The Signpost


Criminals among us

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By Smallbones
Warning: Readers may find parts of this article disturbing. Specifically, the sections on mass murderers and sexual predators who have edited Wikipedia discuss their crimes, and include descriptions of how Wikipedia was used by them, which range from unrelated editing to being directly connected with the crime in some way. Discretion is advised.

With the support of the staff of The Signpost, our new editors-in-chief, JPxG and EpicPupper have declared a new Signpost policy. We believe that many mass shooters are in part motivated by the prospect of publicity and the chance to spread their views, so we will not name mass shooters who are suspected of editing Wikipedia pages.
I personally agree with the new policy. But it raises questions about other Wikipedia editors who are criminals as well as non-criminal "black hat editors". How should The Signpost and Wikipedia as a whole, deal with these types of editors? The opinion piece explores this question. The opinions I express are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Signpost or of other Wikipedians.Sb
Serial killer using a laptop.

Criminals edit Wikipedia. They include a couple of the mass shooters who have terrorized many Americans recently. They also include others who have committed particularly heinous murders, convicted sex criminals, financial con artists such as insider traders and Ponzi scheme operators. There are also tax-evading billionaires – one awaiting trial, another who has already confessed and is waiting to testify at trial. And then there's those who haven’t officially entered the criminal justice system, such as some of the Russian oligarchs. I’ll call these and similar editors “black hat editors”, just to keep these distinctions clear.

First, though, you should know how I know that criminals edit Wikipedia. To show that The Signpost does not need to identify criminals by their user names or real world names, I won’t name some of the convicted criminals.

How I know there are criminals among us

The first time I was absolutely convinced that a Wikipedia contributor was a convicted criminal, I felt it was an honor to be able to revert such a well-known ex-con. It wasn’t hard to identify him: his user name was a slight variant of his real world name and he was editing the article about himself. He’d already identified himself as the subject of the article several times. He removed a quote from the then-Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and called the addition of the quote "vandalism". The quote was about how horrible the article subject’s crime was (guilty on 53 counts of insider trading), and how he hurt the reputation of America’s financial journalists. The article's subject had been a financial journalist whose column effectively recommended the purchase or sale of certain stocks. He’d provide this information before publication to his insider trading partners, thus giving a good hint as to whether particular stock prices would rise or fall. When he was arrested for insider trading his defense was that his actions were unethical, but not illegal. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with his defense, setting an important precedent.

A few months later, I ran into another criminal editor. A convicted, but not-yet sentenced, Ponzi scheme operator put the most remarkable text in a hand-written confession that he sent to his wife. The confession made its way to the FBI, into the federal indictment, and into the pages of a highly reputable newspaper. In part he described himself as a "financial serial killer" and continued "I hate the fact that I am just another scumbag con artist bilking old people out of their retirement money. I have always hated those guys. How could I become one?" He'd also written an email to his investor-victims saying that all the money was misappropriated and just gone. Of course I quoted part of the note in the article about him.

Then he, or somebody impersonating him, really surprised me: Identifying himself by his real name in the edit summary, he edited the article, confirming the quote but trying to explain it away by giving his state of mind when he wrote it, claiming he was distraught and had even considered self-harm. Strange, but who else could explain his state of mind at the time? After asking a couple questions on his talk page, I was convinced that the editor was the actual Ponzi schemer.

So I've been convinced for a long time that criminals edit Wikipedia. Financial crimes like this typically cost their victims tens of millions of dollars. But are there more dangerous or serious criminals editing Wikipedia?

You might want to skip this section

This section details mass shooters and murderers who have edited Wikipedia, and includes brief descriptions of their horrific acts. In some cases, this included using Wikipedia during those acts, requiring more description. The subsection after it deals with sexual predators, and their attempts to hide knowledge of their crimes by editing Wikipedia, again, requiring some description of what was being attempted to be hidden.

