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Someone had set up a Wikipedia page about me (dailymail.co.uk)
46 points by apsec112 102 days ago | hide | past | web | 68 comments | favorite

To give some context: Daily Mail is a right-leaning UK newspaper that sits somewhere in between a tabloid (celebrity gossip and other entertainment) and a broadsheet (news and political commentary).

It has been criticized for publishing incorrect/misleading information [1][2], and was banned as a source by Wikipedia[3].

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevorbutterworth/2012/02/21/wi...

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/16/ben-go...

[3] https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/technolog...

> Wikipedia, as it is currently run, is simply and literally out of control, and a potential menace to all kinds of institutions and individuals.

> This is an organisation that — quite scandalously — polices itself, judges itself, and legitimises itself. It is always right because it decides what is right. You are always wrong because it decides what is wrong. You can choose to bow to its authority and become a loyal subject, or be condemned as an unbeliever.

You can s/Wikipedia/The Daily Mail/g quite easily here, with no loss of informational accuracy.

> [I] heard [Wikipedia] was full of errors and shot through with personal prejudices and score-settling.

Curious you should say that!!

Also, I would have liked to see the unedited IRC (I assume IRC) logs from the conversations that happened so I could draw my own conclusions from the events that took place.

It seems to me like the Mail sniffed around some contacts, somehow got in touch with this guy, and then "an editor worked with him" (note quotes) to produce this puff piece. (Literally, it looks like they're pouting and trying to puff their chests out.)

You can read all the conversations yourself as they took place on various Wikipedia pages:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Graham_McCann/Archive_1 * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletio... * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:

I've probably missed some.

Oh, thanks!

...Wow, the conversations are almost as bad as the article itself...

Once you've seen the inner working of wikipedia you know that this daily mail piece if factually accurate, I'd even say that it only brushes the tip of the iceberg.

The wikipedia cabal has been raised as an issue since at least 2003 when the current article on meta was created: https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cabal&direction...

There's also this page documenting the issues of wikipedia pushing contributors away:


Importantly Wikipedia doesn't strive to be "true" or "accurate", rather it strives to be well-sourced and verifiable. That would understandably be a difficult concept to grasp for an outlet that simply fabricates what it wishes the truth to be.

To be fair, Wikipedia is often sourced, but not necessarily well sourced. A while back when I needed to provide a "source" for a fact I simply tweeted it and then cited the tweet.

It depends on the context. Was this a citation on the Tarsnap article? If so you just saying something publicly is a good a source as any, it doesn't matter that the publishing platform is Twitter or the New York Times.

Actually Twitter can be a much better source than an accredited newspaper, because in this case it would be coming directly from you, and you wouldn't need to worry that perhaps the source was being paraphrased, or the context wasn't what they intended.

That's not​ how Wikipedia works. You are not a reliable source about yourself, be it social media, blogs, company websites.

Policy says otherwise, and this particular one doesn't seem to be ignored.


The general bias seems to be in favour of treating sources as acceptable, unless there are reasons not to; though that may be just a matter of enforcement.

If the article is about you and you need a source to justified a personal opinion, a tweet is not that bad. It's easy to fake but hard to make doesn't make something trud, just hard to counter

Oddly enough, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Percival is a redirect to the page about Tarsnap. I guess someone decided that was more likely to be what people were looking for than the pages about Portsnap, scrypt, PiHex, or any of the other pages which discuss my work less directly...

> A while back when I needed to provide a "source" for a fact I simply tweeted it and then cited the tweet.

I have to call bullshit on that. Wikipedia's notability criteria specifically excludes blogs and social media as acceptable sources, with the sole exception of being posts made by the source himself (i.e., Linus Thorvald's comments on Linux posted on the lkml)

I have to call bullshit on that.

Regardless of what the wikipedia guidelines might say, it happened.

However, by tweeting it and referencing the tweet, you have created a breadcrumb trail for someone who wants to investigate further. Providing sources isn't just for 'factual proof', it's also for investigation - if someone is interested in a topic, they can go to referenced sources.

