Jimmy Wales ‘disgusted’ as trustee accused of editing for profit

September 19, 2012
(foxnews.com) Wikipedia users are up in arms over accusations that a trustee was providing front-page exposure and favorable edits to paying clients.

Roger Bamkin is a trustee for the the Wikimedia Foundation UK, the group behind the open-source encyclopedia. He is also a paid consultant, according to a CNET report, and has reportedly been using his position within Wikipedia to forward the cause of his clients.
The country of Gibraltar, which Bamkin has been representing, was featured in Wikipedia’s coveted “Did You Know” main page section seventeen times in August. Most other entries appear just once (with the exception of the Olympics), giving Gibraltar access to an enviable hundred million page views per month — and really annoying some of the site’s editors.
‘If [the stories are] accurate, then of course I’m extremely unhappy about it. It’s disgusting.’
– Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales
“It is wildly inappropriate for a board member of a chapter, or anyone else in an official role of any kind in a charity associated with Wikipedia, to take payment from customers in exchange for securing favorable placement on the front page of Wikimedia or anywhere else,” Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales wrote, when members broached the subject.
Wales admitted he didn’t know all the details of the case, but concluded that if the facts were true, Bamkin should resign from his post or sever ties with his client.
“The honorable thing for anyone with a conflict of interest driving them to act on behalf of a client … is resign from the board of Wikimedia UK, or resign from the job with the client,” he wrote.
Bamkin has been working on “Gibraltarpedia” for some months, a project in which Gibraltar would use QR codes and Wikipedia to digitize the city in the hopes of boosting tourism, which makes up a significant portion of the economy.
Several Wikipedia editors stepped in to defend the trustee, who they say has been upfront about his dual rules.
“As the minutes and disclosure statements show, Roger has been pretty clear about this with the board,” wrote Craig Franklin on an internal discussion board. “If there is a grand conspiracy here … then it’s a pretty inept one.”
Bamkin himself weighed in, saying he has tried to be upfront about the potential conflict.
“I have referred ethical dilemmas to the board. I have offered my resignation twice and it has not been accepted,” he wrote on the same board, denying that his actions represent any conflict.
But Wikipedia administrator “Beeblebrox” agreed with Wales. “Roger is acting as a paid consultant at the same time as he is on the Board of WMUK,” he posted in response to the co-founder’s comments. “That’s their problem but I share Jimbo’s feelings on the matter, he needs to resign one post or the other.”
There is no official policy against “paid editing,” noted Chris Keating, the chair of Wikimedia UK.
It’s the second time in a week that Wikipedia has come under scrutiny for conflicts of interest, after community members exposed another “Wikipedian in Residence” for running a PR and SEO-optimization business that leveraged his access to the Internet’s most popular encyclopedia.
Max Klein, the editor in question, quickly responded on his site, untrikiwiki, noting that despite advertising such services, he had yet to do any such business. “Although we have advertised such a service, we’ve not aggressively pursued it — and we have not accepted any clients interested in on-Wikipedia work.”
Wales was understandably peeved when users brought the incident to his attention in the same thread.
“If what you say is accurate, then of course I’m extremely unhappy about it. It’s disgusting,” he wrote.


Wikipedia makes unprecedented protest. Blacks out world for a day.

January 17, 2012

Media_httprtcomfilesn_vaotm(Vlad Tepes) Protesting Obama’s new copyright laws, Wikipedia plans to black out the world starting at midnight Zulu.
As this law will apply to pretty much everyone and everything, it is clearly meant for selective enforcement. This would mean that the normally left leaning wikipedia has far less to fear than, say for example, anyone critical of the teachings or effects of Islam might. So please read as many articles here as you can. Copy them for emails whatever you can do if you believe that opposition to the largest social experiment of all time should be allowed an opposing voice. Ours I wager, will be removed sometime quite soon.
Another fine example of soft totalitarianism?
Today, the Wikipedia community announced its decision to black out the English-language Wikipedia for 24 hours, worldwide, beginning at 05:00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18 (you can read the statement from the Wikimedia Foundation here). The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate — that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia.
This will be the first time the English Wikipedia has ever staged a public protest of this nature, and it’s a decision that wasn’t lightly made. Here’s how it’s been described by the three Wikipedia administrators who formally facilitated the community’s discussion. From the public statement, signed by User:NuclearWarfare, User:Risker and User:Billinghurst:

It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web.
Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about this proposed legislation. The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a “blackout” of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support.
On careful review of this discussion, the closing administrators note the broad-based support for action from Wikipedians around the world, not just from within the United States. The primary objection to a global blackout came from those who preferred that the blackout be limited to readers from the United States, with the rest of the world seeing a simple banner notice instead. We also noted that roughly 55% of those supporting a blackout preferred that it be a global one, with many pointing to concerns about similar legislation in other nations. 
Click to continue:
These people who think ideas and arrangements of data constitutes ownership are information neanderthals. We live in a new world. Our ideas are no longer owned. We profit by the swiftness of our information. People go to my blog… not because I write all my own things. They come to my blog because I’m informed and know where to get relevant information. This is no different then a code warrior of LINIX in the public domain. These people are not valuable because you buy the software from them… these people are valuable because they are the specialists who you pay a consulting fee because the information to them is accessible in ways that it wouldn’t be to me or you. People who think that information can be stolen are fools. (mind you this is limited to the idea that it isn’t violent information). Are you reading this blog because you think I wrote the above part? No… I got it from Vlad Tepes and knew enough about the issue to talk about it. When I was at Carnegie Mellon University I had a teacher who later accused me of copying and pasting code in a court where she also accused me of identity theft. The truth is… I was copying and pasting code…. and using the code as blocks of information to build something different, but this “feminist” was too narrow minded to understand how I was working and applied her interventionism. She also accused me of cyberstalking and I was facing four felonies. Funny the way it didn’t pan out the way she had hoped when the CMU records got out.

Efraim Karsh: Haaretz–The Paper for Thinking People?

December 16, 2011

Of the countless threats of Arab violence in the run-up to the November 29, 1947 Partition Resolution and in its wake, none has resonated more widely than the warning by Abdul Rahman Azzam, the Arab League’s first secretary-general, that the establishment of a Jewish state would lead to “a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”
Unfortunately, the longstanding failure to trace the original document in which the threat was made has given rise to doubts regarding its veracity, and by implication – the murderous Arab intentions: not least since the historical truth has been erased from public memory by decades of relentless pro-Arab propaganda.
Small wonder, therefore, that when the missing document was recently found, with an annotated full translation published in the Middle East Quarterly, which I edit, Haaretz columnist and self-styled “new historian” Tom Segev, who had spent a good part of the past two decades turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, went out of his way to whitewash Azzam’s threat and downplay its significance. “There is something pathetic about this hunt for historical quotes drawn from newspapers,” he wrote, without disputing the threat’s contents or authenticity. “Azzam used to talk a lot. On May 21, 1948, the Palestine Post offered this statement by him: ‘Whatever the outcome, the Arabs will stick to their offer of equal citizenship for Jews in Arab Palestine and let them be as Jewish as they like.'” He then quotes Ben-Gurion’s alleged description of the League’s Secretary-General as “the most honest and humane among Arab leaders.”
Azzam might have talked a lot, but there was no contradiction whatsoever between his public threats and private assertions. He privately told his Jewish interlocutors that their hopes of statehood would meet the same calamitous fate as the crusading state, and he reiterated this prognosis in the newly-discovered document. A week before the pan-Arab invasion of Israel on May 15, Azzam told Sir Alec Kirkbride, the powerful British ambassador to Amman: “It does not matter how many [Jews] there are. We will sweep them into the sea.” Even the actual Palestine Post report, from which Segev chose to bring a misleadingly truncated quote, had Azzam describe the Arab-invaded State of Israel as “a bridgehead into Arab territory” (that is, a crusader-like alien implant) that must be fought and destroyed for “otherwise they will be fighting us here, in Transjordan, and elsewhere in the Arab State.”
It is true that Azzam was prepared to allow survivors of the destroyed Jewish state to live as Dhimmis, or second-class citizens, in the “Arab Palestine” that would arise on its ruins (after all, his statement was made in a memo to the UN seeking to justify “the first armed aggression which the world had seen since the end of the [Second World] War,” to use the words of first UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie). But this can hardly be considered an indication of moderation. If anything, it affords further proof, if such is at all needed, that the gap between “the most honest and humane among Arab leaders” and the basic Jewish aspiration for national-self determination was as unbridgeable in 1948 as it is now.