Mass shooters and other murderers

In early July a mass shooter horrified America killing seven people at a parade near Chicago. A reliable online newspaper published an article naming a Wikipedia editor as the shooter - or perhaps the editor was a close friend of the shooter. The on-Wiki editing evidence is a bit thin, but it’s enough to convince me unless further evidence comes to light: The editor in question made about six edits over three days a few years ago, all promoting a rap singer who has now been identified by name in the mainstream press as the suspected shooter. The edits are fairly normal promotional edits: the standard garage-band-style advertisement that most editors here have seen dozens of times. To the best of my knowledge, this style of advertising always traces back to the band members or the band’s manager.

One reason I might be easy to convince about this mass shooter is that I wrote about a different mass shooter in The Signpost three months ago. This mass shooter fired hundreds of rounds at a school in Washington, D.C. as classes let out on Friday, April 22. Only four people were wounded, though these included a child and a man who spent at least three weeks in the hospital. Police took hours to find the shooter. About 40 minutes after the shooting began, the shooter reportedly was online on a non-Wiki site uploading a video of part of the shooting and discussing the shooting. On Wikipedia he reportedly made three brief, vague edits shortly after the shooting to the article on the school, and had also made edits on Wikipedia earlier in the week to articles about mass shootings and to the school article. When the police found his hiding place, the shooter reportedly committed suicide. Wikipedia oversighters soon removed most of his edits. Since I only learned about this shooting on the day after – a day before The Signpost published – I was not able to fully verify the shooter’s name or user name and I didn’t even include the name of the school in my article. I probably could have named the school, in retrospect, but little or no other meaningful information was lost by not identifying the shooter in The Signpost.

Other mass shooters and murderers who have edited Wikipedia include:

Convicted and accused sexual offenders

Corporations and other businesses

We should remember that there are also white-collar criminals, and that corporations and their owners and managers can also commit crimes. The Wall Street Journal's article How the 1% Scrubs Its Image Online gives several examples of criminal or black-hat editing on Wikipedia. Please remember that this behavior can be very different than that shown by the murderers and sex criminals discussed above.

There are many more examples

Because of the subject matter, this article has been difficult to write. I apologize if you have found it difficult to read. I'll just say that there are many more examples. We've got a problem with criminals and black hat editors writing on Wikipedia. The question now is what to do about it?

Perhaps the first thing we should realize is that mass shootings and the like are symptoms of a fundamentally sick society. All the major social media platforms have similar problems. There may be little that we can do on our own, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore the problem, only that we should calmly work with others and not expect quick solutions. Obsessing about the problem may actually add to the problem.

There are many different types of criminal and black-hat editors. Inevitably we will need different ways of dealing with them. It appears that the most serious type – mass shooters and murderers – have been dealt with fairly quickly by admins and by the WikiMedia Foundation.

Ordinary editors can help by privately reporting suspect editors to the WMF's Trust and Safety team at, or, in case of emergency, Except in emergencies, you could also contact ArbCom at In certain cases they may be able to act more quickly.

Behaviors that might arouse your suspicion include the things that many editors would usually report anyway: threats or indications of violent behaviour. Other indications might be bragging about assault-style weapons, or an intense interest in mass shooting articles. I trust Trust and Safety and ArbCom to speedily do everything possible in these cases.

The Signpost's new policy of not identifying mass shooters can't hurt and may help.

Other situations are not so clear cut. I suggest that The Signpost continue to vigorously report about editors who have been credibly accused of crimes by very reliable sources such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Like writers of Wikipedia articles, we should not have to wait for a conviction to report on possibly criminal acts, or even an indictment. It can take years before a criminal is actually convicted. All that is needed is a credible report in a very reliable source.

A major advance would be to simply have a reasonable discussion about criminal editors. Perhaps we could even come up with a policy or guideline to deal with the problem. A first step could be a blanket ban on any criminal or their representatives editing any article about themselves or the crime. By blanket ban, I mean that should they edit their page even once, they would receive an immediate, indefinite ban.

