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Arbitration report

Admin bewilderingly unmasks self as sockpuppet of other admin who was extremely banned in 2015

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By Bri, JPxG

A 2015 arbitration report in this very periodical said "it was a matter of deep concern" that an abusive editor who had obtained administrator privileges "was able to fool the community for so long". At that time, they were banned by the Arbitration Committee following a long case. We are sad to report that, not only did the abuse not stop in 2015, but the same person managed to obtain a second administrator account, and was just discovered a few days ago.

November 1 case request and startling admission

Beeblebrox opened a request for arbitration against administrator Lourdes on 1 November, claiming misdeeds including administrative blackmail — bullying other less-privileged editors over their votes during a recent request for adminship. With the case request around one day old, on 2 November, the respondent suddenly stated that they are the site-banned former admin Wifione. The case request was closed as moot following Lourdes' admission.

One of the contributors to the case, Kurtis, asked "Is this an ArbCom case request or an M. Night Shyamalan movie?" Others, like arbitrator Moneytrees in the quote above, were more to-the-point.

Wifione background

If you have read our prior coverage of how the Wifione siteban came to be, amidst allegations of paid editing while holding the admin bit, you can probably skip over this section.

According to the 2015 Arbcom case, the oldest known account used by the individual also known as Wifione was created in 2006. They created dozens of sock accounts, which were revealed by a 2008 checkuser request.

That prior account was later linked to another account called Wifione, which was created in 2009 and that had become a Wikipedia admin in 2010. The Arbitration committee case found that Wifione was engaging in search engine optimization related to an Indian educational firm. Wifione was sitebanned as part of the case resolution.

An admin called "Lourdes"

This long-term abuser created the Lourdes account in late 2015, initially under a different name. In 2016 they renamed the account. They were most active in 2016–17, and ran an unsuccessful, self-nominated request for adminship in early 2017; a second attempt in 2018 was successful with 207 in favor and 3 opposed. The account went mostly unused for 2020 through 2022, with many months of total editorial inactivity, although it continued to perform admin actions. In 2023, they returned to regularly editing the English Wikipedia.

Throughout their tenure, they made 2,282 admin actions, according to User:JamesR/AdminStats.

The arbitration case request filed this month alleged that Lourdes engaged in egregious abuse of their administrator status during a recent request for adminship, including the following:

Because I remember having acted on your complaints at ANI a few times, and on the basis of that connect and support that I gave you, I am requesting you to reconsider your stand
— Lourdes, at the case request

This kind of pressuring (there were other examples) was described by one of the contributors to the case request as "the kind of thinly veiled threat you'd expect to hear in The Godfather". In response, Lourdes gave an admission nobody expected:

I am User:Wifione, the admin who got blocked years ago.

My RL identity has nothing to do with any celebrity or anyone like that. I am not writing this to have any final laugh. It's just that I feel it appropriate to place it here specially for Beeblebrox, who I almost emotionally traumatised over the years with the aforementioned double sleight -- aka, pulling him around for revealing my so-called identity. It also required double-doxxing myself on at least one external project, namely Wikipediocracy, which even placed mentions of my name in the private section to protect my identity.


— Lourdes, at the case request

And blocked themselves indefinitely:

2023-11-01T22:47:55 User:Lourdes (talk | contribs) blocked User:Lourdes (talk | contribs) with an expiration time of indefinite (account creation blocked, email disabled) (Abusing multiple accounts)

All of the details of the request and the statements made there — which arbitrators voted to decline as pointless soon after the revelations and the self-block — can be seen at its last revision link.

Aftermath

Nobody is quite sure what to make of this. How did they get away with this for so long? How did they conceal it this well? How did nobody notice? What was the point of spending years as a productive administrator, making tens of thousands of edits and logging thousands of actions, to implode the whole thing over a pointless argument on an RfA talk page?

The Signpost's sources have confirmed that the particular BADSITE mentioned in Lourdes' final message has indeed discussed this issue, and that both Beeblebrox and the disgraced LTA have posted more about the events, but the thread over there doesn't make a whole lot of sense either.

