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User:Abd/Lomax v. WikiMedia Foundation/Amended Complaint
THIS IS A WORKING DOCUMENT, INCOMPLETE AND MAY CONTAIN SERIOUS ERRORS.
- Comment may be made anonymously on the attached Discussion page (and this document is open to editing, but, of course, Dennis G. Lomax (User:Abd here) is responsible for accepting or rejecting changes. On the request of anyone named here, establishing identity in the request, that name may be redacted pending actual filing in court -- or otherwise as agreed.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
CIVIL CASE NUMBER Case No. 3:19-cv-30025-KAR
DENNIS G. LOMAX Plaintiff, pro se
WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION, INC.
DARRYL L. SMITH
OLIVER D. SMITH
JOSHUA P. SCHROEDER
"VITUZZU," real name unknown
AMENDED CIVIL COMPLAINT
Plaintiff Dennis G. Lomax, pro se, hereby amends his Complaint to claim defamation per se through libel against Defendants Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, its former employee James Alexander, and other individuals, Darryl L. Smith, Oliver D. Smith, Guy Chapman, Joshua P. Schroeder, Michael Umbrecht ("Umbrecht"), real name unknown, Vituzzu, real name unknown, and John Doe, names to be added by amendment if discovered.
The original defamation occurred in published and private false and defamatory statements written maliciously by the individual defendants. These were published on WikiMedia Foundation servers and elsewhere.
The defamation continued in private but coordinated malicious complaint to the WMF, actioned as a ban, negligently and with malice, by James Alexander, and published negligently and with malice, on WMF servers, both on behalf of the WikiMedia Foundation.
These libels and publications damaged plaintiff's personal and business reputation, causing possible loss of support for his activities as a journalist, and caused emotional distress and harm to plaintiff and plaintiff's family.
- Dennis G. Lomax, plaintiff ("Abd"), also known as Abd ul-Rahman Lomax, was user Abd on WMF wikis, Northampton, Massachusetts, a journalist covering cold fusion, which is emerging science.
- WikiMedia Foundation, Inc. ("WMF"), a Florida corporation, domiciled in California.
- Darryl L. Smith ("DLS"), Radlett, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, many account names on WMF wikis, RationalWiki and elsewhere.
- Oliver D. Smith ("ODS"), twin brother of Darryl Smith, Raddlet, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, many account names on WMF wikis, RationalWiki and elsewhere.
- Michael Umbrecht, ("Umbrecht") Wikiversity administrator, WMF user Mu301, employed at Ladd Observatory, Providence, Rhode Island.
- Joshua P. Schroeder, ("Schroeder") a.k.a. Joshua Tan, WMF user ජපස, employed at Laguardia Community College, Long Island City, New York, and American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York.
- Guy Chapman, ("Chapman") Wikipedia administrator, WMF user JzG, Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom.
- "Max", WMF IP editor 13:53, 21 December 2017. Location probably in or near Reading, United Kingdom. WikipediaSucks.co user "Max" admitted being a complainant.
- Vituzzu (WMF account name), WikiMedia steward, likely resident in Italy.
- James Alexander ("Alexander"), Manager, Trust and Safety, WMF, when Abd was banned, now employed by Twitter Corporation, San Francisco, CA
- John Doe, WMF users and employees, number, identities and locations not known.
The WikiMedia Foundation (WMF) operates a large family of web sites ("wikis") allowing users to collaborate in the creation of content.
The best-known site is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia, but another is very different, Wikiversity, for the creation of educational resources, and "learning by doing." Wikiversity may include content that would not belong at all in an encyclopedia, including student papers, essays, original research, analysis, and other materials useful for learning or in the learning process.
Originally, individual wikis were independent, and the Foundation did not make decisions on content or judgments regarding individual users, but in 2015 full central control of all accounts was established.
Specific definitions about account suspension:
- Block. A prohibition of editing on a specific wiki, usually issued ad hoc by an administrator on that wiki. Most wikis have their own administrators.