Finally we need to let criminals know via the mainstream press, that Wikipedia will not tolerate their editing anymore.

Editor's note: At risk of editorial hypocrisy, I'll disclose that I read an academic paper to verify a source on an article the other day and didn't pay for it, and accidentally ran a red light a few months ago, although I have not committed mass murder and have no plans to.J

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  • @Yitzilitt: I don't think the situation of criminals editing articles about themselves or their crimes is very rare at all. Thankfully it's rare for mass shooters, but for corporate crime and fraudsters, no it's not rare. I gave 5 examples above
    • the insider trader (1st example at the top}
    • the 1st Ponzi schemer
    • Theranos (and its former CEO and COO)
    • Zach Avery, the 2nd Ponzi schemer mentioned
    • Wirecard
  • As far as what types of crime - really any when they or their lawyers are editing the relevant crime or bio articles. But in general crimes of violence, sex crimes, crimes of deception, i.e. serious fraud cases including major corporate frauds. Those shouldn't be too controversial. Smallbones(smalltalk) 03:12, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    Well, there's probably some judgement calls here. For example, there's numerous cases in US law where there's strong evidence a person in jail or executed was likely innocent, but the appeals system failed. Likewise, there's many crimes we don't care about: we allow pretty much all editors to edit traffic ticket, but many of them have one. But this is an issue of wording, right? Adam Cuerden (talk)Has about 8% of all FPs 13:35, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • Yeah, there's a choice about what kind of crimes to include and what type of "proof" is acceptable. See the discussion about Peter Nygard below. I suspect that he'll never come to trial because he may die in jail, so he won't be convicted of anything. But as far as the number of accusers, the number of long detailed stories in the NYTimes (4?) and in *several* other very reliable sources. And the video evidence obtained by the CBC (they say 100s of hours from his personal videographer) I don't think we need to have one *conviction* in a case like this. So there are some borderline possibilities, but we should always have very strict rules for the "blanket ban." As far as reporting serious accusations from very reliable sources, I think that's allowed now - but some folks need to be told to read the BLP policy again. Traffic tickets? Naw. Smallbones(smalltalk) 18:38, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Convenience break

