On February 12, Jumpolin, an Austin, Texas, piñata store owned by the Lejarazu family was bulldozed on the orders of the property owners, F&F Real Estate Ventures, with the store's inventory, including numerous large handmade piñatas which sold for as much as $200, and family possessions still inside. The story of the store's destruction, with vivid descriptions by the family members of how the construction workers gave away their piñatas to random passersby, widely circulated on social media and subsequent events sparked outrage.
F&F, owned by Jordan French and Darius Fisher, purchased the building in October 2014. The Lejarazu family, who had two years remaining on their lease, began to receive notices from F&F regarding minor violations and claims of unpaid rent. F&F claims that the family was notified about the bulldozing and was behind on their rent, while the Lejarazus assert they had paid their rent and had no advance knowledge of the demolition. The store immediately became a symbol of the changing racial dynamics of the city; it was in a predominantly working class Latino area of Austin that is in the process of mostly white gentrification.
The preexisting tensions due to gentirifcation were inflamed by comments French made to CultureMap Austin. He said of the Lejarazu family, "Probably their livelihood was selling helium and stolen bicycles. They weren't making a living selling piñatas; they were selling something else. I don’t want to speculate what that is." While attempting to frame the bulldozing as a civic improvement, he said, "Say you have a house that was infested by roaches. You have to clean that up." This comment was widely perceived as being racially derogatory.
F&F planned to use the property as a parking lot for an event that was part of the South by Southwest festival in March. The event's host, Splash, pulled out following the bulldozing. F&F offered to let a food truck use the property for free, but the offer was refused. There have been calls for boycotts of other properties and ventures involving the F&F duo, and Texas state representative Eddie Rodriguez has submitted a bill to increase penalties faced by landlords in cases of wrongful evictions.
French and Fisher were the duo behind Wiki-PR, a consulting firm which marketed Wikipedia editing services. After the Signpost and other news outlets revealed that they used more than 250 sockpuppet accounts on the English Wikipedia, they were banned from editing in 2013. French and Fisher changed the company's name to Status Labs, an "online reputation management" firm. French resigned as CEO of Status Labs on March 26, and the company posted an open letter addressing the controversy. Fisher remains as president of Status Labs.
Newsweek has published a long article (March 24) about the Wifione arbitration case (see previous Signpost coverage). The case concluded that Wifione, a Wikipedia administrator, was manipulating Wikipedia to favorably promote the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) and its founder Arindam Chaudhuri and added negative material to the articles of competing schools, and may have used as many as 60 sockpuppets to do so.
Last year, the High Court of Delhi ruled that MBAs offered by IIPM were not accredited and that they had engaged in misleading advertising. IIPM was also the target of a series of investigative reports by Careers360 and The Caravan, references to which were removed from Wikipedia by Wifione. Because of this, Wikipedia became a "primary marketing tool" for IIPM. Newsweek noted "For poor students from rural areas of India, Wikipedia was often the only source of information they could use to research which business school to attend." This was especially true of users of Wikipedia Zero, the Wikimedia Foundation initiative to offer free mobile access to Wikipedia.
Many graduates of IIPM were unable to find work with their degrees, or found jobs that paid much less than the jobs they thought they would get thanks to IIPM's marketing campaigns. Some of them even ended up working as low-paid teachers for IIPM itself. Careers360 quoted one student: "My parents re-mortgaged their farm to pay for this degree. I'm just too scared to tell them it was a fraud. It's better they just think I have an MBA. It would break their heart."
Careers360 publisher Mahesh Peri told Newsweek that Wikipedia was to blame. “In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students’ lives. They should have kept track of Wifione and what they were doing—they were just so active." Arbitrator Roger Davies explained the difficulties of tracking users like Wifione. “Wifione got away with it for so long because it was cleverly done. It was only with the aggregate view, taken over many years, that you can see what's going on in cases like this." Tonda Vejvancicky (Vejvančický) added "Often nobody notices, or nobody cares. The project has become too big to be manageable by its current editorial staff."
The International Business Times reports (March 31) that a bill before the National Assembly regarding official recognition of the Assyrian genocide, No. 2642, was found to have plagiarized from the French Wikipedia. The bill, proposed by Valérie Boyer and 13 other legislators of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), sought to draw parallels between the 1915 massacre of Assyrian Christians by the Islamic Ottoman Empire and the current day persecution of Christians by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The plagiarism was discovered by a parliamentary assistant of the rival Europe Ecology – The Greens party who noticed the hyperlinks in the text cut and pasted from the Wikipedia article and posted the discovery on Twitter with the hashtag #Epicfail. Boyer claimed they had the Wikipedia content vetted by experts. A Boyer staffer told BFM TV that "There is very little information about the genocide and we are not experts. So, rather than inventing information, we had an expert check those we had available."
Last November, the conservative blog TruthRevolt complained about a Wikipedia editor on the Lena Dunham article. Dunham had threatened legal action against the blog for a post about her memoir. (See previous Signpost coverage) Now, the blog has published a post (March 27) targeting editor Jonathan Schilling (Wasted Time R) and claiming the article on Hillary Clinton gets "special protection". Schilling received some media attention for his work on the articles of US politicians during the 2008 presidential election, including an article in The New Republic. TruthRevolt highlights parts of this media coverage regarding the removal of vandalism and the documentation of positive aspects of Clinton's career, but omits any mention of Schilling's work on negative aspects, such as "the Norman Hsu affair", or the numerous politicians of the opposing party whose articles he has helped bring up to Featured Article status, including John McCain and Mitt Romney. On Talk:Hillary Rodham Clinton, Schilling said "It's safe to assume that I admire some of these people and don't admire others, that I would vote for some of these and not for others...But I don't think you can tell which is which by looking at the articles."
In The Telegraph, Michael Deacon celebrated (March 28) the fact that he has a Wikipedia article, created in December as a two sentence stub. He lamented, however, the fact that those two sentences contained at least three major factual errors about his life. Deacon ponders the dilemma he faced:
|This presents me with a very modern problem of etiquette. How do I go about getting it corrected? I could always correct it myself, under a pseudonym, but then I run the terrifying risk that people will discover I did it, and think me pathetically vain. While this impression may be accurate, it’s not one I especially want to encourage. After all, they might add it to my Wikipedia biography.
Deacon also admitted to vandalizing the Muhammad Ali article in November 2006 with the fictional claim that a species of rose was named after Ali, a claim that remained in the article for over eight years until it was removed following the publication of Deacon's article. Deacon's Wikipedia biography has since been expanded to include five sentences and seven citations, including one to the Telegraph article.