- Ban. A discussed and agreed community decision to prohibit a user from editing, as distinct from an administrative block. Generally a ban prohibits administrators from unblocking the user.
- Global community ban. A broadly discussed decision by the global community to ban a user from all WMF wikis.
- Global lock. Generally decided and implemented by a highly privileged steward, which suspends an account globally. A locked user is not "banned," as such, but locks are also used to implement global bans. The global lock tool disables log-in, and also blocks incoming email, so others cannot contact the user through the wiki. This does not remove the account and does not otherwise affect prior contributions from that account.
- Office ban. A global ban determined by the WikiMedia Foundation, as described below.
There is an alternate method of suspending an account, by changing the password, which can be easily done by any system administrator. This would create no public record.
There are over 80 million registered WMF users. About 50,000 accounts per year are locked, mostly by highly privileged volunteer users ("stewards"). No list is maintained of these users though the logs are public and individual account status is accessible to anyone. Generally, with these locks, a reason is visible or given; and for active users -- other than spammers -- there is some level of discussion, and these locks may be appealed.
Originally, all content and user behavior and status issues were handled by the user community, with the Foundation taking no role. However, in 2012, the WMF Office-banned one user, the next year none, and in 2014 two were banned. In 2015, a Global Ban Policy was established, and bans increased in number. This policy describes bans:
- A Foundation global ban is an action the Foundation may take . . . in order to address multi-project misconduct, to help ensure the safety of the editing and reading communities of all Wikimedia sites, the public, or to assist in preventing prohibited disruptive behavior that interferes with contributions and dialogue. A global ban is . . . an extraordinary action that only supplements, without replacing, the community global ban process.
- . . . there may be some rare cases where the Wikimedia Foundation must override local policy to protect the safety of the Wikimedia communities or the public or preserve the sites, especially when the Foundation has access to information that cannot be shared with local policy enforcers.
- Foundation global bans are considered a last resort and are generally implemented upon receipt of complaint, investigation, extensive review and explicit approval by several Foundation staff members.
- They are considered an appropriate course of action when any of the following situations apply:
- . . . activity that may lead to a Foundation global ban includes, but is not limited to:
- engaging in significant or repeated harassment of users on multiple projects;
- engaging in significant or repeated harassment off of the Wikimedia sites so as to threaten (emotionally or physically) users;
- endangering, significantly compromising or otherwise threatening the trust or safety of our users or employees;
- threatening or compromising the security of Wikimedia infrastructure.
The page then lists all banned users, 36 total to date. Plaintiff (WMF user "Abd)" is listed as banned February 24, 2018, and was the 27th user listed.
The ban is also announced in other places, prominently, with displays of information about the user.
The Foundation sends an email to those who complained informing them that they had acted.
On information and belief, with direct evidentiary support, or with cause for suspicion and a belief that claims here will likely have such support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery:
- Abd registered as a Wikipedia user in 2005, and, by 2009, became known as a critic of administrative abuse and, later, of the star chamber global ban process (private, without notice to the banned individual, and explicitly prohibiting appeal).
- Over a period of years, certain WMF administrators and allied factions, on WMF wikis, maliciously and with false claims, retaliated against plaintiff Abd for his support of neutrality and fair administration. Notably this included Chapman, who was reprimanded for his improper administrative actions through process begun by Abd, and who expressed his resentment many times.
- Because of increasing harassment, Abd had abandoned most work on all WMF projects, coming to consider them unsafe, moving his activities elsewhere, including supporting real-world scientific research in low energy nuclear reactions ("LENR" or "cold fusion"), an emerging science, covered on Wikipedia with a dominant "debunking" point of view, maintained by a so-called "skeptical" faction, including Chapman, Schroeder, and on other topics, also DLS and later Umbrecht.
- That faction, in its editing, suppresses positive scientific, academic reviews and information from other reliable sources, and emphasizes older and obsolete reviews and sources confirming the beliefs of the faction, creating unbalanced and misleading articles, in a project intended to be neutral and often believed by the public to be such.