On another note, your statement that:
Like writers of Wikipedia articles, we should not have to wait for a conviction to report on possibly criminal acts, or even an indictment. It can take years before a criminal is actually convicted. All that is needed is a credible report in a very reliable source.
is questionable per WP:BLPCRIME, which says:
For individuals who are not public figures; that is, individuals not covered by § Public figures, editors must seriously consider not including material—in any article—that suggests the person has committed, or is accused of having committed, a crime, unless a conviction has been secured.
People are innocent until proven guilty. Calling people "criminals" when they haven't been convicted is a pretty flagrant violation of BLP. Chess (talk) (please use {{reply to|Chess}} on reply) 22:09, 1 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Re: "possibly criminal acts", Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was a possibly criminal act, for instance, and we reported on it before it was clear that Smith would not be convicted of a crime over it. I don't know that the suggestion was to call someone a "criminal" when they were not convicted of a crime, as that would never be true. — Bilorv (talk) 00:15, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Chess: The major problem with your critique of this article is that it's not about this article. For example you seem to accuse me of a BLP violation: "Calling people "criminals" when they haven't been convicted is a pretty flagrant violation of BLP." Where do I call a non convicted person a criminal? Please be specific.
You quote WP:BLPCRIME at me which starts off "For individuals who are not public figures;", but everybody who is mentioned here (all 15 individuals and 1 or 2 companies) are public figures. Show me if I'm wrong. The proper section of BLP to quote is WP:BLPPUBLIC:
"In the case of public figures, there will be a multitude of reliable published sources, and BLPs should simply document what these sources say. If an allegation or incident is noteworthy, relevant, and well documented, it belongs in the article—even if it is negative and the subject dislikes all mention of it. If you cannot find multiple reliable third-party sources documenting the allegation or incident, leave it out."
You write "Whether or not someone is a criminal is irrelevant to whether they should be allowed to edit Wikipedia ..." If it's an accused or convicted criminal or his lawyer writing about himself or his crime it's always relevant, there's no way they can be neutral.
Are you just trying to say that it is your opinion that The Signpost (or anybody else for that matter) should never write anywhere about suspected or convicted criminals who edit Wikipedia? That sounds like pure censorship to me. I don't see that in Wikipedia rules and you'll have a long way to go even trying to make that argument. Smallbones(smalltalk) 02:18, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Smallbones: You said "All that is needed is a credible report in a very reliable source" and WP:BLPCRIME says that it's necessary to show that the person is a public figure before we can mention their name in reference to their criminality. While you've only named public figures so far, if you're planning on mentioning anyone else who isn't or suggesting that the Signpost actively seek to expose any editor who is both a) mentioned to be a Wikipedia editor in a credible source and b) is mentioned to be accused of criminality in a credible source, then that's questionable in light of BLPCRIME.
You never mentioned in your article that your proposed policy on criminals editing Wikipedia is only meant to apply to criminals that are public figures. What I, and what many other commenters are reading, is that you want to ban all criminals (to be defined later) from editing Wikipedia.
I don't get why we need a specific policy banning criminals or their representatives from editing articles on themselves. We already have policies dealing with people wishing to edit articles on themselves, and we shouldn't add to the reams of policies that we already have with new ones designed to address extremely specific edge cases.
Of note in all this is that none of the edits mentioned in the article would have been prevented by any ban on criminal editors. All of these edits were performed by people who were not convicted criminals at the time of their edits. Many were performed prior to any criminal activity. Chess (talk) (please use {{reply to|Chess}} on reply) 03:09, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Chess: I'd hoped that we could have a calm discussion about this, but I think you are not in the mode of trying to do something about the problem, bouncing ideas around to see what we could actually do. I have not made any formal proposals. The closest I've come is "Perhaps we could even come up with a policy or guideline to deal with the problem. A first step could be a blanket ban on any criminal or their representatives editing any article about themselves or the crime." Let's call that second sentence the "proposal as written", though clearly I'm asking for input and comments. You write none of the edits mentioned in the article would have been prevented by any ban on criminal editors Actually that's not true. There are are least three editors who would have been quickly banned under the "proposal as written:
  • The 1st editor mentioned (insider trader with the Supreme Court case)
    • Surprisingly he's got 101 live edits and almost exactly half (50) are related to his legal case or bio (48 to bio, 1 related, 1 talk page). Under the proposal he could have been blanket banned after his 1st edit. BTW he is now still not blocked or banned and made his last edit only 5 years ago.
  • The 2nd editor mentioned (1st Ponzi schemer mentioned):
    • He had 126 edits with only 32 still live and 94 (which I can't see) deleted in only 2 months. He would have been blocked under the proposal after his 1st edit. BTW he still hasn't been blocked or banned, but since he had a 9 year federal sentence maybe we can say something like "effectively blocked".
  • Jeffrey Epstein and his paid editors
    • There were 3 editors clearly being paid by Epstein, 2 of them indef blocked after a dozen or so edits. The 3rd has 148 total edits and 4 deleted edits, 93 of the live edits are to Epstein related pages, plus 5 to talk pages related to Epstein. I believe this editor could have been blocked after their first live edit, or likely before(!) under the proposal. The 1st live edit might have taken an especially perceptive admin to catch - but looking at it now it's pretty obvious that it's the same as the previously blocked editor. Blocking them before the 1st live edit? It's obvious from their talk page entries that the deleted edits were about "Jeffrey Epstein (plastic surgeon)" which was clearly set up as a distraction.
    • I'll be back in a couple of hours with a bit more detail, but it's clear that for these three editors mentioned at least a couple hundred edits would have been prevented. Smallbones(smalltalk) 15:17, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Chess and Smallbones: I think we're a little off-focus. The main issue is really that there's a strong Conflict of interest in editing your own page or pages related to you to make yourself look better, and that applies whether you've committed crimes or not. The article is talking about people who reliable sources say did quite horrible things. A policy shouldn't be written like an article, so there's going to be a language shift needed. Adam Cuerden (talk)Has about 8% of all FPs 18:48, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
yes, Adam there are 2 or 3 things that we're discussing that seem to be getting mixed up (some is my fault). I'll see if I cn strainghten this out here.