In short: what?

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Discuss this story

What does "extremely banned" mean? StAnselm (talk) 03:47, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

my guess is "unappealable indefinite ban". ltbdl (talk) 03:57, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Is it actually unappealable though? The remedy specified that Wifione can appeal after 12 months (whether the appeal would be accepted is another story). Ian P. Tetriss (talk) 19:07, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I believe it's merely a turn-of-phrase, using a modifier for a term that can't be modified because it's binary. "I tried to ask Abraham Lincoln about the quote but it turns out he's exceedingly dead." GMGtalk 11:44, 7 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

This is kind of a surprise, but I think this could easily have been avoided with proper screening measures. The fact they were able to fool the community for so long is more than concerning. I am not saying that all admins need to be screened, but there should be this expectation of trust. I don't think any person that has abused trust in the past should ever be allowed to become an admin, period. Awesome Aasim 03:48, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

What screening procedure do you have that would've "easily" detected that Lourdes was a sock? Certainly the many editors and admins who supported and nominated them for adminship didn't notice anything amiss. Galobtter (talk) 03:58, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
wasn't the "lourdes" account checkusered? ltbdl (talk) 04:02, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Just to put it to bed, Lourdes was checked last night. Common UAs and exclusive proxy use for the data retention period. Izno (talk) 15:34, 2 November 2023 (UTC)

* Pppery * it has begun... 04:11, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Aren't checkusers supposed to be done at the time of adminship? A checkuser will reveal stuff like proxy use and alternative accounts. The whole point of emailing ArbCom about any alternative accounts is to come clean that there was not any breaches of trust or community expectations. Awesome Aasim 15:05, 7 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Aren't checkusers supposed to be done at the time of adminship?
no. never. ltbdl (talk) 15:08, 7 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I think we should, especially because adminship is a position of community trust. An administrator should be trusted to have disclosed all alternative accounts they know they have created and used currently to either the community or to the arbitration committee.
Maybe we can add the following line to Wikipedia:Administrators: "An administrator who is found once to be using one more alternative accounts inconsistent with the policy on sockpuppetry shall have their administrator rights removed. The rights may only be regained after a successful request for adminship." Awesome Aasim 18:19, 7 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

This episode isn't just a one-off scandal; it's symptomatic of a more pervasive ailment that could undermine the very foundation of Wikipedia: trust. If an abuser can use their admin privileges for clandestine purposes until choosing to come forward, it stands to reason that there could be many more bad actors hidden in plain sight, wielding their editing privileges as a cloak for censorship or for commercial and political gains. Wikipedia prides itself on being the bastion of open-source information, but as this case indicates, the current vetting mechanisms for admin misconduct are insufficient. With the ascent of LLMs and generative AI, Wikipedia's human element is its unique selling point, but also its Achilles' heel. Without stringent and proactive measures to reinforce accountability and transparency, WP risks not only reputational decay but also obsolescence, as users turn to emerging technologies that offer reliable information with less human baggage. Normchou💬 05:50, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Agreed that this is a seriously concerning matter, that threatens to undermine confidence in the encyclopedia. Funcrunch (talk) 06:19, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Sorry, what? Are you suggesting that LLMs offer superior accountability, transparency, and reliability than Wikipedia? They're black boxes trained on Wikipedia! -- asilvering (talk) 16:49, 11 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Bri, JPxG: The "Godfather" description seems to have been misquoted. Neither is the provided quote from the "case request", nor did "her request to Fermiboson that he archive the WP:AN thread he had opened" refer to that message. ~ ToBeFree (talk) 07:39, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

"The Godfather" was referred to in the "BADSITE", if it helps. Usedtobecool ☎️ 13:40, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I picked it from Special:Diff/1183036383, I am pressed for time at the moment but I will have to review and see what I got wrong. ☆ Bri (talk) 16:12, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Changed the wording a little bit. Hopefully it wasn't a horrible faux pas, but I agree, correct attribution is important. ☆ Bri (talk) 17:45, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks! Special:Diff/1183811282 looks good to me; in the end it's RoySmith who knows what they have been referring to. ~ ToBeFree (talk) 20:51, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

