Victims of Wikipedia.... or Wiki Whiners?
The great popularity of Wikipedia since its founding in 2001 has led to that
site becoming a frequent focus of controversy. This became particularly intense toward the end of 2005. Often, the
source of conflict is a person being offended by what Wikipedia's articles say about him or her, or a company or
organization he/she is involved in, or a philosophical, religious, or scientific viewpoint he/she champions.
Sometimes the offending info is the result of vandalism, and will be reverted by the normal site editors as soon as
they discover it (and, in fact, the subject can easily become an editor him/herself to do the fix, though editing one's
own article is usually frowned upon in the Wikipedia community). Other times, the person is offended by true, documented
facts not to his/her liking, or is offended for some reason by the very fact that Wikipedia would dare have an article
about somebody without the subject's approval. Their objections run the gamut from valid to nonsensical, and their
reactions range from committing vandalism themselves, to making whiny threats of various sorts, to setting up Web sites of
their own to attack Wikipedia... or, they can go to the outside news media to try to whip up anti-Wikipedia furor,
which some reporters seem eager to find these days... or, on the other hand, they can take it with good humor, laugh at it,
or shrug it off... or they can go quietly through proper channels with the Wikimedia Foundation personnel to get
their concerns addressed without a public fuss (but in that case they won't wind up here, because I'll never find out
about it to write it up!) Here are some of the cases, illustrating the whole gamut of reactions.
Since they sometimes involve threats of lawsuits, they might wind up on the Who's
Suing Who page too. On a happier note, Wikipedia has also been the venue for marriage
On this page I'm listing various people who has come to my attention as objecting to the content of an article pertaining to
them. Some have been relatively constructive in pursuing their objections, and some of their
complaints are valid. Others seem to be overreacting or have unreasonable expectations. Some are constructive, some
are whiny. You make the call about who's who! Please note that the inclusion (or exclusion) of anybody on
this list shouldn't be regarded by itself as a statement about the merits of their complaints, since, as I said,
the merits and demerits go all over the scale. I do have a few opinionated comments here and there, and these
are solely my own opinion and should not be regarded as those of Wikipedia or anybody else.
(Note: When I first started this page, I was much more pro-Wikipedia and anti-critics than I am now; I've since
become rather disillusioned with the ruling clique of Wikipedia myself. I've written this essay
in response to somebody else's essay defending Wikipedia against "attackers" and naming me as one of the enablers
- Gossip columnist Cindy Adams apparently found her
Wikipedia entry too gossipy... she objected to its content and wrote about it in
column, and it was written up in Valleywag
- The proponent of the pseudoscientific theory of Aetherometry
tried to get that page set up as an uncritical promotion of this theory, and when it was edited into a more
neutral-point-of-view (NPOV) manner including criticisms, changed into a fervent critic, putting up
an anti-Wikipedia site with silly
doctored photographs alongside his wild rants. Eventually, the page was deleted as non-notable.
- Turkish historian Taner Akçam claims in an
article that allegations of his involvement in
terrorism, sometimes inserted into the Wikipedia article on him by people motivated by ideology and ethnic conflict,
are responsible for his being hassled by authorities when traveling internationally; at one point, a government agent
actually showed him a printout of a version of his Wikipedia article that's apparently in his permanent file. It's not
entirely clear whether he's blaming Wikipedia for this situation, or just the people abusing it to attack him.
- Almeda University, an unaccredited educational institution
that some term a "diploma mill", has offered to hire
somebody to monitor its article and "correct" wrong stuff (that is, anything that is less than fully positive about
- The American Mutoscope and
Biograph Company was an early-1900s movie company in New York, and, more recently, a new movie company in
southern California that has taken on the name of the older company. The Wikipedia article covers both instances
of this company, and has been the venue for some edit-warring regarding such things as their audacious claim
to be the owner of land on the Moon on which they will soon be filming movies. Somebody connected with the company
doesn't like how the edit war has turned out, and has gone onto Wikipedia
Review to gripe about it and make vague threats of legal action. Even some of the people there, who rarely see
an anti-Wikipedia whine they don't like, are suspicious of the merits of his alleged case. Still, he's back
yet again to whine some more, accusing Wikipedians
of hacking his bank account, and claiming to have sicced the FBI on them.
- Ang Peng Siong, a swimmer who has been in the Olympics
and other international competitions, pointed out inaccuracies in his article in this
piece about coverage
of Singapore in Wikipedia. In particular, he says the 50-m freestyle world record was formalized
in 1986, not 1987.
- Somebody involved in the official marketing of AstroTurf
did some edits to its article, with the conflict of interest disclosed on his user
page. This raised the ironic issue that the AstroTurf people might just be engaging in a bit of
- German "right-to-die" activist Hans Henning Atrott
made some threats and demands on talk pages of Wikipedia
regarding the article on him.
- Jorn Barger, blogging pioneer, has been peeved at times at
the way he was portrayed.
- Film director Paul Barresi has provided information, corrections,
and criticism about the entry on him, generally in a cooperative, non-threatening manner (unlike some others on this
list). Not all of the material supplied by him has been able to be used, however, due to the requirement that facts
be meticulously sourced. For a time, his article was protected by Wikipedia management under the label
"WP:OFFICE, please respect, there may be issues you don't know about", which some editors find to be
condescending, like it's telling them that they're all second-class citizens with no right to know what's happening
- Bartcop, a political blogger, has tried to get his real name
(documented from various press accounts) removed from the Wikipedia article about him.
