Wack Jobs and Cyber-Bullies on Wikipedia

BloviatorsYou’ve heard of Gaius Flavius Antoninus, the assassin of Julius Caesar. You are probably familiar with crocodile shears, a notorious torture device. If you are an aficionado of the annals of rock and roll, you know about the band named Tilly that perished in an airplane crash on December 12, 1956 en route to a “Lester Concert Hall.” And if you are really into military trivia, you probably could name the Bicholim Conflict as a little known Dutch war of the seventeenth century, right?

The trouble is none of these persons, places or things ever existed, happened or lived. They are all fictions, examples of hoaxes on Wikipedia. The Gaius Flavius Antoninus hoax lasted for eight years and a month, from 2001 to 2008. During that time, probably many high school or college papers mentioned Gaius Flavius Antoninus‘ name without realizing that he never existed, that he was one of the jokey little displays of sophomoric humor in a cheap online information source whose content anyone can alter.

You may think it is a harmless prank to invent a spurious entry like the Adyhaffe people (whose civilization lasted for five years on Wikipedia’s list of ethnic groups, until last October when they were wiped out with a single click of a mouse), but depending on your motives and your practice of deceit such juvenile behavior may easily cross the line into cyber-bullying.

Here’s Not Looking at You, Kid
On a personal note, we were recently a bit bent out of joint when an article about our Principal Investigator Donald N. Yates in Wikipedia was vandalized (for the second time in a year) and attempts to remove offensive and defamatory material about him, the company and others were frustrated by the Wikipedia team of super-editors.

To summarize, an article begun on Living Authors by ClaudeReigns (remember the actor in the 40s . . . cute, right?) in December 2010, survived until February 24, when two “users” began to blow it up and replace it, word for word. We became curious about the identities and motives of the two users. Both have been active in the upper echelons of Wikipedia for six to eight years, but are not identifiable by name. One hides behind a picture of himself or herself with a ski mask that makes himself or herself look like a terrorist. We were sufficiently scared to stay away from further research or poking around, especially after a Wiki official stepped in by the name of Red Pen of Doom (also unidentifiable).

The M.O. of these losers, excuse me, users is similar. They become puffed up by power after volunteering content and help in no recognizable pattern of interests for year after year. Some are in the top 25% of contributors in terms of sheer mass of megabytes they have edited for Wikipedia. Like vultures, they often descend on controversial, especially racially charged subjects. Insecure as Walter Mittys going to Toastmaster sessions, they display “awards” and Thank You certificates on their home user pages. It is doubtful from their wide interests and anonymity and mechanical citation of administrivia that they actually correspond to real people you might be able to reach on the phone.

Well, as said, we felt pretty bad about our experience being featured in Wikipedia, fairly abused and manhandled by malicious people you could never expose. Creepy? Yes. Wrong? Yes. Anything you can do about it? No. At least, however, nothing ended in tragedy, like the suicide victim in Maryland.

One of the insidious things is you cannot combat libel or other abuses “within” Wikipedia. You will be banned for insisting on correcting the record or threatening legal action. This actually happened to one of the well-wishers who wrote to us.

Read on in the comments. Unfortunately, you cannot edit or censor them. This is not Wikipedia. It is reality.

To get to the crux of the cyber-bullying, read “A Personal Message from Donald N. Yates” in the February DNA Consultants Newsletter.

PHOTO:  Bloviators, anarchists and agents provocateurs can hide behind anonymity on Wikipedia. 

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