In general, this faction falsely attacks fringe or emerging science as "pseudoscientific" and maliciously identifies researchers employing the scientific method in controversial areas as "pseudoscientists."
- For a time, Abd collected information for the study of cold fusion, on Wikiversity. Wikiversity was neutral-by-inclusion, (allowing deep study of sources and original research and the expression of opinion), unlike an encyclopedia, which presents only a "sum," This approach was strongly opposed by some so-called "skeptics," who, in general, attacked whatever was not "mainstream." However, there had been no disruption on Wikiversity over cold fusion, no content conflict, contrary to what was later claimed. Skeptical participation was welcome and useful.
- At the request of a group of scientists, Abd started a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, designing it to be neutral, which attracted participation from at least two professional scientists, including one Nobel laureate. Parapsychology is generally considered "fringe," and is even often called a "pseudoscience," though it is explicitly the scientific study of not-understood phenomena and not "belief" in them. This resource, again, was not disruptive in itself, but did suffer from attack on several occasions by accounts, anonymous and with no other edits, now believed to be defendant DLS. It was rigorously neutral, confirmed administratively, and those accounts did not persist.
- In September, 2017, Abd discovered impersonation on Wikipedia. Disruptive accounts had been created on Wikipedia, pretending to be a user active on a Parapsychology page on Wikversity. On Wikipedia, without any evidence other than the pretense of the accounts, administrators believed that this was him, and then another anonymous account complainted on Wikiversity, an administrator from Wikipedia joined that, the user's collection and annotation of parapsychology sources on Wikiversity, several years of work, was deleted, and the user was blocked.
- From requests by Abd, involved accounts were globally locked, the resource was undeleted, and the user unblocked, and Abd began to document how such impersonations and single-purpose accounts could cause such damage.
- Many new accounts appeared to attack this study and the plaintiff. Again, these accounts were globally locked.
- Abd moved his study from Wikiversity to the global coordinating wiki, "Meta", because Meta could more efficiently handle disruption. This was all done in full view and attention (and support) from Meta administration and stewards. Again, many accounts were globally locked.
- September 30, 2017, Abd was threatened by defendant DLS that "I will do my best behind the scenes via email to get admins to delete all your material."  The account used was locked as using the same access as the other disruptive accounts.
- October 5, 2017. a defamatory article about Abd appeared, on RationalWiki (not affiliated with the WMF), written with malice by DLS. RationalWiki enjoys high Google rank, so the defamation appears prominently to anyone looking for information about plaintiff, both under his legal name (Dennis G. Lomax) and the name by which he is most widely known (Abd or Abd ul-Rahman Lomax).
- Eventually, Abd moved all study to his blog, where disruption would not cause collateral damage. That study was open to comment and correction. No specific errors or offensive reports were noted, unless promptly corrected.
- Defendants DLS, Chapman, and Schroeder were commonly associated on Wikipedia with the "skeptical faction." DLS was banned on Wikipedia and routinely blocked whenever discovered, under the name of "Anglo Pyramidologist," which, as a specific account, was actually his twin brother ODS, also banned. Chapman had been reprimanded for his actions regarding cold fusion, in a process begun by Abd, (neutral on the topic and not involved with cold fusion at that time). Schroeder had been, at times, banned from Wikipedia for his aggressive and offensive editing with regard to fringe topics.
- New anonymous disruption then appeared on Wikiversity. Provided the opportunity by DLS, and pursuing revenge, Chapman, concealing his identity, created a Request for Deletion ("RFD") for the Cold fusion resource on Wikiversity, making false and malicious claims about it and Abd. Chapman also solicited others through private email, to join and add, again, false, malicious, and defamatory claims, as well as to complain to the WMF. Those commenting in the RFD included Max, Schroeder, Chapman (as himself in addition to the anonymous opening), DLS, ODS, and Vituzzu.
- Vituzzu made false, defamatory and malicious claims in his comments.
- Schroeder, in his RFD comment, claimed he had been harassed by Abd through email, and was complaining to the WMF. There had been no such harassment.
