An election has consequences
On Tuesday, 9 June 2015, the Arbitration Committee delivered its final decision in a case that reached the attention of the UK national press. (See last week's Signpost coverage.) The "Sockpuppet investigation block" case concerns the conduct of one of Wikipedia's most trusted volunteers during his investigation of a suspected case of sockpuppetry during the recent UK general election.
An administrator and former arbitrator, Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry (referred to as Chase me in this report) is also an employee of Wikimedia UK. It's a recognised UK charity and a chapter organisation approved by, but not part of, the Wikimedia Foundation, the body which actually owns and operates Wikipedia and other projects. As a functionary, Chase me has held checkuser and oversight rights on the English Wikipedia.
Investigating suspicions of sock puppetry
On 21 April, Chase me renewed a long-dormant sockpuppet investigation into Hackneymarsh (who also edited as Historyset), which according to a 2012 report in the Guardian had used IP numbers traceable to a senior Conservative Member of Parliament to perform edits showing the politician in an unjustifiably good light. A Guardian journalist had contacted Wikimedia UK voicing suspicions that Hackneymarsh was back as Contribsx. Chase me replied to the Guardian journalist that the matter would be dealt with by a trusted administrator. Chase me's sockpuppet report alleged a direct association with the MP and Contribsx was blocked shortly afterwards. It was noted that a Guardian article appeared before the filing of the new sockpuppet investigation, linking Contribsx to the MP. This occurred during the hustings of a general election in which the national news focus was on Parliament.
Arbitration Committee intervenes
Suspecting a misuse of the checkuser tool and apparent misapplication of checkuser information in an email to the Guardian, Risker, also a former arbitrator, filed an arbitration request. This was accepted, and ArbCom's Audit Subcommittee (AUSC) was asked to investigate whether the checkuser policy had been breached. The investigations were held off-wiki because of the sensitivity of the information.
The Arbitration Committee acknowledged a statement by AUSC that although there had been no major breach, Chase me's actions could give the appearance of impropriety, that he acted with a conflict of interest (disclosed privately during the investigation), and that he inappropriately disclosed checkuser information before publicly reporting it. The Committee only endorsed parts of that statement.
The Committee found that no evidence had been presented to definitively connect the Contribsx account to a specific individual.
On Wikipedia policy, ArbCom found that during the investigation Chase me had: failed to disclose his checkuser checks as far back as 2012; not been able to provide a proper account of the timeline of his actions; breached the biographies of living persons policy by making an association between an identifiable individual and a Wikipedia account; and not taken appropriate steps to ensure that his actions were seen as neutral and unbiased before emailing the Guardian and publishing the checkuser information. ArbCom noted that Chase me had been reprimanded by AUSC in 2011 in a separate case.
As a result, ArbCom removed Chase me's checkuser, oversight and admin status.