This could certainly be the last sock from this user, and they may not have any other accounts at this point. Still, the paranoid side of me wonders. Will someone with a decade or two of experience in ban evasion give up for good, after surrendering this readily? It almost seems like a stunt. Mlkj (talk) 11:14, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Maybe he'll go for the sock-to-admin hat-trick. Randy Kryn (talk) 11:22, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Strange enough, this is not the first time I heard about admin with sockpuppets. The Dutch Wikipedia had also a few cases. Probably the current election and control is failing. How can that be fixed? The Banner talk 11:40, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

In cases like this one, I would probably agree with what Anomie and OwenBlacker noted below (and I also liked Ganesha811's reference to xkcd:810): Any "fix" would require a fundamental reworking of how editing on Wikipedia works since anonymity is a central corner-stone and that would most likely be even worse since there a number of highly respected editors and admins that do pride their anonymity and who would probably quit if they had to out themselves in the name of preventing such socking. Regards SoWhy 19:35, 7 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

If any saga needs an interrobang, this is it. Self-selected sleeper agent and performance art come to mind... We can't foresee any and every edge case, after all! kencf0618 (talk) 12:34, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Now this is a saga, but a better (funnier at least) saga would be a trilogy, next time ArbCom need to take some time to review every RfA candidate, but still very funny for what it's worth. This was just a what the hell moment and then when I saw Lourdes' name, a second what the hell moment. Zippybonzo | talk | contribs (he|she|they) 13:14, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

How did they get away with this for so long? [...] How did nobody notice? Get away with what, exactly? Did they get away with becoming an admin by not doing the bad things that led to the earlier ban (or much other bad things)? Or did they get away with doing bad things before the "Godfather" thing? The first possibility I think we can't do much about without a significant risk of the cure being worse than the disease, and unfortunately that's the direction I see some pushing. The second has more promise, but doesn't necessarily result in us catching that a sock is a sock versus just a bad admin. Anomie 13:30, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

While I already have a bunch of concerns about on-wiki functionary processes, I'm including to agree — while obviously ban evasion is something we would want the community to pursue and punish, if the evader doesn't get noticed because they're acting like an exemplary editor then I'm much less concerned.
(That nobody seems willing to do anything about attacks and harassment from an on-wiki BADSITE is something I find substantially more problematic — I think people behaving poorly on a BADSITE should be blocked from here without it being considered OUTING to raise the complaint. But that's a different conversation.) —  OwenBlacker (he/him; Talk) 15:09, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Anomie, OwenBlacker, agreed. This came up after Eostrix was blocked too. Malicious behavior is the core problem, not socking, which is just a mask. This XKCD is relevant. —Ganesha811 (talk) 18:07, 7 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

This wasn't the news I was expecting to read today. I'm not going to lie, it's actually kind of impressive that Wifione/Lourdes was able to successfully go through RfA twice as a sockpuppet. - ZLEA T\C 14:44, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Yeah. Must have had considerable passion for their project, so to speak. Perhaps your username in short for Zillionth Lourdes' Editor Account. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 17:56, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I've revealed the meaning of my username to only a few. Perhaps one day you will be one of them. - ZLEA T\C 18:12, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I'll strive to be worthy of it. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 20:30, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

This is so wild to me

Like babe, you were living a TRIPLE LIFE??? Not even pretending, BEING a respected member of the admin community who is PRETENDING to be Spanish indie pop sensation Russian Red, who is PRETENDING that they haven't scammed anyone before. I can hardly wrap my head around this, this is some George Santos stuff. 2600:6C65:627F:FA27:6C:B3E6:FE6F:1812 (talk) 02:09, 4 December 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Comment

John Titor vibes to me.

So comfortable, we're livin' in a bubble, bubble. So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble. JLCop (talk) 02:19, 14 May 2024 (UTC)[reply]




       

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