- Umbrecht, violating long-standing traditions and deletion policy, cut short the RFD discussion, deleting the resource as "fringe science," study of which had always been allowed on Wikiversity. The resource had existed since 2006 (well before Abd), with no disruption, no edit warring or controversy, and useful study accomplished.
- Umbrecht complained on the meta wiki about allegedly "excessive, frivolous, and nuisance abuse" checkuser requests by Abd, clearly looking for an excuse to block him. (There had been no prior disputes with Umbrecht, and his abrupt appearance was mysterious at the time. Abd now believes that his involvement was solicited by the "skeptical faction," especially Chapman -- and DLS. Umbrecht acknowledged private complaints).
- 31 December, 2017, 18:20, Umbrecht blocked Abd on an excuse that was not a blockable offense, completely unexpected.
- 31 December 2017, 21:02, Umbrecht extended the block to indefinite, with malicious and defamatory claims, violating block policy.
- Umbrecht falsely and maliciously claimed that Abd had been abusing Wikiversity to pursue a private "vendetta."
- Another administrator who had declared his intention to unblock, seeking objections, was threatened with retaliation if he unblocked.
- Umbrecht's blocks were quickly used as evidence supporting the defamatory claims of the RationalWiki article,18:5721:29 and cited widely across the internet.
- Vituzzu falsely and maliciously claimed Abd had requested that stewards "violate a basket of policies and laws basing upon illegally collected, untrustworthy and useless data." Abd had not requested that.
- Abd continued to research the behavior of the Smith brothers, which had caused similar harm to others.
- Six users have been reported to have filed complaints with the WMF: DLS, ODS, Chapman, Schroeder, Umbrecht, and "Max." Vituzzu may have supported the complaints.
- The direct involvement of JzG, a Wikipedia administrator, Umbrecht (a Wikiversity bureaucrat, more highly privileged than administrator), and Vituzzu, a steward, likely led credence and cover to the claims, but those claims were easily recognized as false, if the WMF had properly investigated.
- February 24, Alexander, for the WMF, banned Abd, and published the ban with malice and without necessity.
- This fact (with its defamatory implications made explicit) was then used by DLS and ODS to strengthen their claims with "proof" from the WMF, widely considered reliable and responsible.
- The fact of the ban and the content of the RationalWiki article have been used extensively to defame plaintiff. One of his daughters received a message reproduced here: http://coldfusioncommunity.net/libel. The WMF global ban was used to strengthen defamation, as was intended.
COUNT 1: DEFAMATION -- All Defendants
- The allegations in paragraphs 1-32 are incorporated by reference.
- defendants published written and highly visible statements concerning the plaintiff.
- These statements were defamatory, malicious, and false or misleading.
- At the very least, these statements were negligent and/or malicious.
- They caused plaintiff to be ridiculed, hated, or held in contempt and were used widely, and generally anonymously, to discredit any content contributed by plaintiff.
- They caused harm to plaintiff's investment in educational resources on Wikiversity.
- They caused harm to his reputation for honesty and reliability, crucial to his profession as a writer and journalist.
- They caused social harm and distress in his relationships with friends and family.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against all defendants for loss of reputation and credibility, loss of income and value, and any further relief that this court may deem just and proper.
COUNT 2: DEFAMATION -- Wiki Media Foundation
- The allegations in paragraphs 1-39 are incorporated by reference.
- There is no necessity, for the protection of the community, absent specific cause which did not exist with plaintiff, to publish the fact of a global ban. There are alternate, simple means of banning a user which would create no defamation of the user.
- A competent investigation in this case would have revealed that claims in the complaints were malicious libel, misleading at best, not even close to warranting the extreme measure of a global ban.
- The lack of notice and rejection of any possibility of appeal is an unconscionable policy, making the process highly vulnerable to malicious complaints, and especially coordinated complaints from persons with a common malicious agenda (who might be assumed to be independent).
- That such a deficient policy has been allowed to continue,in spite of the obvious problem, is evidence that the Foundation is hostile in general to criticism, and will retaliate against it, intending to cause harm so as to discourage criticism.