Just wanted to say that I appreciate the content warnings. That is a kind and respectful thing to provide to the reader. Ckoerner (talk) 22:17, 3 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

@Ckoerner: thanks for letting me know. I thought it be only me getting a weak stomach. Smallbones(smalltalk) 20:55, 4 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

2nd convenience break

A couple of years ago I expanded the article on Vitaly Borker, the Ukrainian emigrant to Brooklyn whose modus operandi was to get people to give his online eyeglass retail business bad reviews so that the resultant links would game PageRank and put him at the top of Google search results. This has earned him two extended stays as a guest of the United States. It's an interesting read.

I suspect Borker himself got involved in an edit war we had there last fall; when I directly identified him in this talk page discussion, he never contradicted me (And I do admit he had a point).

I don't expect him to be involved in any more such discussions for a long time as the resumption of his activities that prompted me to expand the article has resulted in him going back to jail for parole violations, and with new charges pending I doubt he'll be free to edit again until maybe 2030 or so. Daniel Case (talk) 02:47, 7 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Daniel That looks like the Wiki-discussion from hell, talking with a convicted professional online troll about his trolling. I think WP:PAYTALK would apply. Did you see the edits made by OpticsFast and by the guy I call CheeseWhiz? That's an impressive group of authors! Right up there with RFW (above). Thanks for letting me know about this. Smallbones(smalltalk) 20:26, 7 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
I didn't see the edits by OpticsFast because apparently that account isn't registered. Daniel Case (talk) 00:43, 8 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Daniel Case: See User talk:Opticsfast, small f, no User page. only 3 edits, all identical reverts within about 15 minutes. Sorry. Smallbones(smalltalk) 01:12, 8 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks. I decided to block that account indefinitely in case he ever tries to use it again. Daniel Case (talk) 04:11, 8 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Peter Nygård


I saw your discussion on Jimbo's talk a few days ago and pretty much agree with you. There's no real way to accurately count the victims, and then why do we want to keep a scorecard? Nygard is a prime example of why you can't count. From what I read at 81 years old his health is very poor. His lawyer has said he is broke and will likely die in jail. So he may never be convicted of a single rape. At the same time the named accusers are probably much higher than the figures on that list. I don't know if you've read The Signpost article about him. Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2021-02-28/Disinformation report, but I'm interested in what you think. Does it inform Wikipedians of the type of editing situation they might run into, or does it just mess things up further like the list you've complained about? Smallbones(smalltalk) 04:41, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
You can be a serial rapist without having been convicted for it. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 15:05, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
PA, we're talking past each other here. Understandably you're interested in the list, and I'm interested in whether you think the Signpost article was worthwhile and properly informative to our readers. No need to respond if you'd rather not. Smallbones(smalltalk) 15:25, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Smallbones Sorry, I did misunderstand you. As a recitation of criminals who have edited Wikipedia, it was interesting. As an opinion piece, I think your use of the word "criminal" to define a group of people who are unwelcome here is entirely inappropriate. Many, if not most of us, are criminals in the sense that we have broken laws. Some of us have been convicted of crimes. Some of us have served time in jail or prison. Should those people not be able edit Wikipedia?
Since that's a pretty flagrant violation of WP:BLPCRIME I've gone ahead and removed him from that list. [1] The people in charge of policing these lists are those who see them and realize there is a problem with them. Chess (talk) (please use {{reply to|Chess}} on reply) 19:19, 2 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you


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