- Literary agent Barbara Bauer (also a cabaret singer according
to her Wikipedia entry) has sued a number of people and organizations including the Wikimedia Foundation, parent organization
of Wikipedia, in New Jersey in 2007 for defamation. She has been making legal threats for years regarding sites that
mention allegations, by a number of people including the Science Fiction Writers of America, that her author services
are a scam because she insists on money up front and rarely delivers an actual sale of the author's work; normal practice
for agents is to take a share of the ultimate sale commissions when they happen and nothing before that.
Earlier, she even demanded $1 billion
from a Web forum for unauthorized use of her name (in a forum thread where somebody was asking about her business
practices). Her case is docket number L-001169-07 under Monmouth County
here (I hate how some of those court sites
make it so hard to link to specific case info by using form-post-based navigation systems). This is apparently the first
actual lawsuit filed against the Wikimedia Foundation, though others have been threatened.
Her article was speedy-deleted right after this case came to light (by an admin who claims not to have even known
about the case but simply found the entry to be trashy), but came under review, was undeleted and then
underwent an Articles
for Deletion discussion, which was ultimately, controversially, closed in favor of deletion despite there apparently
being more "votes" in favor of keeping (but these deletion debates are officially not "votes" at all and are supposed
to be decided based on strength of argument rather than head counts). In 2008, the Electronic Frontier
Foundation got involved in filing a motion in opposition to the plaintiff.
- Writer Alex Beam wrote an
article entitled "My sticky wiki" discussing
his reactions to having an article on Wikipedia. He was initially flattered, but ultimately found some questionable
things appearing in the article, leading him to reject the premise of the "wisdom of crowds" that Wikipedia is
modeled upon. He managed in the end to get some "unflattering" stuff removed, according to his own account, by
pulling personal connections through Lawrence Lessig, who sits on a board with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
- Chip Berlet, political analyst, doesn't always like the
tone of his article, the subject of heavy ideologically-motivated edit-warring.
- Angela Beesley is a former board member of the Wikimedia
Foundation, which owns Wikipedia. She has asked for her article to be deleted on the grounds that it is "full of lies
and nonsense", and that she is no longer notable enough for an article now that she is off the board. A
debate ensued, which ended with "no consensus", resulting in the article being kept. Some worry that if they
delete her article on request, that would set a precedent where lots of other articles (some of which are listed on
this page) would end up having to be deleted for consistency's sake.
- Justin Berry apparently objected to the original content of the
article on him, so it was rewritten from the ground up at Jimbo's insistence. Berry is known for having performed in
sex webcam shots underage, on a site he himself founded; so is he a sex-criminal, a victim, both, or neither for this
sort of "self-pimping"? Anyway, the Wikipedia article he objected to was authored by a self-styled pedophile (or
"pedosexual" as the author put it), and I have no idea what was in it because that version was removed completely
from the revision history.
- Violet Blue (the author, not the
porn star who was originally also known by this name, but
changed it to Noname Jane after being sued by the author) attempted to get a restraining order
against Wikipedia editor BenBurch, alleging that the
editor was harassing her and ordering him to stay away from her (which he already was, given that he lives 2000
miles away). This case was quickly dismissed,
and BenBurch wrote about it on his user page, prompting a debate
within Wikipedia over whether such "scandalous" writing ought to be allowed in the site.
- The Bogdanov affair was an academic controversy, and
the principals involved brought the controversy to Wikipedia by attempting to edit the article on it to their liking,
leading to massive edit-warring and a request
for arbitration within the site which ultimately resulted in these participants being banned from editing.
- Canadian politician Pat Binns has been the subject of politically
motivated edit-warring of his article, both by partisans trying to glorify him and by activists displeased with his
activities and positions trying to badmouth him. This fighting led some of the press to interview Binns himself about
it, prompting him to say that "I live in a public domain, I understand all that; the unfortunate part about it is,
someone who's not familiar with Wikipedia ... they would think it's gospel, but it's not." The whole matter
was written up in an article
in the Wikipedia-internal Signpost newsletter.
- Writer William Boronson wrote a
criticizing Wikipedia, ironically, for being too rigorous in demanding sources for information connected with
his own past history. He attempted to add such info, and wrote snarky things about the arrogance of Wikipedians when
he was confronted in response with a request to provide a source for the information.
- William Bradford (the one who's a former
professor, not one of a number of other William Bradfords
profiled on Wikipedia) got into a controversy over tenure at his university. This was a minor local matter that somehow
got blown out of proportion due to various political pundits making hay about it nationally due to the professor's
conservative views and allegations that he was denied tenure because of them. Anyway, he views his article as
"grossly inaccurate and harmful", and insists it be deleted, much like the guy right below him on this list...
