Tony Sutton Wikipedia Vandal Receives Suspension

In a pathetic display of lack of restraint, the Wikipedia vandal who’s been defacing MN GOP Chairman Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia page has been suspended by fed up editors.

The Talk page for this use shows the warnings that the vandal editor received before being banned:

Tony Sutton Wikipedia Vandal Suspended

The vandal didn’t even go out with a bang. Instead, she/he recycled previous material which was auto-undone by one of Wikipedia’s robots.

Defending Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia Page

Someone who appears to be to the left, politically, of Tony Sutton, and a Comcast internet user, has been vandalizing Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia Page. The text in red below are the work of a rogue Wikipedia editor publishing from the IP address 69.180.156.203.

Vandalizing Tony Sutton's Wikipedia Page

Vandalizing Tony Sutton's Wikipedia Page

Vandalizing Tony Sutton's Wikipedia Page

Looking at the history of contributions from that IP address, most have happened in the past day. But, there was one from 2005 where the contributor mentioned her name:

Is Marlene the Vandal?

Is someone named Marlene the vandal? Perhaps. Although there could be more than one person using that IP address. Especially over that length of time.

Assuming that it is someone named Marlene: Marlene, while you clearly have no respect for Tony Sutton, try showing more respect for Wikipedia by adding value to the site. Also, show more respect for your own time. Your edits can be undone in seconds. In fact, one of your three acts of vandalism was undone within the same minute by a Wikipedia robot. The other two were undone by me.

Vandalism on Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia Page

As I mentioned on the 19th, editing the Wikipedia page of someone you dislike can be difficult, since it’s tough to maintain a neutral point of view on such subjects.

Yesterday, someone stepped up to the challenge by adding some background on Tony Sutton’s business practices. Based on their IP address, they appear to be in Ohio – a state where Tony Sutton’s Baja Sol restaurant chain used to have franchises:

Tony Sutton's Roll with Baja Sol Restaurants in Ohio

In case that image is hard to read, here is the text added by the anonymous Ohioan:

Sutton left many small business holding the bag when he stopped payment for contract services. Three closed shop due to his “Winning Strategy”, which if you can not dazzle with intelligence- Blind them with bull!” His PR firm better start cranking up more untruths for the public.

That contribution was not up to Wikipedia’s standards. The user didn’t cite sources, use a neutral point of view on the subject he/she is clearly passionate about, yadda yadda.

Don’t worry. It didn’t last for long. An experienced editor named SWMNPoliSciProject noticed the edit and reverted the page to its previous version while labeling the edit as vandalism. Then SWMNPoliSciProject went on to clean up the grammar in the contributions I made. Slowly but surely, a combination of Wikipedia editors are building out the content on Tony Sutton’s page.

Editing Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia Page

Here is a challenging way to learn how to edit Wikipedia: try making edits to the pages of people you don’t like. For example, I made a few changes to MN GOP Chair, Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia page last night to include his recent career change.:

Editing Tony Sutton's Wikipedia Page

The trick here is to make edits with a neutral point of view, which is difficult when working on pages you’re either closely affiliated with, or on a topic you don’t care for. In this case, it’s the latter.

I think my edits have helped grow Tony Sutton’s Wikipedia page with accurate and neutral information. However, I’m sure people more familiar with Mr. Sutton could build upon what I’ve added.

Wikipedia User Tarc is a Vandal

I’ve seen some crazy stuff on Wikipedia over the years, but the current vandalism being conducted by a user named Tarc is among the worst.

In a nutshell, Tarc is attempting to delete the Wikipedia pages of challenger candidates for US House of Representatives seats. This includes,

Michael Faulker (R) running in NY-15
Jim Meffert (D) running in MN-3
Steve Raby (D) running in AL-5
John Flerlage (D) running in CO-6
Douglas Herbert (D) running in NJ-11
Scott M. Sipprelle (R) running in NJ-12

Tarc seems to believe that nominees of major political parties who are challenging incumbents do not reach the level of “notable” under his reading of Wikipedia’s standards, so don’t deserve a page on the site.

Each time Tarc does this, an alert is added to the top of the page that has been nominated for deletion, like this:

Wikipedia Vandalism by Tarc

Which gives the illusion that there is actually something wrong with the page or person on the page, rather than with Tarc. A scan through his recent contributions shows that his US House of Rep. challengers deletion rampage is a relatively new thing, and poorly timed to elections that are only one week away.

I’m not the first person to notice this by any means. In fact, Wikipedia editors are looking into freezing Tarc’s account until after the election due to his behavior.

Clearly, if Tarc posessed a bit more maturity, he could have started discussions on candidate’s Talk pages about whether each candidate is Wikipedia worthy, or at least waited until after the election. But I have a hunch that Tarc likes the attention that being a vandal provides, no matter who gets hurt along the way.

