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"Just flirting", going Dutch and Shapps for the defence?

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By Andreas Kolbe, Bri, Jonatan Svensson Glad and Smallbones

Coerced sex or just flirting, then editing Wikipedia?

Joshua D. Wright was a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013, as well as a tenured professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and a well-paid antitrust consultant for Google and Amazon. According to Bloomberg (paywalled – republished at Fortune) he has been accused of coercing sex from three of his law students/research assistants, who were named in the article. Two other named women gave strong supporting statements, as did three other women who asked not to be named. The story was first broken by Law360 (registration required), and Above the Law uncovered information on related Wikipedia editing.

According to the accusations, the coerced sexual relations continued over the course of several years – while the accusers were first-year law students, while Wright supervised them as research assistants at the law school or interns at the FTC, and while the women were working professionally and felt that they needed Wright's references and contacts.

The law school's dean emailed students that "Professor Wright resigned his tenured position on August 8 rather than face a termination proceeding that we were ready to start." Wright has acknowledged that the sexual relationships occurred but claims that they were consensual. His consulting contracts may be cancelled. And he has sued two of his accusers for $108 million, claiming defamation.

Did he, or a proxy, edit Wikipedia? Above the Law has compiled some evidence, calling certain pro-Wright edits "bold". A diff pictured in the article changed the phrase "engage in sexual relations" to "engage in flirting", asserted that Wright's accusers had financial motives, and removed the phrase "while they were his [law] students". The Signpost located an edit matching the illustration in Above the Law, made in August by an unregistered, or logged-out, user. A second diff made from a similar IP address replaced the words "sexual misconduct" with "hitting on them". The evidence they point to is that the IP addresses trace to somewhere in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. (population approximately 6,385,162). The story would have been more complete if they reported that there was a small edit war, with "bold" edits made on both sides. – S, B, J

Life in Saudi Arabia

The two jailed Wikipedians, Osama Khalid (left) and Ziyad Alsufyani (right)

North East Bylines, a publication associated with the Byline Times, featured a retrospective summarising recent news stories on Saudi Arabia. This included a reminder that earlier this year, two Wikipedians were reported to be serving long jail sentences in the country.

It was noted that the two young doctors, Osama Khalid and Ziad Al-Sufyani, who were known for their contribution to Wikipedia posts in Arabic, had been sentenced to prison in Saudi Arabia and that over the last decade they had both contributed to the online encyclopaedia, which is maintained and managed by volunteers and had edited articles about human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul.

See earlier Signpost coverage. As far as the Signpost is aware, the Wikipedians' situation is unchanged. – AK

The Dutch fundraising banners are back

An article in Het Financieele Dagblad comments on the fundraising banners that have re-appeared on Dutch Wikipedia. It notes that the Wikimedia Foundation's overall expenses have more than doubled in the space of five years, and that this is mainly due to the fact that it now has around 700 staff, with salary costs of $88 million a year dwarfing its annual internet hosting costs of $2.7 million.

That the Wikimedia Foundation adds so many staff and spends more money year after year has led to criticism from users for years. They wonder why the expenses are rising so fast, whether there is not too much bureaucracy and whether projects are being carried out that are not needed at all. And why does Wikipedia, in banners asking for donations, act as if the website could run out of money at any moment? This criticism was voiced, for example, in a much-discussed essay by a Wikipedian with the username Guy Macon. [...]

Wikipedia expects to raise $175 million from its banners this year. The messaging has become a little less shrill, though.

The $175 million figure quoted in the article matches the revenue target given in the 2022–2023 Annual Plan. (More recently, the minutes of the WMF's June 2023 Audit Committee meeting stated that the WMF took a projected $174 million in 2022–2023, versus projected expenses of $167 million.) But it should be noted that revenue from the banner campaigns makes up less than half of the Foundation's total.

The Annual Plan's revenue projection for 2023–2024 is $177 million. Only $74.5 million of this is expected to be brought in by banner campaigns. The remainder is supposed to come from other sources: $33 million from recurring donations, $38 million from email campaigns, and $19 million from major gifts, with smaller amounts from investments, Wikimedia Enterprise and the Endowment making up the balance.

As for the softer tone of the fundraising banners, discussions of the English fundraising banners to be used at the upcoming end-of-year fundraiser are currently ongoing at Wikipedia:Fundraising/2023 banners.

The article in Het Financieele Dagblad also notes that Wikipedia informs voice assistants such as Siri, and it includes a section on paid editing that mentions a number of related stories – including the German parliament scandal broken by in 2021 and the Signpost's 2022 exposé of paid Wikipedia editing on behalf of Russian oligarchs. – AK

In brief

Grant Shapps in 2022

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For the curious: Genicera, a Spanish hamlet with population 28 is, as I write, a red link in Probably not for long? PamD 05:34, 16 September 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Also, I've found David's profile on, should you wish to show him some deserved Wikilove for his work! Oltrepier (talk) 08:34, 16 September 2023 (UTC)[reply]
From the Bloomberg/Fortune article, he became a faculty member in 2004. I believe he was awarded tenure before 2013, but can't find a ref right now. He served as an FTC Commissioner from 2013-2015, leaving early to return to George Mason University Law School He had consulting work in 2009, and made a name for himself then, before being a commissioner. Bloomberg says he returned to consulting about 2018 (date not entirely clear). With lots going on in antitrust law cases these days, this work would be especially remunerative right now. The article seems clear to me that Obama had nothing to do with appointing him as a prof or getting him consulting work. (response updated) - Smallbones(smalltalk) 16:30, 16 September 2023 (UTC)[reply]
You misunderstand. The article's ambiguous implication was not that Obama got the guy three different posts, but rather that Obama and two other people appointed the guy to the FTC. Your recent edit fixed this. EEng 18:50, 16 September 2023 (UTC)[reply]


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