- Activist Daniel Brandt complained, at one point,
that the article on him focused too much on his recent activity (about privacy or accountability) to the exclusion of his activism going all the way back
to when he was shown on national TV and the New York Times burning his draft card in the 1960s. Wikipedia
editors obliged by adding information on this activity, to which he responded by indignantly demanding that all references
to his 1960s activity be removed as an invasion of his privacy; he thinks he could get persecuted in today's
political climate if a Google search on his name leads to an article talking about this stuff. He spent months demanding
that his entire article be deleted. In addition to vague legal threats, his tactics
included putting up an anti-Wikipedia site which, ironically and hypocritically,
invaded the privacy of various editors alongside his rants and silly cartoons. Brandt's article survived a "lucky"
13 "Articles for Deletion" debates. Admin "Yanksox" deleted the article in an out-of-process manner in early 2007, sparking a storm of controversy and
a "wheel war" among admins that led to the article being recreated and redeleted a few times until an organized AfD finally
began (the aforementioned 13th one). There is a long
thread about it in the rabidly anti-Wikipedia "whine site" Wikipedia Review.
In April, 2007, Jimbo Wales unbanned Brandt as a Wikipedia editor (he had previously been banned for
making legal threats), to which Brandt responded by saying that unbanning him was a mistake on Wales' part. He
took down his "Hive Mind page" that included personal information about various Wikipedia editors, but says that this
is simply to further his planned strategy in a lawsuit he's planning by not distracting the judge and jury towards
individual editors instead of the Wikimedia Foundation itself. Subsequently, he was re-banned by Jimbo "by request".
Later, after the policy on biographies of living people was made more in favor of the biographee, a 14th deletion
debate proceeded and (still controversially) resulted in the article being turned into a redirect to one about one of his
organizations, Public Information Research. He's still complaining because the article is reachable and Googleable under
his name, and he's put back up the page that "outs" Wikipedia administrators (though not regular editors).
- Comic book artist/writer John Byrne doesn't like that the
article on him includes some mention of various fights and controversies he has gotten into; after some complaints
(and vandalism of his own article) by him and a few friends and fans of his, and a
whiny thread about Wikipedia
in his own message board, he prevailed upon boss Jimbo to blank out much of the article until editors could put the content
back in a more meticulously-sourced way. They did, and the article is now at full-size, coverage of his controversies and
fights included. This didn't satisfy Byrne, however, who continues to advocate that the article on him be either deleted
or permanently locked down, and hints vaguely at legal action against Wikipedia. He has since declared his
forum to be a Wikipedia-Free
Zone, banning all links and quotes from Wikipedia regardless of content or context.
- The Coca-Cola corporation is apparently peeved that the
article on them has so much critical commentary, and that their own flacks can't edit that stuff out without being
reverted. An article in an Atlanta
business magazine discusses this. They say they don't plan on suing anybody over it, however.
- Conservapedia thinks that Wikipedia has a "liberal bias"
for such reasons as the fact that they sometimes use "C.E." and "B.C.E." in dates instead of the pro-Christian
"A.D." and "B.C." (though in fact Jesus is currently believed to have been born around 5 B.C.E., meaning that the traditional
era abbreviations are actually erroneous) and also sometimes use the "un-American" British spellings such as "colour"
(huh????). Now they also have, as a thing to complain about, the fact that Wikipedia has
deleted its article
on Conservapedia. More commentary.
- Wayne Crookes, a Canadian businessman involved in Green
Party politics, has reportedly sued Wikipedia (along with some other sites) in Canadian courts for allegedly libelling him. (He's apparently
doing this individually, not as part of a gang of Crookes!) Some news coverage is
- Television commentator Catherine Crier is
anonymous person who put nasty, untrue stuff in her Wikipedia bio. A Crier can be more trouble than a whiner!
- Edwina Currie was one of the people featured
in a Mail
on Sunday article on how some notable people reacted to their bios on Wikipedia. Her reaction was that it confirmed
that the entire site was "rubbish".
- Adam Curry, former MTV vee-jay who has wound up several times
being a figure in the history of online activity (from the BBS days through early Internet domain name conflicts, to
his modern role in podcasting) was caught editing some articles in Wikipedia in a manner designed to increase the prominence
of his own involvement in the invention of podcasting, and decrease that of other pioneers in this field.
- Broadcast journalist Lisa Daniels
vandalized her own Wikipedia article,
for the purpose of a story she was doing about Wikipedia; she changed herself to a "rock star". This was quickly
- Alan Dershowitz has objected to his portrayal in
- Italian European lawyer Giovanni di Stefano
has threatened on his blog to sue Wikipedia
for defamation for mentioning some things (sourced to British newspapers) he'd rather they didn't. A lot has been
removed from his article, and a deletion
- Apparently, members of the Dutch royal family
have been editing their own Wikipedia
- Author Harlan Ellison left a long rant against
Wikipedia (titled "Wikipedia Pustulant") on the talk page of his own article. (Incidentally, a page
on his own site has been subject to uncorrected vandalism, as some obnoxious spammers have figured out how to post to
a guestbook-like page for leaving guesses about some sort of puzzle.)
- Tech writer Rob Enderle thinks the article on him in
Wikipedia is "a good place to go to see what names folks have been calling me", and, in the wake of the
Essjay controversy, wrote a
column using this as a launching point to bash
open-source projects in general.
- Wikipedia editor/admin Essjay got into a big scandal in early 2007 over the fact that he had faked his
credentials (including false claims of multiple PhDs) in Wikipedia edit disputes and to a New Yorker
journalist. (See this article and some
discussion in an anti-Wikipedia forum.)
Somebody created an article on him, but it was brought
up for deletion. After much debate, the eventual result was that the article was kept but renamed to
- Australian TV host Ellen Fanning was mistakenly
reported in her Wikipedia article as being the sister of Powderfinger frontman
and solo artist, Bernard Fanning. When Jimbo Wales appeared on her show, she confronted him about
this error, which he says "was not fun".