It's the whole point of references in academic papers: "To know more, start here".

It can only happen if somehow Wikipedia's citation process is intentionally circumvented, and if no other user ever reads the article to fix the error. If you read Wikipedia's citation guidelines, that goes against a couple of very basic rules.

This is cited as a reason why wikipedia is bleeding out contributors, though there's no mention of being sourced or verifiable here:

  If a majority at Wikipedia decided that 2 + 2 = 5, then
  that's what Wikipedia will publish. Similarly, if a 
  majority decides that "4" shall not be mentioned, then
  it will not be mentioned. On Wikipedia, fact, and truth,
  have no validity in themselves. 

There's a reason Wikipedia has banned this site as a source, and that's because their articles make The Onion look accurate and fact-checked.

There's probably a reason for the ban, but I sincerely doubt it's this one. Simply because other similarly reliable or worse sources are not banned.

More like one individual started a RFC "Should we prohibit the use of The Daily Mail as a source?"[1] where 78 expressed themselves at correct time and place and the result was 54 for the ban and 26 against the ban. So Ban it is. Had 55 people voted against the daily mail would still offer the same reliability but it wouldn't be banned.

Sort of a usual case of how wikipedia is run behind the scenes where a small minority of self-selected (white? male?) people with knowledge of the internal mechanisms of wikipedia decides in the name of all wikipedians to apply rules to the whole wikipedia and beyond (though those rules may not apply to themselves or their friends or people in the power structure)[2]. This case just got a little extra publicity because it concerned a known newspaper.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Not...

[2]: If a majority at Wikipedia decided that 2 + 2 = 5, then that's what Wikipedia will publish. Similarly, if a majority decides that "4" shall not be mentioned, then it will not be mentioned. On Wikipedia, fact, and truth, have no validity in themselves. This means that they are subject to political determination, i.e., the process of obtaining agreement. Those who believe that 2 + 2 = 4 will need to lobby for 4. Wikipedia has an exhaustive set of rules that purport to guide such discussions, but those rules are routinely ignored. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Why_is_Wikipedia_los...

-edit- interesting timeline here: - 2014: daily mail banned all its journalists from using Wikipedia as a sole source because of its unreliability. - 2015: wikipedia adds the daily mail to "should not be used when a more respected, mainstream source exists, or in place of such a source."

Some examples please! I guess you're a daily DM reader who fact-checks your own facts scrupulously before making wild statements. Separately, I am always surprised by the number of folk who evidently can't stand the DM but seem well-informed about its contents.

You can disapprove of the Daily Mail's accuracy and politics without saying things that are actually lies. That what you wrote is hyperbole is clear to me but it certainly isn't clear to everybody. The author's point about Wikipedia still taking Chinese, Russian and Persian state media as trustworthy sources should be tackled by anyone who actually wants to take part in this cesspit of a debate about a cesspit of a paper.

While on the topic of journalistic integrity have the Guardian retracted their piece on the "backdoor" in WhatsApp yet? No, and they're not going to. No matter how ideologically congenial any particular newspaper may be for any particular person journalists generally have minimal time for fact checking, will twist a story to make it more entertaining, and know very little about what they're writing about.

The Guardian article[1] isn't inaccurate. It identified a way in which WhatsApp messages could be read, and the author wouldn't know what had happened. The HN discussion of the WhatsApp response[2] shows that this is a pretty serious problem.

It's not a hole in the WhatsApp protocol - more a UI problem. That doesn't make it any less serious, and it is unclear to me what you think they need to withdraw. The third paragraph in the article itself makes it clear this is a trade-off:

Some security experts say that the vulnerability is a known and acceptable “trade-off” that makes sense for the majority of WhatsApp’s users, since it makes the app easier to use on a day to day basis. They describe the risk to most users as “remote” since the vulnerability only allows the targeting of individuals or groups of individuals at specific times, rather than widespread mass surveillance of WhatsApp users, and urge users not to switch to less secure platforms.

