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Wikipedia is a free-content online encyclopedia established by Jimbo Wales (with substantial help from Larry Sanger) on January 15, 2001. It currently has over 6 million articles, written in 250 languages[1], including over 1,600,000 articles in the English version. Conservapedia uses the wiki program made popular by Wikipedia. Content on Wikipedia is under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), and anyone can add to or edit the content on Wikipedia.

Initially, Wikipedia was hosted on servers operated by Bomis Incorporated, a search portal funded by Jimbo Wales.[2] Then in 2003, Jimbo Wales created the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation with himself as board president, to oversee the day-to-day operation of Wikipedia.

Seigenthaler Hoax and Reaction of Wikipedia Editors

In May 2005, an anonymous user created a Wikipedia article on John Seigenthaler Sr, a journalist and an assistant to former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy that stated:

John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s. For a short time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.


John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984. He started one of the country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter.

In September 2005, a friend of Seigenthaler's discovered the Wikipedia entry and alerted Seigenthaler, whom then contacted the Wikimedia foundation to have the article corrected, however the false biography had remained on Wikipedia for many months. Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt later discovered the prepetrator of the prank was Brian Chase, an acquaintance of Seigenthaler Sr.[3] John Seigenthaler Sr later published an article in USA Today on the whole affair.[4]

Instead of being apologetic, Wikipedia editors criticized Seigenthaler afterwards on a Wikipedia talk page for publicly complaining of the falsehoods about him:[5]

"Mr. Seigenthaler's attitude and actions are reprehensible and ill-formed," said one comment. "[He] has the responsibility to learn about his own name and how it is being applied and used, as any celebrity does on the Internet and the world-at-large. Besides, if there is an error whether large or small, he can correct it on Wikipedia. Everyone fails to understand that logic." Another wrote: "Rather than fixing the article himself, he made a legal threat. He's causing Wikipedia a lot of trouble, on purpose."

The Siegenthaler scandal was originally billed as a "hoax", then "controversy" and finally downgraded in its stable version to "incident". Despite the damage to an innocent person and embarassment to Wikipedia's credibilty as a viable source, the Siegenthaler scandal is considered by many internal Administrators as "the best thing that ever happened to Wikipedia" [6] catapulting it [7] from the top 50 to the top 10 most visited websites.

Essjay Scandal

In January 2007, Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt discovered that a prominent Wikipedia administrator, bureaucrat and arbitrator nicknamed Essjay has lied [8] on Wikipedia and in phone interviews with The New Yorker magazine about his age, job, background, and academic credentials[9]. Essjay, who later identified himself as Ryan Jordan and who was an employee at Wikia Inc. funded by Jimbo Wales, had claimed to be a 40 year old homosexual, holding doctoral degrees in theology and canon law and is a tenured professor at a private university; but he was in fact a 24 years old community college dropout [1] from Kentucky. This fraud was reported by ABC, BBC and many other major news organizations. Jimbo Wales upon learning of this incident, stated: "I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it."[10]

The first public notice occured on Wikipedia Review, a critic's forum frequented by Brandt and several other prominent Wikipedians, including many who have been blocked from editing Wikipedia. Brandt pointed out as early as July 2006 [2] that "something... doesn't add up" regarding Essjay's claim of being a college professor despite editing Wikipedia as much as 16 hours per day. One of the site's administrators posted on Jan. 11, 2007 regarding Essjay's hiring by Wikia after noticing that Jordan's "Essjay" account on Uncyclopedia (a Wikia-owned site) had been changed to include the "Staff" reference, normally given only to paid Wikia employees. The "Essjay" user page on Wikia had been posted, along with the name "Ryan Jordan," on Jan. 7, 2007 - with no explanation given for why Essjay would leave a tenured faculty position to work as a Community Manager for Wikia. The situation quickly became the subject of increasing speculation by the Wikipedia Review forum members, of whom Brandt was the most skeptical.

Later, the same administrator posted further details [3] of discrepancies between Jordan's Wikia user page and his Wikipedia user page on January 19th, after Jordan added still more personal-background information to his Wikia user page that bore little similarity to the credentials he had claimed on Wikipedia since April of 2005.

Daniel Brandt controversy

The Daniel Brandt biographical entry was created by SlimVirgin on 28 September 2005. On two occasions, once prior and once after, SlimVirgin stated she did not consider Daniel Brandt a credible source. [4] In August 2005 SlimVirgin and Rangerdude discussed the use of "scholarly" material cited to Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates (PRA) on the Roots of Anti-Semitism talk page and had this exchange:

"PRA is not the kind of organization any of our guidelines is trying to stop us from using, and I'm certain of this because I've been involved in drafting a lot of the information about sources and original research....PRA is a research group and Berlet is a published journalist and author. ...WP:NOR#What_counts_as_a_reputable_publication? says: "A magazine or press release self-published by a very extreme political or religious group would often not be regarded as "reputable". For example, Wikipedia would not rely only on an article in a Socialist Workers' Party magazine to publish a statement about President Bush being gay." This clearly doesn't have in mind the type of research group Chip works for. You may find PRA extreme, but it's not a political or religious group, party, or movement.--SlimVirgin 07:12, August 4, 2005 (UTC)

Rangerdude only moments before debunked Berlet's scholarly credentials, [5] cited WP:RS on using extreme websites, [6] and then rejoined,