- Actress Frances Farmer died in 1970, so she can't object
to what's being said about her on Wikipedia; however, a user (who apparently is the author of a book about her) has
taken offense to some of the editing and talk-page comments and threatened legal action on unclear basis.
- Anti-censorware activist Seth Finkelstein has objected
to the existence of his article, and has tried to get it deleted, on the grounds that having an article makes him
the "target of trolls, flamers, and vandals". His views seem fairly similar to Daniel Brandt's, in fact, although
he expresses them in a more constructive manner. Somebody once said on the wikien-l mailing list
that the difference is that he "speaks fluent geek".
He has much commentary on his blog. Although he's
regarded as more pleasant than Brandt, his discussion of the Brandt issue is apparently still
wearing out the patience of some of the people on the wikien-l mailing list, including Jimbo Wales, who called
him a "troll", and the list moderators who have now put him on moderation where his posts must be approved.
However, he eventually got what he wanted, as the article was deleted after going through multiple AfD debates,
the final one happening at the same time as the one that finally got rid of the Daniel Brandt article.
- Ted Frank has been fighting with Michael Moore (see moore...
er, I mean more... at the entry for Michael Moore below), leading to Moore putting up criticism of Frank on
his Web site, and in turn leading to Frank demanding that Wikipedia
stop linking to that site. He also claims that some versions of the article on him are "attacks".
- Michael Graham, a conservative columnist and talk
radio personality, found that his Wikipedia article sometimes had odd stuff like a claim that he had a novelist as
a gay partner, and he piloted a single-engine aircraft, neither of which are true. He menioned this in a
- Writer Michael Henderson wrote
criticizing Wikipedians' reaction to his attempts to change his own bio.
- Peter Hitchens was one of the people featured
in a Mail
on Sunday article on how some notable people reacted to their bios on Wikipedia. He said that the article on him
was "in many ways wrong, and in other ways motivated by a hostile Left-liberal bias", but still says that
"in the end, I'm in favour of Wikipedia." So he's not "wiki-whining" at all.
- Author and academic Douglas Hofstadter, when
interviewed for the New York Times
Sunday magazine, remarked about his Wikipedia entry that "The entry is filled with
inaccuracies, and it kind of depresses me." The only specific "inaccuracy" mentioned in the article was
that it said that his work has inspired many students to pursue computing and artificial intelligence, whereas
he says "I have no interest in computers." (This is not actually a logical contradiction; it's perfectly possible
for him to have no personal interest in computers and yet produce work that inspires people to get involved in
computing, as in fact his books, which get heavily into philosophical questions raised by such things as mathematical
algorithms and neural net structures, have done.)
- Peter Hollingworth, former Governor-General of
Australia, called into a radio show
on which Jimbo Wales was a guest, to ask how articles were managed, because he found the article on himself
to be "offensive and inaccurate". He further asked what they would do if somebody were to sue them for libel.
- Right-wing Christian activist Neal Horsley has threatened
to sue Wikipedia for "libelous" statements in the article about him, which at one point referred to him advocating
"terrorism" due to his stand on fighting against abortion providers.
- Hyles-Anderson College has a board member online
who claims its article has "outrageous accusations and utter falsehoods", and he'd "hate to have this issue go to court".
- The Indian Institute of Planning
and Management, an educational institution in India, apparently dislikes the Wikipedia entry about it. Somebody
claiming to speak for that institute has made various demands and legal threats, claiming that merely using their
name is a violation of copyright (which is legally preposterous; names can't be copyrighted, only trademarked, and
fair use rules allow "nominal use" of a trademarked name to describe its owner for the purpose of commentary).
- The Israel News Agency is, in fact, more of a personal blog and soapbox than it is a real news agency.
It was profiled in an article on Wikipedia at one point, but it eventually got deleted
(on the 3rd deletion nomination). Ever since, the guy in charge of that site has done lots of
about Wikipedia, apparently out of sour grapes out of not being able to keep a vanity article there.
- Former Charlie's Angel Kate Jackson made a
Help Desk complaint
that her name was given wrong (as Catherine Elise Jackson when it's actually Lucy Kate Jackson), then later
herself, as well as making more
changes that add interesting (though biased in her favor) information about her career history.
- Adult-film actress Tove Jensen considered some things in the
article about her to be objectionable, including a link to an interview in another site that she didn't like.
- Writer/speaker William H. Kennedy has gotten into
some arguments on the University of Kent talk page,
which have led to his making threats and demands which include insisting that the article on him be removed. He also
calls Wikipedians pedophiles or pedophile-sympathizers.
- Martial artist Ashida Kim has made repeated attempts to
blank his own article or to get it deleted, since he doesn't like how some of the information about him can make people
think he may be more of a con artist than a martial artist.
- Gregory Kohs goes in some online forums as "The Kohser", but some Wikipedia regulars, including Jimbo Wales,
don't think what he did there was fully kosher. He started a business called MyWikiBiz, whose business model consisted
of creating Wikipedia articles on companies that paid him to do it. The idea of commercially-motivated paid editing is
highly controversial. While Wales at first grudgingly agreed to this activity under tight limitations (such as requiring
the paid articles to be posted first on an off-wiki site and only moved to Wikipedia later by unpaid volunteers if they
judged the articles worthy), he soon found the activity to be contrary to the principles of Wikipedia and banned it
altogether; Kohs himself also soon got banned, and has been raising a lot of anti-Wikipedia ruckus on various forums
since. More constructively, he also runs a wiki-style Web directory called Centiare.
