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Wiki-PR duo bulldoze a piñata store; Wifione arbitration case; French parliamentary plagiarism

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By Gamaliel

Wiki-PR duo bulldoze a piñata store

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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 reports on Wifione arbitration case

Indian Institute of Planning and Management, New Delhi campus

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."

French parliamentary bill found to have plagiarized Wikipedia

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."

TruthRevolt targets another editor

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."

"My Wikipedia page is completely wrong"

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:

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.

In brief

Zayn Malik (2010–2015)
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So, you're not going to include the link I left in Suggestions to the Jimmy Wales interview on On the Media regarding the WMF lawsuit regarding surveillance? It's not very long and it is quite interesting. Liz Read! Talk! 21:10, 26 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]

@Liz: Thanks for the reminder. I saw it in Suggestions and meant to listen to it but it slipped my mind. Gamaliel (talk) 04:23, 27 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]

@Gamaliel: No problem at all. I don't know how you juggle it all! Liz Read! Talk! 19:14, 27 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I hope you can include it in this week's issue. Thanks. Liz Read! Talk! 15:50, 31 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]
@Liz: I've added it to "in brief", but I doubt I will have time to do any more than that unfortunately. We have a big issue planned. Of course, you are welcome to do a full write-up here if you want to. (Hint, hint...) Gamaliel (talk) 17:01, 31 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Well, the mention (above) was all I was expecting. Thanks! Liz Read! Talk! 10:34, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

One more worth adding as an in-brief: Donate to Wikipedia and Pay for… What Exactly?. The Epoch Times, March 28. --Andreas JN466 10:42, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

And another: Wikipedia Founder Distances Himself from Kazakhstan PR Machine, Eurasianet, April 2. --Andreas JN466 23:47, 2 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

What does a local Austin property issue have to do with anything encyclopedic? Looks like political innuendo ... these folks were involved in paid editing and appear to be real life dicks, so we'll connect to tar all paid editors by association. Should be removed per WP:BLPGOSSIP. NE Ent 11:55, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

It was a significant local issue which went viral nationally, with significant national publications constantly mentioning the Wikipedia connection. It got more media coverage than everything else in this edition combined. It was not something we could ignore. Gamaliel (talk)
References? Or mainspace article in which the information is present? NE Ent 17:36, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Austin Moguls Bulldozed Mom & Pop Piñata Shop. Sublead: "Two Austin landlords, known most notably for their company that scrubbed away clients’ bad press and getting permanently banned from Wikipedia in the process, is accused of bulldozing a family’s piñata store to make room for a party at South by Southwest." Gamaliel (talk) 19:22, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
It was also on national US television on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Please do your homework before slinging around alphabet soup policies. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 20:48, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Burden is editor adding the material, of course. Issue referred to AN NE Ent 21:31, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • So, you were shown to be wrong, and you still went to ANI? — Crisco 1492 (talk) 23:50, 3 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • ... Did I just see this happen? Someone running off to administrators to complain that a well sourced article not even in the article mainspace was "gossip"? Should I assume that editor has a COI problem causing him/her to act irrationally or that he/she just really lacks understanding of how this site (and the world in general) works? DreamGuy (talk) 16:15, 4 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
I just closed the WP:AN thread, since everyone except NE Ent agreed that it wasn't a policy problem, but I also want to ask that this kind of thing not be covered in the future. Not because there's something wrong with it, but because it's not hugely Wikipedia related. I mean, we don't publish articles about Jimbo every time he's in the news, and he's a lot more closely connected to Wikipedia than the Wiki-PR people were. I look at the Signpost to get news about internal events and to learn when the project and its participants are getting outside-source coverage, not to get news about a legal case involving a banned commercial editor. Nyttend (talk) 18:26, 4 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Not every section is going to be compatible with everyone's tastes or interests. "In the media", by its very nature, covers external events. I have covered non-Wikipedia events related to Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger, Sue Gardner, and others in this section. (For example, Sanger's founding of Infobitt had absolutely zero to do with Wikipedia, but I thought it was significant enough to report on here.) "News and notes" is the section devoted to internal news, and Resident Mario does a great job of covering it there. Gamaliel (talk) 18:46, 4 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • In an issue themed on the damage that Wikipedia is doing, it might be bad idea to put an image of Malik up that implies he died in 2015? I had to look twice to realize what that caption meant. Gigs (talk) 19:17, 6 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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