- In the alternative, the Foundation intended to support "valuable users," thus collaborating with a malicious agenda on the part of those users and becoming negligently responsible.
- By not stating a cause, while making statements that bans are very unusual, issued only for major abuse and repeated harassment of users and the like, and through the general reputation of the Foundation for being a responsible nonprofit organization, the Foundation has defamed all office-banned users.
- The TOU allows the WMF to ban without cause, but it does not allow publication of the fact.
WHEREFORE, distinct from damages for defamation, plaintiff prays that the court order the WMF to remove from public visibility all office bans (which is technically easy), absent user consent for that publication, and that the WMF establish a ban appeal process adequate to protect falsely accused users by allowing a neutral review.
COUNT 3: VIOLATION OF IMPLICIT CONTRACT -- WMF
- The allegations in paragraphs 1-47 are incorporated by reference.
- The WMF claims that its major project, Wikipedia, is the "encyclopedia that anyone can edit." The policies and guidelines developed and published imply that only necessity will restrict editing, but interpretation of this was turned over to the community, immunizing the WMF from claims of defamation in the process. However, by creating an unappealable global ban process, the WMF, a responsible actor, made itself liable for this count: a violation of due process and a reasonable expectation of fair treatment.
- Users, especially on Wikiversity, may contribute literally years of work, thousands of hours of labor, with great value, expecting that, unless they violate policies (and especially if they do not persist after being warned), the work will stand and either be unmolested or improved, but nevertheless available, at worst, in page history. Thus the work is not lost. Deleted material may be recovered by any administrator, and there are administrators who will provide copies. However, doing this for a globally banned user could be considered a violation of the TOU, and for a globally banned user to contact an administrator through the WMF interface is a TOU violation.
- That the WMF would institute a global ban process to handle serious hazards was reasonable. Evidence of, say, sexual solicitation of minors could not be publicly discussed. However, this then became a barn door through which could be driven bans motivated by abusive considerations, and from the list of banned users, it is obvious that criticism of the WMF became one of these considerations. One user was globally banned who had no account at all, a journalist who was investigating Wikipedia, banned under his real name and location.
- The WMF, while the terms of service do properly allow it to terminate service without cause, has created a process that is harmful, defamatory without necessity, and does not allow a banned user any appeal. Emails and certified mail to the registered agent are ignored, leaving a banned user no recourse but filing an action.
- Users have always been subject to ban by community decision on individual wikis, and these are routine and appealable. A community ban process existed, requiring community-discussed and decided bans on a minimum of two wikis, with the original intention being application to more than that. Abd was banned only on one wiki, Wikipedia (in 2011), and had caused no disruption over that.
- There was no Abd activity that was prevented by the ban except for requesting checkuser review of suspected socks, which had not been, by any means, abusive, and which had shown, in fact, actual TOU violations and genuine harassment.
WHEREFORE, distinct from removal of publication and damages for defamation, plaintiff prays that the court order the WMF to unlock plaintiff's account, allowing, for example, the Wikiversity community to lift the block there (which was also used for defamation), and for the global community to decide on a global ban in the future, if it so chooses, again, absent emergency.
DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Plaintiff demands trial by jury of all issues so triable as a matter of right.
CERTIFICATION AND CLOSING
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, by signing below, I certify to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief that this complaint: (1) is not being presented for an improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation; (2) is supported by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law; (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and (4) the complaint otherwise complies with the requirements of Rule 11.
I agree to provide the Clerk's Office with any changes to my address where case-related papers may be served. I understand that my failure to keep a current address on file with the Clerk's Office may result in the dismissal of my case.
/s/ Dennis G. Lomax
Dennis G. Lomax, pro se
CERTIFICATION OF SERVICE
Notes may be present in the submitted Amended Complaint, or not. It should be enough that a specific claim is made. allege conspiracy to defame defendant as a supporter of pseudoscience and to warp the academic neutrality of Wikipedia and Wikiversity.
- https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=WMF_Global_Ban_Policy/List&diff=prev&oldid=17694279 user page publication of ban.