I think this is pretty good reporting of a complex issue in trading off ease-of-use vs security. I think it is worth noting that most think WhatsApp's mistake was to go too far to the "ease-of-use" side.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/13/whatsapp-...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13394900

> Persian state

Where is the Persian state? There hasn't been a Persian state for almost 40 years.

The fact that other news sources are untrustworthy doesn't make the Mail trustworthy.

Yes! Finally, people are starting to notice the problems with Wikipe—

> The Daily Mail


Seriously, why is it that every time someone criticises Wikipedia, it has to be in this sensationalist, tabloid-esque manner, and often for the stupidest reasons possible?

> ‘Who are you?’ he inquired testily. ‘Graham McCann,’ I replied. ‘I very much doubt you are who you say you are,’ he declared.

But of course they would doubt it. Anyone can go on the Internet and claim they are Graham McCann without providing any proof. They know just as much about his identity as he knows about theirs. This is a striking lack of self-awareness on his part. Or Internet literacy.

Not that I think this is much of an excuse for them; it's still wrong that Wikipedia doesn't provide any avenue for subject of articles to provide feedback/corrections in a more reliable manner. The only way to get them to correct anything is to go to a tabloid journalist and provide them fodder for a 'Wikipedia is stupid and mean!!!11' article.

Anyone can go on the Internet and claim they are Graham McCann without providing any proof

I read through a lot of the conversation between Mr McCann and one of the Wiki editors. I have a lot of empathy for the former. It is the case that the editor doubted the identity of the man he was conversing with, but Wikipedia should have simple, clear protocols for people to prove their identity for such cases. It's not Mr McCann's fault that they don't. Instead the editor sneered, and was generally rude and unpleasant to him.

If I phoned up my bank to discuss my account and couldn't prove I was who I said I was, I would nevertheless expect courtesy, politeness, and professionalism. Wiki is a non profit, and the editors are not professionals, but it is one of the most visited websites on the internet.

I actually suspect that the basic premise of a universal encyclopaedia staffed by volunteers and run on a non profit basis may be fundamentally flawed.

I've never worked in a call centre, but from what I heard about that job, it can be some very emotionally draining work where you have to deal with all sorts of inane and entitled people, and you can easily lose your temper and/or faith in humanity. (Teachers have it worse: they also have to deal with their children.) And Wikipedia can be even worse, with all its perverse incentives and selective enforcement. I'm not surprised that Wikipedians don't bother with politeness. Especially in situations like this, where trolls abound.

> I actually suspect that the basic premise of a universal encyclopaedia staffed by volunteers and run on a non profit basis may be fundamentally flawed.

I agree, but I doubt a change is going to happen. It's just too convenient an arrangement for the WMF and Jimbo Wales: they sit on loads of money they get for basically little more than keeping the servers powered, and he can just present himself as a Philantropist™ by going to conferences and cashing speaking fees, without taking any actual responsibility for the project he ostensibly runs.

> Finally, people are starting to notice the problems with Wiki

People have been bitching about Wikipedia for over a decade now. Always they keep predicting its doom.

I think that's the problem — they are 'bitching' and are therefore dismissed as 'haters'. For the rest of the populace, Wikipedia is 'good enough' to casually link to.

And those complainers often have no appreciation for the circumstances which made it what it is. Many complaints are of the form 'there is an cabal of admins who engage in a conspiracy against me!', or 'how dare they want to delete MY article about my garage band that would otherwise gather dust for the next 20 years!'; and even more substantive criticisms are often coated in sensationalist language, which hurts their credibility, as in this article. No wonder they are not listened to. A dispassionate analysis of the flaws of Wikipedia would be helpful, but so far I haven't seen a single one.

> Many complaints are of the form 'there is an cabal of admins who engage in a conspiracy against me!'

Well, it turned out to be true that wikipedia admins had a place to discuss contributors and coordinate actions against them. It made quite a ruckus at the time.

A compendium of wikipedia criticism has been posted here: http://wikipediocracy.com/2015/08/16/a-compendium-of-wikiped...