But the story doesn’t end here. For Mr. Segev didn’t content himself with distorting the contents and significance of a key historical document but also sought to besmirch those who brought it to public attention by claiming that they lifted it from Wikipedia, to which it had supposedly been uploaded by one Brendan McKay – a professor of computer science at the Australian National University in Canberra.
This claim is not only false but the complete inversion of the truth. There was no trace of the newly-found document in Azzam’s Wikipedia entry at the time of the document’s publication in the Middle East Quarterly. On the contrary, noting the long-misconceived May 14, 1948, as the threat’s date – it was actually made on October 11, 1947, in the run-up to the partition resolution – the Wikipedia entry (accessed October 3) questioned its very existence:
One day after the State of Israel declared itself as an independent nation (May 14, 1948), Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, and Transjordanian troops, supported by Saudi and Yemenite troops, attacked the nascent Jewish state, triggering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. On that day, Azzam is said to have declared: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades”. However, Joffe and Romirowsky report that this “cannot be confirmed from cited sources”. Benny Morris, who had previously quoted it in his books, refrained from using it in his book 1948 “after discovering that its pedigree is dubious”.
In other words, rather than upload Azzam’s original threat to Wikipedia (or to any other publication for that matter) as falsely claimed by Segev, Mr. McKay, who on September 22, 2010 informed fellow Wikipedia discussants of having obtained a copy of the original interview in which the threat was made, failed to share his important discovery with the general public so as to keep Arab genocidal designs on the nascent Jewish state under wraps.
Why Mr. McKay agreed to pass a copy of the document to the evidently pro-Israel David Barnett, an American international politics student who had been chasing the document on his own, thus enabling it to see the light of day at long last – including, eventually, in Wikipedia – is not entirely clear: in a private communication, he declined my offer that his name be added as co-author as he didn’t “have a good opinion of MEQ”.
It is clear, however, that instead of minimizing Azzam’s threat and patronizing him in the worst tradition of the “white man’s burden” approach, Mr. Segev should have marveled at an important discovery that lays to rest one of the longest running debates on the 1948 war and helps his country reclaim the historical truth after decades of relentless distortion. But then, some journalists simply cannot handle the truth.
Nor, so it seems, can their editorial colleagues.
On October 24, three days after the publication of Segev’s article, I emailed my response to Aluf Ben, Haaretz’seditor-in-chief, and was informed that the paper’s op-ed editor would be in touch. Yet it was only six weeks later (on December 5), after much haggling during which I agreed to cut the article’s length by half, that a Hebrew translation was (almost invisibly) published in the inside pages of the op-ed section. When I kept insisting that the original English-language article be also published I received the following response on December 12:
I’m afraid that we will not be able to publish this piece due to space limitations in the English edition of the newspaper. Our paper is considerably smaller than the Hebrew edition and we give priority to pieces published on the main editorial page of the Hebrew paper, which is why you were passed over last week. I had hoped to find a spare slot this week, but this has not been possible.
I would be pleased to be in touch with you directly next time one of your pieces is published on our opinion pages, so that I can receive the original English version in time to consider it for the same day’s newspaper.
It is doubtful whether the editors believe their own words. Not only are space limitations wholly irrelevant in the case of an online publication, which is what Haaretz.com essentially is, but the editors have had my article for seven weeks, which should have given them more than ample opportunities for a timely publication.
Worse: the fact that Haaretz took the trouble to have Mr. Segev’s Hebrew-written piece translated to English, and to have my response translated to Hebrew, while refusing to post an English-written article on its English-language website – where the main defamatory damage to my professional reputation was intended to be done – cannot but be seen as a blatant cover up of a professional misconduct by one of its most senior columnists.
While there is nothing new or surprising in a paper’s refusal to own up to its misreporting or publish facts and analysis contradicting its political line, it is ironic that “the paper for thinking people,” as Haaretz habitually flaunts itself, would engage in the shoddy business of truth suppression and mouth shutting at a time when it self-righteously fights an alleged attempt by the Israeli government to do precisely that.
Efraim Karsh is director of the Middle East Forum, research professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, and author, most recently, of Palestine Betrayed.

