshi is the retired editor you recently blocked for pointing out over many years that there was a problem with Wifione's management of the IIPM topic and insisting the topic be presented neutrally, despite being threatened with police action, beatings and death, and repeatedly dragged to noticeboards and defamed and humiliated by Wifione.
Wifione only finally left this topic (assuming he/she has) when Wikipediocracy published an exposé on his/her abuse. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 04:51, 20 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]
But I'm a small fish and User:Peter Damian is apparently a nobody, because he is banned. This editor did a great service to our project by researching this case and we owe him big thanks for the time and excellent work on it. --Vejvančický (talk / contribs) 09:02, 20 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]
So in other words, this entire case was a violation of BADSITES and should have been summarily dismissed. (talk) 16:15, 20 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]
You forgot to log in. WP:BADSITES is a failed proposal. If you have on your mind Wikipedia:No_personal_attacks#External_links, then please note this part of the policy: This [off-site harassment] is not to be confused with legitimate critique. Inclusion of links in articles is a matter for sound editorial judgment. Relevant Wifione related links to Wikipediocracy were presented to the eyes of the WP community during the case and a long time before that, on various highly visible WP forums. See for example User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_151#Indian_Fakers_Teach_Wiki_PR. Nobody objected in the sense of "WP:BADSITES". And no, Wikipediocracy is not the entire case. Just a part of it. --Vejvančický (talk / contribs) 16:50, 20 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Which reminds me, there was also a Newsweek article:
Those were busy times at WO. Andreas JN466 09:38, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]


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