That won't do. This is just a list of evidence-free assertions. I'm generally unimpressed with Wikipediocracy: they engage in exactly the kind of sensationalism that I'm so tired of.

> An investigation by this paper has revealed how Wikipedia banned the Daily Mail as a source after just 53 out of its 30 million editors voted to do so. Their spurious argument was that the Mail could not be trusted to be accurate. But — as the internet’s inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee says online ‘fake news’ must be tackled — what about the accuracy of information on Wikipedia? Here, two writers describe their Kafkaesque experiences when they found their entries were littered with mistakes . . .

From reading the first paragraph all I can think of is "am I going to learn anything from reading this article, because it looks like a basic retaliation tantrum."

Just by skimming:

>"Kafkaesque experiences," "tantamount to making a Faustian pact with Fame," " obscure ancillary page called ‘revision history statistics,'" "being plunged into a disturbing world similar to the one conjured up by Kafka in his novels about the oppression of the human spirit by sinister, powerful forces."

Emotional hyperbole, conceit, and superfluity. This reads like an opinion piece, and if it's any bit a representation of the larger DailyMail publication, I can understand why it was banned from being a source.

"Wait it's not an Opinion piece? But it has a huge picture of the author on the front?"

I had to go back and check again after my initial skim and yep, they seems to calling this "investigative journalism." British journalism is weird.

It's not British journalism per se; the Daily Mail is famous for this kind of thing. Check out the [Daily Mail Oncology Ontology](http://kill-or-cure.herokuapp.com).

Wait, I'm already in the first paragraph and I had to bail out. How on earth did they arrive at a figure of "30 million editors"? The number of active English Wikipedia editors is more in the ballpark of 30K according to http://reportcard.wmflabs.org/graphs/active_editors. The Daily Mail is only confirming why they were discouraged from being used as a source. Some really basic fact checking should have raised suspicion at such a ridiculous number.

This comes from wikipedia page about wikipedians:

  Number of editors:

  The English Wikipedia currently has 30,486,002 users who have registered a username(...)

Ah I see. Still disingenuous to call them editors since the page I linked to actually counts anyone who has made a minimum of 5 edits recently. Those non-editors with accounts wouldn't participate in the discussion anyway and are probably inactive accounts.

If you have read the Daily Fail more than once (which i would not inflict on you without fair warning) you will not be surprised by such things

They probably went by the number of registered accounts (which I didn't check). Not that it isn't terribly misleading anyway.

> registered accounts

This is what they did: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedians

N.B "The English Wikipedia currently has 30,486,002[2] users who have registered a username. Only a minority of users contribute regularly (141,468[3] have edited in the last 30 days), and only a minority of those contributors participate in community discussions. An unknown but relatively large number of unregistered Wikipedians also contribute to the site."

Arranging the deletion of a Wikipedia page isn't that difficult. A Wikipedia biography about me was vandalized so often and so annoyingly that I voted for its removal, and two more votes did the trick.

It turns out that this is a relativaly common occurrence. People who take controversial positions are often the subject of this kind of harassment and adopt the same strategy I did -- example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia#False...

Looking at the conversation on McCann's Wiki article, he was told very clearly that the article could not be deleted because he was 'notable', and that he needed to accept that.

Wikipedia's editors objected on the same grounds and refused to allow me to delete my article on my own. For that, I needed to collect some votes. The details are here: http://arachnoid.com/programmable_calculators/#Digression

> Ringleader of this fierce and foul-mouthed circus — one of them called me ‘a k * * b’ —

I'm American. What does k * * b refer to?


My proudest moment on HN

The daily mail is one of the most prudesh pseudo-newspapers published in europe . This is despite its continual bikini picture body-shaming content and lack of regard for accurate reporting . This kind of word censorship is straight out of the 1950s just in case some old phone e-reader is offended by the mildest slang term for a penis.

Knob, I guess!

On the one hand, this is hardly the first time I've seen someone complain about the arcane ways Wikipedia sometimes seems to be policed by an army of smart teenagers on a power trip. Many years ago, there were some stories about highly qualified academics writing articles, only to see them ruined by well-established wikipedians. And for an outsider it can be hard to figure out how to correct this.

