In The Register, Andrew Orlowski reports that three weeks ago, Grant Shapps filed a request with Wikimedia UK (WMUK) under the Data Protection Act 1998 "for all data relating to him". Shapps is a UK politician who was accused of editing the Wikipedia articles of political rivals in a matter that led to the removal of CheckUser and Oversight tools from Richard Symonds (Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry), a WMUK employee, in an Arbitration case (see previous Signpost reports on the media coverage and Arbitration case).
D’Arcy Myers, chief executive of WMUK, told Orlowski that WMUK was "fufilling" Shapps' request and that "WMUK has not issued an apology to Mr. Shapps as the charity has not been involved with this issue." Orlowski wrote that he was "puzzled" by this response. Orlowski, a frequent critic of Wikipedia who has been reporting on the encyclopedia for at least a decade, outlined the separation between the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) and WMUK for his readers, but did not explain the distinction between Symonds' paid employment at WMUK as office and development manager, responsible for finances and reports, and his volunteer role on the encyclopedia as a functionary using checkuser and oversight tools. Orlowski did note instances where Symonds might have blurred those roles, writing that Symonds used a WMUK email address to communicate with The Guardian regarding Shapps, and claimed that Symonds "frequently" used his checkuser tool "on WMUK time". (July 13)
Plagiarism allegations lead to demotion for ASU professor
The Arizona Republic reports that popular Arizona State University history professor Matthew C. Whitaker was demoted following an investigation into plagiarism accusations. Whitaker was demoted from full to associate professor and from director to co-director of ASU's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. ASU's provost wrote that an "investigation identified significant issues with the content of" Whitaker's 2014 book, Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama.
Whitaker has been dogged with plagiarism allegations for years. His 2008 book African American Icons of Sport: Triumph, Courage, and Excellence contained material regarding Muhammad Ali and Serena and Venus Williams taken from Wikipedia. At the time, Whitaker blamed a freelance editor working from his outline and wrote "unfortunately and unknown to me, the freelance editor inserted verbatim sections from Wikipedia and other online sources without rewording them and without quotations or attribution." In 2012, a previous ASU investigation into this and other allegations concluded that Whitaker was not guilty of "systematic or substantial plagiarism". The Phoenix New Times reports that this conclusion was the subject of much controversy among bloggers, such as the anonymous author of the blog "The Cabinet of Plagiarism", and even some of his colleagues, one of whom resigned from a tenure and promotions committee in protest. (July 13)