Somewhere along the way, somebody created a Wikipedia article on him, but it soon came
up for deletion, where
he himself made a "Strong Delete" vote; he got his wish, as the article was deleted for non-notability of the subject.
He continues to find things to gripe about regarding
Wikipedia's treatment of him. In this thread, he
discusses how his original plans had been to ultimately set up an offshore sweatshop to produce Wikipedia articles for
- Kim Komando, a tech commentator, has badmouthed Wikipedia
repeatedly in her radio shows and columns such as this one.
Recently (as of May 2007) she has reportedly complained to the Wikimedia Foundation, as well as publicly on the air,
about things that have been in the article about her (presumably placed there by vandals).
- Somebody from Kwantlen University College has
claimed that Wikipedia has no right to have an article on this august institution at all, or if it does, that they can
control what pages in the university's site are linked to.
- Self-taught high-IQ person Christopher Michael
Langan, whose Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe is abbreviated CTMU and pronounced "cat-mew" (so it's
really the cat's meow!) objected
to the mention in his article of a lawsuit filed against him relating to a schism in the high-IQ Mega Society.
Ultimately, Jimbo Wales intervened on his side by removing that material as "original research" because it was based
on primary documents (court filings and decisions) rather than secondary news reportage that would demonstrate the
notability of the case.
- Jaron Lanier wrote an
article complaining about how Wikipedia identified
him as a "film director" based on a single minor film he directed long ago; he would prefer this not be part of his
description. (It currently is not.)
- La Salle College High School has objected
to material placed in the article about it, largely by students, and has threatened the student who orignally created
the article with expulsion if he doesn't continually police the article to remove politically-incorrect commentary.
Since it's a private (Catholic) school, it's not subject to the various court decisions ruling it to be a violation
of First Amendment rights for public school administrators to take disciplinary action against students for
off-campus speech and press activities such as Web sites, blogs, underground newspapers, and the like.
Their demand that the student take responsibility for any and all past, present, and future content of the article
because he was the one who created the first version of it clashes with Wikipedia policy where nobody "owns" any article,
and one's personal responsibilities are limited to the content that person contributes themselves, not that of third
- Political cartoonist Carlos Latuff
has found the Wikipedia article on him to
be "great for good laughs but NOT for serious information about me and my art."
- Author Gary LaVerne objected to a mention of him in the course of the article on Texas tower sniper
- Journalist Mark Lawson pointed out an erroneous mention of
him being of Jewish ancestry in a column.
The error was soon corrected.
- Scholar John Lott, whose researches are involved in
politically-sensitive topics such as gun control, has objected to his own portrayal. (This is another article
with lots of ideologically-motivated edit warring.)
- Canadian journalist Rachel Marsden has shown up online
to say that the article on her is "incredibly wrong, biased and libelous", but declined to threaten legal action about
it. She did apparently do some anonymous edits that attempted to blank out large portions of the article. A lot of the
fighting is about how a harrassment case
involving Marsden and a former boyfriend while she was in college should be treated. (2008 update: According to
massive tabloid-style coverage lately, Jimmy
Wales had a sexual encounter with Marsden. But his involvement is still perfectly Neutral Point Of View, right?
- Actor Ian McKellen has said nasty things about Wikipedia
in an interview published in Empire, a
British film magazine. He says, "I don't understand Wikipedia. I've looked myself up on it and it's thoroughly objectionable."
- Staffers to U.S. Congressman Marty Meehan were caught
editing his article to remove mentions of him breaking a campaign promise not to serve more than four terms in Congress.
This precipitated a scandal whereby staff of a number of congresspersons were found to be removing negative facts
and inserting positive ones in their congress member's bio, as well as other questionable edits of a political
- Jeffrey Vernon Merkey has a long history of
threatening to sue people, and Wikipedia has sometimes been dragged into the middle of it due to its article on him.
However, after being un-banned from editing Wikipedia, he did mostly productive work there (though occasionally
still getting into controversy, such as in debates over policies regarding Native American tribes), but eventually
got himself banned again for his antics (which included demanding that all homosexuals be recused from the Arbitration
Committee when hearing a case against him, on the grounds that they were all prejudiced against him).
- Microsoft is reported to have
offered money to a blogger
to solicit edits of Wikipedia articles regarding proposed document standards (where the two contenders are
a grotesquely messy so-called "standard" from M$ that aims at "compatibility" with the bugs and misfeatures of
their software past and present, full of inscrutable, ill-defined, and proprietary stuff; and a standard
promoted by open-source software developers for a well-documented document format) that are more in their favor.
More discussion here
- Movie producer Michael Moore didn't like the way a
Wikipedia editor was editing the article on his latest film, Sicko, so he made the front page of his
official site into an attack on that editor. This spurred a big edit war
on Wikipedia over whether they should keep linking to his site at all on places like the article on him.
- The article on Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe at one
point claimed that his daughter was attending college in London, which appears to be incorrect. Later, this
alleged "fact" came up in British parliamentary discussion, and it's surmised that Wikipedia was the "vector" by which
this incorrect information reached the politicians in question. This in turn spurred political action which may
result in travel restrictions expanded over Mugabe's family. The whole affair has been cited in
discussion as an example of possible real-world effects of what is published there.