Tom Emmer, BPA, and Wikipedia

As election day nears, edits to candidate’s Wikipedia pages are reaching a fevered pitch. As of today Tom Emmer’s Wikipedia page has been semi-protected, which means that anonymous (or, at least unregistered) users can no longer make edits to the page. This step was taken after an anonymous user kept editing in content that other Wikipedia editors didn’t think was relevant or supported.

As far as I can tell from looking through recently reverted edits in Tom Emmer’s Wikipedia page edit history, the offending content is this:

BPA

In 2009, Emmer voted against S.F. 247. Which states that by January 1, 2010, no manufacturer, retailer, or wholesaler may sell or offer for sale in Minnesota a children’s product that contains bisphenol-A except for used children’s products.

Why is that an issue? A well-argued discussion on the Discussion/Talk page for Tom Emmer’s Wikipedia page explains it. In a nutshell, no context is provided. In fact, the entire Talk page is pretty interesting (and more interesting than the article itself) as Wikipedia editors weigh issues like how to most appropriately discuss Emmer’s DWI history, MN Forward’s advertising, and Emmer’s favorite gay bashing Christian rock band.

Tom Emmer’s Wikipedia Page Wiped Clean

Here’s an example of Wikipedia at its worst and best.

First, someone using a Minnetonka based Comcast account (rather than a username or real name) decided to wipe out all of the content on Tom Emmer’s Wikipedia page:

Tom Emmer's Disappearing Wikipedia Page

Reason? “Campaign literature. Not factual.” While I agree that some of the content did read like campaign literature (in fact, a lot of it was was copy/pasted directly from Emmer’s campaign site and relies upon that site for citations), the content, for the most part, is factual.

That seems rather extreme. A better approach would be to deal with the items that are over the line. Clearly, most of the content was fine.

Now, the good news. The over the top edit was quickly reverted. How quickly? Check the time stamps on the images above and below. The page was back to its previous state within the same minute.

Tom Emmer's Disappearing Wikipedia Page

That’s one of the cool things about Wikipedia. It’s easier to fix vandalism than it is to create it, which is why pages tend to Roomba toward the truth.

Using Mturk.com for Astroturfing – Fake Grassroots Calling

It looks like a slumlord, group of slumlords, or some sort of pro-slumlord group in New York has been paying workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to make “grassroots” calls in opposition to a bill in the NY State Senate.

This is a really disgusting use of cheap labor to deceive elected officials.

Carter Cole (via John Horton) stumbled across this and wrote about it on his blog here.

In a nutshell, Mechanical Turk is a marketplace owned by Amazon where people can hire workers to perform tasks. The task, in this case, was to call a phone number, press 1 for voicemail, lie about their location (they’re supposed to claim they’re on the lower east side of Manhattan in zip 10003), then say that they oppose Senate Bill S6873.

The person purchasing this task is named Sam Allen. He labeled the task:

Help a good cause! Read a transcript to a public office voicemail.

The “good cause” they were asked to call about was not explained to workers. Instead, they were told what to say and were offered $3.00 each to say it.

Here is the bill Sam Allen is astroturfing support for:

PURPOSE : To clarify the definitions of terms used to describe the legal occupancy of class A multiple dwellings, to improve the ability of enforcement agencies to curtail the improper use of class A dwelling units as transient hotels, and to provide a pathway for the legalization of certain class A dwelling units constructed before 1929 for uses other than permanent purposes.

It looks like the “good cause” in this case is to oppose anti-slumlord legislation designed to prevent illegal hotels in NY.

This sets a very bad precedent. If armies of people can be recruited to lie about their support or opposition for pending legislation for $3.00 per phone call, you can be sure that lobbying groups will do it. That’s a very cheap source of legislative influence. What would have more influence: Spending $30,000 on TV or generating 1,000 calls to the offices of public officials?

How Wikipedia's Community Polices Vandalism

If you laid every story that’s been written about Wikipedia’s content being of questionable accuracy end to end, how many times would those stories circle the Earth?

I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that data somewhere on Wikipedia.

Rather than writing yet another article on the subject of Wikipedia’s inaccuracy – which would be tough for me, considering how valuable I find the site – why not look into how the site actually patrols itself for vandalism?

The next time someone tells you the information on Wikipedia is of questionable accuracy, just show them this:

Wikipedia Minneapolis Subscribers

What’s that? That’s a shot from Google Reader showing that over 2000 people subscribe to the edits to the Wikipedia entry on the city of Minneapolis. Just that one page! Since Google Reader’s currently running around 1/4 to 1/3 market share, there are probably 6000 people subscribing to the edits of that one page of Wikipedia.

Want to vandalize that page? Go ahead. But at least a thousand people will likely know about it within the hour and thousands within a day.

Wikipedia doesn’t rely upon a single editor who does things like sleep, go on vacation, and hangs out with friends. Instead, it taps into the time and energy of thousands of volunteers who choose to police topics that interest them.