"Curiously your example of the Socialist Worker's Party does little to help your case as Mr. Berlet's own biography proudly states that he has worked on behalf of this very same extremist group! --Rangerdude 07:30, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

SlimVirgin then changed Official Wikipedia Reliable Sources Policy to make Berlet appear mainstream and not an extremist. [7]

Next an old dormant dispute between Brandt and Berlet from a decade and half ago was reignited. The two worked together for many years, but had a falling out in 1991; Brandt was quoted as an anonymous critic from a FrontPage citation in Berlet's wiki entry, with these words,

“Reviewing one of Berlet’s screeds, one leftist writer mentions Berlet’s “crusade” against Progressives who stray from Berlet's ideological fever swamps by working with non-leftist groups. In a fascinating conclusion, the leftist commentator warns that Berlet “may try to undermine your work and isolate you.” [8]

Berlet expressed displeasure at the criticism and publicly named the "leftist writer";

This complaint was written by Daniel Brandt, who I criticized because he was urging people on the left to read the anti-Semitic Spotlight newspaper (at the time published by Holocaust denier Willis Carto.) [9]

Berlet wanted the criticism of him and his organization removed. [10] On the same day the Daniel Brandt biography was created to cast Brandt and his organization as extremist using a guilt by association smear of being aligned with Holocaust denial. [11] Who was the source of the claim? A self published source, Chip Berlet and Political Research Associates. According to the Introduction [12] to the self published source, Berlet's allegation Brandt and his organization were aligned with Holocaust deniers first appeared two months earlier in September of 1991 in an extremist publication, the Marxist-Leninist Guardian. [13] The Guardian newspaper, which at one time had a reporter, Wilfred Burchett, who participated in interrogations of American POWs in North Korean prison-of-war camps, is cited in a contemporaneous book from 1992 by the mainstream publisher Prometheus Books which is entitled, Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America, by John George, Laird Wilcox, ISBN 1-57392-058-4, as an extremist publication. See Chapter 9, pgs. 125-131. [14]

Added to all these violations of Official Wikipedia Policy is this event, Berlet citing himself and personally inserting potentially libelous and defamatory material from a questionable and self-published source into an article of a living person and fellow registered user. [15]

Jimbo Wales echoed SlimVirgin's view that Brandt was not a "credible source", and told Editor & Publisher,

"I don't regard him as a valid source about anything at all." [16]

After possible malicious intent of slander was being publicly discussed surrounding the events which lead to the creation of Brandt's entry, Wales comments to Editor & Publisher were removed from Brandt's bio under the "tabloid clause" of Reliable Sources. [17]

Meantime, numerous Wikipedia Administrators have been caught in the crossfire of a drive-by smear against Brandt in an old leftist sectarian dispute none of them know anything about.

Sinbad Hoax

On March 16, wikipedia entry on the 50-year old entertainer Sinbad, born David Adkins, states: "He succumbed to a fatal heart attack on the morning of March, 14, 2007." This hoax was widely reported in the media[11].

Rutgers-Ivy League Hoax

A Wikipedia entry falsely stated that Rutgers was once invited to join the Ivy League. Although that false statement was eventually removed from Wikipedia, it was not removed before the Daily News relied on it in this story:

You don't have to define your college with your football team, but Rutgers long ago decided to give it a try. Back in 1954, when it was considered a 'public Ivy,' Rutgers might have joined the fledgling Ivy League and altered its destiny. But the school declined the offer - arguably the dumbest mistake in its history. Ever since then, Rutgers has scrambled to prove itself worthy of playing football with the big boys."[12]

Barbara Bauer Vs. Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation is one of 17 defendants in a lawsuit suit filed in New Jersey, by Barbara Bauer and her literary agency. Her Wikipedia article was deleted on March 25, 2007 by Wikipedia administrator Doc Glasgow as a "bloody disgrace".[13][14][15][16]

Jimmy Wales' Denial that Larry Sanger was a Co-Founder

The Associated Press and others credit Larry Sanger as the co-founder of Wikipedia.[17] But the Associate Press quotes Jimmy Wales as denying it:[18]

"When you write this up please do not uncritically repeat Sanger's absurd claim to be the co-founder of Wikipedia."
"I know of no one who was there at the company at the beginning who would think it anything other than laughable," he added.
"I am not bent out of shape about it," he wrote. "The facts are on my side, which is why I bother so little about it."

According to the Associated Press, Jimmy Wales "has repeatedly tried to address this - even going so far as editing his own Wikipedia biography to tone down credit for Sanger. Such autobiographical contributions are frowned upon in Wikipedia's community, and Wales apologized after his changes were noticed and publicized by blogger Rogers Cadenhead in 2005."[19]


  1. List of Wikipedias - Wikimedia
  2. The Bomis portal has been criticized as "pornographic"
  6. Talk:John Seigenthaler Sr.#The best thing that ever happened to Wikipedia, retrived 23 March 2007.
  7. Wikipedia: A Nightmare Of Libel and Slander, Joel Leyden, Israel News Agency, 8 May 2006.
  8. Essjay/Archive/52 recovered by Brandt for posterity
  12. Bondy, Filip. "They Can Finally Say They Belong Here", New York Daily News, 2006-11-10, p. 92. Retrieved on 2006-12-13.
  18. id.
  19. id.

External Links