- Movie producer Don Murphy wants his article deleted and
has been complaining about it. The deletion
debates seem to be going in favor of keeping it, though. His Web site
has had nasty stuff about Wikipedia and Wikipedians at various times, which has led
some editors to remove a link to it on his article (though it's normal practice to include a link to the official site
of anybody in their own article) under the controversial alleged policy against linking to "attack sites".
(See my essay on the subject.)
Banned user ColScott is apparently him, though you can't
generally prove who somebody is online.
- Craig Murray was one of the people featured
in a Mail
on Sunday article on how some notable people reacted to their bios on Wikipedia. While he didn't necessarily
like all of the obscure (and not always favorable) facts about his life that his bio brought to light, he found
it "fair and authoritative". No wiki-whining here.
- The National
Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, a part of the "ex-gay" movement that's trying
to "cure" homosexuality (and, incidentally, one of the numerous nonprofit organizations that are too clueless to
use an appropriate top-level domain for their Web sites; they're in a .com address, implying commerciality)
complained that the Wikipedia article on them has
information added by a lesbian activist, and their attempts to change it themselves were reverted.
- The National
Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the oddly-named British teacher's union formed by merging
two different unions in the past (and now covering both genders despite still having "Women" in its name) has
claimed to be
the victim of "scurrilous claims on Wikipedia".
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse,
a U.S. federal agency that is part of the National Institutes of Health, seems to have been caught trying to
its own entry to take out controversial parts dealing with their surveys regarding marijuana.
See this article. This editing has now
itself been mentioned
in the Wikipedia entry.
- Science fiction editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden ("Nielsen Hayden" is her last
name, not just "Hayden", despite lack of a hyphen) has a few issues with Wikipedia which she has sometimes aired
on her blog. She has also sometimes made
minor edits (nothing really controversial) to the article on her. Nothing particularly interesting here so far... what
made this something worthy of mentioning here is not so much anything she did, but an overreaction on the part
of a Wikipedia administrator, Will Beback, who decided
that her blog (and anything else in her domain) was a so-called "attack site" because, after a fight between Nielsen Hayden
and Beback, she engaged in some speculation on her blog about Beback's real identity (after Googling that name), which is considered
in Wikipedia circles to be "outing" and it's supposedly (but disputedly) against policies to link to a site that does
this for any reason. I've written a Wikipedia
essay criticizing this policy.
- Indian journalist Frederick Noronha has created
a user account of his own on Wikipedia and used
it to edit his own article, something which is generally discouraged.
When an Articles for
Deletion debate started regarding his article, he voted "delete", saying "It would be a relief, in fact, if the page went off!"
However, he also wrote in the wiki-en-l
mailing list that "those deleting pages need to act with responsibility", so he seems to be more inclusionist regarding
articles other than his own.
- Unaccredited university and alleged diploma mill Pacific
Western University was put under protection by the Wikimedia office after complaints from that institution's
lawyers. Even well-sourced attempts at a fuller article which admins have tried to put into place have been reverted
by Wikimedia officials because they are "not approved by the office".
- Harry Palmer founded the Avatar self-help system,
and has a history of involvement in Scientology, ending in him leaving that religion (and get in a lawsuit with the
Church of Scientology). He claims his entry in Wikipedia is libelous, and that he has already won a $450,000 lawsuit
against the person who wrote it; no evidence of this has ever surfaced.
- Bruce Perens, a prominent figure in the open source / free
software movement, vandalized his own article because he objects based on technicalities of the copyright license used by
Wikipedia (GFDL), which he claims makes the whole project illegal, so he insists it not have an article about him.
- Archimedes Plutonium, known for his somewhat odd
theories of physics (which he first posted to the Internet under a .edu address, but was not a student or faculty
member but a dishwasher at a restaurant owned by a college, entitled to an on-campus e-mail account), has fought
with and made legal threats at Wikipedia on the grounds of it mentioning the nickname "Arky" which he dislikes.
- QuakeAID is a charity for earthquake relief that some have
raised questions about; they'd rather the article on them be composed of puffery without any of the less favorable
stuff. They seem to be connected with the Wikipedia Class Action
site that's allegedly getting together a lawsuit. (However, the aforementioned "class action" site is no longer live.)
- The town of Quincy, Washington had a
Wikipedia problem; their
article was vandalized to say that the town is "over populated
by gang members and individuals of hispanic decent who often
believe they are of african background. Smoking marijuana is
very popular and is often practiced by all age groups in the
area." The mayor made noise about how criminal charges should be filed against the vandal in question, though
it's rather unclear exactly what law would permit this to be done.
- David Quinn is an actor turned teacher. For
some reason unknown to me, a bunch of Wikipedians find him interesting enough to get into heated edit wars over the
wording of his article. Quinn himself chimed in, writing in the deletion
discussion on this article how he really doesn't like doing it, but he might just be forced to take legal action
against Wikipedia and its editors. For exactly what, I'm not sure, since I can't see anything defamatory there.
- Apparently, somebody from the office of U.S. Senator Harry
Reid objected to the content of the article on him (perhaps the mentions of recent political scandals in which
he is alleged to be involved?) and caused Wikipedia management to abruptly impose protection on the article (blocking
future edits) without much in the way of explanation.
