I abandoned Wikipedia in 2011, having concluded that the quest for WP neutrality was hopeless, and focused all my wiki attention on Wikiversity, where neutrality was routinely attainable. I was an administrator on Wikiversity during several periods and was very active developing resources and protecting the site. This, however, attracts opposition, and by 2016, I had decided that Wikiversity, though routinely peaceful, was also unsafe, not a place to develop studies and content, so almost all activity ceased. However, in September, 2017, I received an email from a user I had helped develop a study on Wikiversity, that his study had been deleted and he was blocked.
When I looked, it appeared that he had done some disruptive sock puppetry on Wikipedia, and that, as a response, the deletion of his resource and a block of him was requested, and that, in spite of that being quite irregular and contrary to traditions, was granted.
I reprimanded him for being disruptive on Wikipedia, but he said that of the disruptive accounts claimed, most were not his. So I looked and it was plausible. The complainant on Wikipedia was a single-purpose-account (SPA) with no other history, and likewise the original complainant on Wikiversity. So I went to the coordinating wiki for all WikiMedia Foundation projects (Meta) and requested that stewards look at the private information that is available for all WMF wiki activity.
The user had been impersonated. I was interested in how an SPA could create so much disruption and nobody looked at the SPA, but only at the target! So I started to document this, and immediately massive attack began. Because this was causing local problems, Wikiversity not having many active administrators, I moved the study to Meta. Attack continued, but then I was threatened that all my work would be deleted if I did not stop.
(From later research, I concluded that the impersonator and the one threatening me was Darryl L. Smith).
All was quiet for some time, then an article written about me appeared on RationalWiki. Then a request to delete the largest piece of work I had done on Wikiversity was filed. Then a bureaucrat who had been inactive blocked me, claiming I had been massively disruptive.
WMF Global ban
And then, before this could be appealed, the WikiMedia Foundation globally banned me. This was immediately noted on RationalWiki, and a user, later identified as Oliver D. Smith, published the email he had received from the WMF, informing him they had acted on his report.
The WMF did not respond to my emails. “Office Bans” are officially not appealable. I sent a certified mail to the Registered Agent for the WMF. There was no response.
Having no other recourse, eventually I filed an action for defamation in U.S. Federal Court against the WMF and nine “John Does,” hoping that the WMF might actually investigate, based on information that they likely did not have when they made their decision.
I hoped that the action might easily be settled. However, at this point, the WMF has filed a Motion to Dismiss, based on arguments I expected. I will be amending my Complaint to reflect a clearer exposition of what happened, with regard to the factual basis for a libel claim. To ensure that this case is argued clearly from the strongest positions, I am seeking support, so that I may obtain legal counsel as well as public advice and funding for expenses.
I will do what I can do without that support, but the WMF has retained Jones Day, the largest legal firm in the United States, to represent them. (The WMF has very ample resources!) I’m living on Social Security. I do receive, through a nonprofit, necessary expenses for the journalism and related research I do. But that nonprofit is not for this purpose. I paid the $400 filing fee out of pocket, being willing to spend that in order to take a stand.
(The ultimate issue with Wikiversity was academic freedom, and the Smith brothers have long attacked this in many ways and with many people.)
I will amend my Complaint to add names of those reasonably suspected of having defamed me in the private complaints, and I hope to consult counsel before amending. I have until June 10 unless the judge grants additional time.
- Darryl L. Smith, probably the original impersonator and the creator of the RationalWiki article.
- Oliver D. Smith, his brother, who collaborated with the retaliation and was a complainant.
- Joshua P. Schroeder, who falsely claimed I had harassed him by email and who wrote he would complain.
- Guy Chapman, a Wikipedia administrator who likely collaborated in this, who had a long-term grudge because I had created an Arbitration Committee case in which he had been reprimanded.
- Michael Umbricht, the Wikiversity administrator who blocked and probably complained.
(Names may be dropped or added based on Discovery, if the case proceeds.)
The case as a whole may continue against additional defendants, even if the WMF is dropped as a defendant. However, the legal principle here, as to the WMF, is whether or not they can be held responsible for harm done to another as a result of their negligence and publication of a ban, which is rare, only 30 in the history of the WMF, and such bans are explicitly for serious hazard to users. That they might block access to an account without notice is their right — and possibly a necessity, but publication is a separate and unnecessary step. So when the Smiths claimed I had harassed users, they could point to the ban as proof, making the claim far stronger thus the published ban served to support defamation.