Leave a Comment » | Abdul Rahman Azzam, Ha'aretz, media bias, Sir Alec Kirkbride, Trygve Lie, Wikipedia | Permalink
Posted by Noah Simon

Where are the 67 borders?

June 13, 2011

I have often written about the manipulation of technology to fabricate an ahistorical and counter-factual narrative; for example the replacement geography in Google Earth, and the relocation of East Jerusalem to Palestine in Yahoo Weather. History is a critical part of the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel. Getting it right is important. The current discourse over “67 borders” in the media, blogosphere and social media, presents a narrative so removed from fact that its propagandistic nature can be exposed even by someone with only Google Maps and Wikipedia to guide them. The propaganda has been triggered by discussion over the Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood. More and more people are speaking about Israel’s borders, and in particular the idea of “returning to the 67 borders.” Those with a knowledge of history would know there is no such thing. For a start, they mean pre-1967, not 1967, and to be fully accurate, they mean boundaries or lines not borders. The loss of the “pre” prefix is the most blatant attempt to wipe clear the historical narrative, see for example the recent Washington Post op-ed by Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s Former Ambassador.
Even in Israel there has been a move away from the “green line” to “67 borders,” articles in both Haaretz and Jerusalem Post have used this terminology. This is unsurprising given the use of this terminology by Israeli leaders, the British Prime Minister, and many other. The White House, whatever one thinks of their policy, at least have the terminology right, despite media headlines and reporting to the contrary, at AIPAC, President Obama’s actual words referred to “pre-1967 lines,” a formulation that the White House press office has also used consistently.
The 1949 Armistice Agreement Line shown on Google MapsOn Google Maps the line is clearly and correctly labelled the “1949 Armistice Agreement Line.” In Wikipedia, the article on the Green Line, refers to the boundary as “the demarcation lines set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.” The narrative of ’67 borders is a Palestinian one. It obfuscates the fact that a return to these borders would be a return to the unstable position after the war of independence.
The Wikipedia article itself notes this was never an “international or permanent border,” it also notes the position in international law, expressed by the deputy legal advisor to the US Department of State in the American Journal of International Law (1970). He said “…modifications of the 1949 armistice lines among those States within former Palestinian territory are lawful… whether those modifications are…’insubstantial alterations required for mutual security’ or more substantial alterations – such as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem.” The Palestinian narrative seeks to lock in the minimalist idea of insubstantial changes and make even that look like a serious sacrifice that is almost too much to ask of them.
History is important. Last week was the anniversary of the Six Day war, and the relevance to today was well outlined by David Harris last week. Language and rhetoric are also important. Let’s stop the downwards slide into a Palestinian narrative. Let us begin to speak of the 1949 ceasefire lines, the psychological trauma of insecurity they imposed, the real danger they created in the face of a conventional warfare threat, and why Abba Eban referred to these indefensible borders as Auschwitz borders, meaning they put Jews, at the time many of them Holocaust survivors, again at the mercy of being slaughtered on mass by those who wished them harm. Israel’s recent experience with Hamas in Gaza justifies a continual concern about such dangerous borders. Not only are there the rockets on Sderot, let’s also remember Gilad Shalit kidnapped by terrorists who made the short journey from Gaza almost 5 years ago.
A two state solution is possible, and large parts of the future border may indeed be along the green line, but the negotiation and public discussion must have a basis in history and fact. It cannot be built on the ahistorical changing sands of Palestinian propaganda. In the mean time, all of us, from international leaders and the media to Facebook users, should watch our language and ensure we don’t strengthen a narrative that will lead not to peace but potentially to renewed bloodshed. If, despite all their flaws, Google Maps and Wikipedia can get this right, so can the rest of us.

Leave a Comment » | 1949 Armistice, 1967 borders, Abba Eban, AIPAC, Auschwitz borders, Gilad Shalit, Google, Google Maps, Green line, Six Day War, Turki al-Faisal, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Yahoo Weather | Permalink
Posted by Noah Simon

At Wikibias, Nominations Being Accepted For The Most Biased Article on Wikipedia

October 6, 2010

Wikibias is looking for nominations for “The Most Biased Article on Wikipedia.” You can use their contact form to make your nomination.
One nomination is the Wikipedia article on Israeli Settlement, which on August 31 began:

Israeli settlements are Jewish only settlements” built by the Israel on occupied and confiscated land that is occupied through wars (such as the Six-Day War) and forceful evacuation of the indigenous people from their homes in Palestinian West Bank. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The latter two areas are governed under Israeli civil law but all three territories are considered to be under military occupation by the international community.

A number of points are raised by Wikibias in the fisking of just this one paragraph alone, among them:

Indigeneity is both hotly contested and difficult to define. The Jewish people is indigenous or autochthonous in Judea and Samaria since this is where the Jewish people arose over 3,300 years ago. The Palestinian Arabs are also autochthonous in this sense, having come to define themselves as Palestinian in the 1920′s by some accounts, and with the founding of the PLO in 1964 by others. The Arab people are autochthonous or indigenous to the Hijaz where they arose in the seventh century. They arrived in the Land of Israel as conquerors.
On an individual level, many Jews were born in these villages and towns, some before 1948 and many after 1967. As individuals, they are indigenous. But just as the ancestors of many of the area’s Jews immigrated from other lands, so did the ancestors of many of the area’s Arabs, who came in a series of historical waves, including a great wave of immigration to economic opportunity in the early twentieth century. If they are not less indigenous than the Jews who came then, neither are they more indigenous.

Read the whole thing.
And don’t forget to give Wikibias your nomination for The Most Biased Article on Wikipedia

noahdavidsimon’s posterous

Leave a Comment » | 1967 borders, autochthonous, Golan Heights, indigenous, Judea, Judea and Samaria, Palestinians, Settlements, Wikibias, Wikipedia | Permalink
Posted by Noah Simon

Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales Calls on Israelis to Join Project

October 29, 2009

Leave a Comment » | Wikipedia | Permalink
Posted by Noah Simon

Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales Calls on Israelis to Join Project

October 29, 2009

Leave a Comment » | Wikipedia | Permalink
Posted by Noah Simon