- Researcher and activist (and, some would say, anti-sex fanatic) Judith A. Reisman has
objected to the content of her Wikipedia bio,
prompting Jimbo Wales to do one of his "radical stubbings" to force editors to carefully source any added facts.
- alt.romath is a newsgroup created by an anti-spam and
anti-porn activist to carry out her campaigns; she doesn't like that Wikipedia wrote about it.
- Philip Roth wrote a famous "open letter"
to Wikipedia in 2012 after considering the site to have an incorrect statement regarding his own book and being unable to get it removed.
have countered with their own statements about Roth being misguided.
- Journalist and publisher Tom Rubython found a version of
the article on him to be "a vendetta" against him, and made some vague threats about it.
- Raymond Samuels is a minor-party political figure
in Canada who has made ridiculous legal threats against Wikipedia in Web
sites and newsgroups.
He claims his name is trademarked and Wikipedia must pay him $100,000 per day for using it. He has also lost a lawsuit
from a Web designer who did work for him and was never paid, and responded by countersuing her on senseless grounds and
badmouthing her online because she was not "accredited" as a graphic designer (since when is that a requirement?).
- Physicist Jack Sarfatti is sometimes labeled as a crackpot;
his claims to have been telephoned by "a conscious computer on a spaceship from the future" in 1953 don't help.
However, some claims made in discussion pages, alleged at times to be from Sarfatti or an associate of his, say
that he is involved in research essential to the national security, so disrupting this by criticizing him in any way is an act of treason
punishable by the death penalty when he calls the FBI on you. He's also been alleged to have threatened to call people's bosses to get them fired in retaliation for perceived slights.
However, when anybody points out such stuff, as I have just done, they are likely to get fervent e-mails from him
denying all of it, even though some of these wild rants are visible in the talk page of his article. (Unfortunately,
you can't actually prove who wrote any of it, and whether they are actually associated with him.) The actual
Wikipedia article on him, after an early period of being somewhat biased against him due to various critics of his writing
parts of it, has been pretty neutral and balanced for quite a while, but he still sometimes gets peeved about it.
- Journalist Stephen Schwartz thinks
the characterization of his political activities that appears in (some versions of) the article on him are inaccurate.
Due to edit-warring, the things he objects to may or may not be in there at any given time.
- Barbara Schwarz is another former Scientologist; there
seems to be something about the Scientology cult that makes people litigious, as she has been involved in massive
amounts of legal action. She, too, doesn't like what Wikipedia says about her, which has led to an
ongoing series of deletion
- British musician Mike Scott complains in an
article that he's used to finding
errors in entries about him in various references. When it's printed on paper, it's hard to get it corrected, but with
Wikipedia it's different; on seeing incorrect things in his bio, he waded right in and started trying to change it.
He got a negative reaction from Wikipedians for not properly sourcing his changes, but unlike some others who
"went ballistic" after such treatment and started attacking Wikipedia, he actually apologized for his behavior and
worked constructively to improve his article, and the one on his group The Waterboys,
which he now calls "increasingly accurate and substantial".
- Actress Misha Sedgwick is the subject of debate about
whether (and to what degree) she is related to Andy Warhol's companion Edie Sedgwick, with online sources varying on
this. Apparently, some sort of official complaint was made (by Sedgwick herself? I'm not sure) which caused founder
Jimbo Wales to intervene personally and demand particularly rigorous sourcing in this article, as he has done several other
times with contentious articles about living persons.
- Journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. is at the center of the biggest
Wikipedia conflict yet. A prankster inserted a false and defamatory allegation that he was suspected in the assassinations
of John F. and Robert Kennedy. In fact, Siegenthaler worked for the Kennedys in the 1960s, but was never considered by
anybody to have had anything to do with those assassinations until this was anonymously inserted into Wikipedia. It
persisted for months due to the article being low-profile, until he went to the media and created an uproar about it,
including a USA Today editorial.
He later got (above-mentioned activist) Daniel Brandt's help in tracking down the prankster, but declined to file any
- Anti-Zionist writer Israel Shamir has found his article
to be defamatory.
- Reportedly, the discussion on Wikipedia of Siemens AG and its
activity during the Holocaust era was the subject of intense scrutiny within that company's management, all the way up
to its CEO, and legal action against Wikipedia was at least contemplated (though decided against).
Some message board commentary reports this,
- The reports of Sinbad's demise were much exaggerated.
Due to vandalism, Wikipedia's entry for a while reported him as deceased. However, he took this state of affairs
in good humor. (See coverage here
- Sioux Lookout, Ontario had an even more
embarrassing Wikipedia-related incident
than the one recounted above for Quincy, Washington, because their
vandalism made it into print on actual paper travel brochures, which somebody had lifted (apparently without proofreading)
from Wikipedia with a statement that the town was "full of drunks" and that people who live there should move.
- Skutt Catholic High School has sued the
(anonymous) writer of (long-since-reverted) critical comments that were added to the article on that school, apparently
for the purpose of compelling the ISP connected with the IP address of the edits to disclose the identity of the writer.
This seems entirely frivolous to my (non-lawyer) view; the comments, which said that the school had too high tuition
and gave a lousy education, were violations of Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy, but were unlikely to be
actionable in court given the high First Amendment protections for statements of opinion. Furthermore, filing a suit like
that indicates extremely thin skin on the part of the school's administrators.
- Derek Smart is "renowned for lengthy and aggressive online responses to his critics"
(from the Wikipedia article on him, sourced to GameSpy). Wikipedia is just one of the online places where he's made
such aggressive responses; there, he threatened to serve "John Doe subpoenas" to find out who is responsible for adding
things to the article on him with which he disagreed. Smart is a South Florida-based video game developer; perhaps he
ought to be locked in a room with Jack Thompson (an anti-video-game activist also based in South Florida; see his entry
below) for a grudge match.
- Self-proclaimed deity Sollog is one of those who have denounced
Wikipedia online, his (no longer online) site issued a "Temple of Hayah Hate Crime Decision" against it.
- Robert Steadman, a British composer and sometimes
political activist, has gotten involved in edit-warring on Wikipedia himself and got banned for it. Perhaps in sour
grapes over this, he has written fervently anti-Wikipedia letters to the editor which have been published in several
British newspapers. The article on him now focuses pretty much entirely on his music, barely mentioning his activism.
- Peter Tatchell was one of the people featured
in a Mail
on Sunday article on how some notable people reacted to their bios on Wikipedia. He found his entry
"too gayist", whatever that means. He sees it as evidence that "Wikipedia is open to abuse."
- "Morals"-crusader attorney Jack Thompson, who has taken
on the videogame and rap music industries, has also taken on Wikipedia, vandalizing the article on him with a silly
rant and making vague threats of lawsuits when it was reverted. One amusing thing about him is that, in 2005, he made
what he termed a "Modest Video Game Proposal" where he outlined a "script" for a video game, where the parent of a child
killed by a gamer takes violent revenge against the whole gaming industry, and dared any game company to release such
a game; when somebody did, he claimed he didn't really mean it, and made some more
vague legal threats against the people who did it. In early 2006, he got the Wikipedia management to temporarily
reduce his article to a sub-stub and protect it from editing, under threats of lawsuits that included a demand that
they disclose the addresses and phone numbers of all editors who had worked on the article so they could be sued (a
request that it would be impossible for Wikipedia to comply with even if it wanted to, given that this information isn't
even asked of user registrants).
- Tron, a German "hacker", does not object
to the content of the article on him -- he can't, because he's deceased. His suspicious death -- maybe a suicide,
maybe a murder -- is the subject of continued debate years later. The objectors to his article are members of his
family who don't want his real name given, even though it's appeared elsewhere such as in a
ZDNet article, so it's not like Wikipedia
is "outing" a private person. They've gone to a court in Germany to get a restraining order to force (US-based)
Wikipedia to remove the name, under threats of massive fines and prison time. This is yet another in the disturbing
series of attempts by courts in various countries (which has included the United States at times) to force their
local law on the entire world via an Internet-related ruling. Anything you put on the Internet can subject you
to prosecution, lawsuits, or restraining orders literally anywhere.
- Businessman Solomon Trujillo has
threatened to sue
Wikipedia over alleged defamation. More commentary here.
In all the debate over this, it's been unclear whether he is just objecting to some (now removed) vandalism adding
scurrilous stuff to his bio, or to any mention at all of some controversies he's been involved in.
- Professor Robert Trundle requested the removal of the
article on him due to privacy concerns, leading to an Articles
for Deletion debate.
- The Untouchable DJ Drastic issued a press
release denouncing Wikipedia for... what exactly? He seems to be simultaneously
berating them for "maliciously remov[ing]" all mention of him, and saying that
"I prefer for my name not to be used within their community unless added at my personal request."
- I'm not sure what Sam Vaknin is notable for, but at one point he had an article in Wikipedia. He claims this
attracted "slander and libel", and he started making demands and legal threats about it, which he credits for leading
to the deletion of his article (though I think the AfD
debate, arguing his non-notability, was more important for this). His views on Wikipedia are here.
- Wikipedia founder and boss Jimmy Wales, ironically enough,
had a "mini-fight" of sorts with his own site, when he wished to be known as the sole founder of Wikipedia against
the claims of former employee Larry Sanger to be a co-founder. Wales did some edits to this effect, which in turn
ticked off Sanger and resulted in much discussion and further change. There has also been some squabbling
regarding his birthdate.
- Music group We Are Scientists
frontman Keith Murray
Wikipedia for publishing "random facts plucked out of thin air about him".
- Journalist and humor writer Gene Weingarten
vandalized his own entry so that he could write about it in a story.
Several writers have done this already; let's hope they eventually get tired of this "story angle". Anyway, it was
reverted within a couple of days, and he says he's "impressed" with how the system worked.
- Is Dave Winer a w(h)iner? He has
written that, though he finds Wikipedia useful, it also hurts him because he claims the bio on him is
"a vendetta", and that Wikipedia doesn't give him sufficient credit for his contributions to RSS, blogging, and
- Petronella Wyatt, a British journalist and writer,
started a vanity article about herself on Wikipedia, and later it was vandalized to include some nasty stuff about her.
This led her to write an article
- AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky is yet another person
who found things not to his liking in the article about him.
- Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller has sued
a company in Miami over allegedly defamatory statements that appeared in his Wikipedia article (since removed, and
even removed from the revision history) that were posted from an IP address belonging to that firm.
See The Smoking Gun report
and Slashdot commentary.
This page was first created 08 Jan 2006, and was last modified 15 Sep 2012.
Copyright © 1995-2012 by Daniel R. Tobias. All rights reserved.