At the same time, there does need to be some degree of policing, or anyone could make any article say anything at all. Of course it's frustrating for a qualified author or academic to not immediately be recognized as such, but to Wikipedia, it's hard to tell the difference between a qualified author and a clever con man. All they can really check is the sources.

So it's a complex issue.

And considering their ban, it's not surprising that the Daily Mail likes to discredit Wikipedia as much as possible. In this case, they do kinda have a point (although from the discussion pages, it seems these people were far more arrogant than the Wikipedians they accuse), but the writing of the article takes it ridiculously over the top in a painfully transparent way.

For example: "‘Axl’ then informed me it was most unlikely that what he called ‘The Community’ of Wikipedia would permit my entry to be deleted. ‘The Community’ sounded like something from George Orwell’s 1984 novel and the faceless men in Big Brother’s Ministry of Truth."

Does the author really think his readers won't know what a community is in this context?

Reminds me of a DJ I knew.

He thought he was well know and deserved a wikipedia page. So he created one by himself.

First it got deleted a few times, because of out famous german wikipedia "lösch Nazis" who dont consider anything relevant.

Then, after long discussion they said okay, seems like a few thousand people know this guy, let him have his page, but... We say what's the truth!!

In the end they wrote he mad trance music with hiphop lyrics. Which was technically correct, but he hated both music genres and considered himself more of a Gothic an Aggrotec DJ. Also he had no fans in the mentioned genres.

So he wanted that Article deleted, which took another few months. Don't know how he managed it.

It's too bad this article is criticised because of the place where it's published (typical logical fallacy), because Wikipedia accuracy has been going down the drain for a while. And I say that as an (inactive) Wikipedia admin.

When a source builds a reputation for being untrustworthy, it's unreasonable to demand that each of its articles be considered as a separable item from the rest.

Indeed, cooper12 below points out a ridiculously gross error in the first sentence of the article. Not to mention that even if it were the right number, the idea itself is false: that a quorum of all active editors is needed to mark a source as poor quality.

Well this 'gross error' is actually a citation from wikipedia itself. And the daily mail has been among those marked as unreliable sources since 2015, so this fails short of explaining this very targeted ban.

  In general, any tabloid newspaper, such as The Sun, Daily
  Mirror, Daily Mail, equivalent television show, or a site 
  like The Register, should not be used when a more 
  respected, mainstream source exists, or in place of such a 

The main objection Mr. McAnn seems to have to Wikipedia is that most people on it don't go by their real name, but rather use pseudonyms. The implied criticism is that if people had to go by their real legal name, they wouldn't resort to writing untrue things on Wikipedia. Of course, as we've seen with both YouTube and Facebook's real-name-only strategies, it doesn't work. Forcing real names doesn't make mean people on the internet less mean. All it does is make it easier for those mean people to bully their targets.

It would be nice if Wikipedia let you vote on citations kind of like reddit. That way there is an easy consensus on what the top citations are and what the most dubious ones are. There can also be software/bots written to react to low vote citations in certain manners. It would change a lot. The only other wiki site I know that lets you do this is Everipedia and Infogalactic, but they have nowhere near the amount of traffic as Wikipedia.

>It would be nice if Wikipedia let you vote on citations kind of like reddit.

I have to disagree. Facts don't depend on popularity nor are they subjected to a democratic vote. Either something is true or it isn't. Once you subject the presentation of corroborated facts to votes, you are establishing a system to manipulate what facts are presented based on how many votes you can mobilise (or fabricate) then your only accomplishment is the establishment of a system to censor away inconvenient facts that is rigged in favour of those who are able to pay the right PR company to shut down inconvenient facts.

"Once you subject the presentation of corroborated facts to votes, you are establishing a system to manipulate"

You appear to be unaware that Wikipedia's Articles For Deletion process is essentially based on a voting system. What you say about the nature of voting and censoring is basically at the heart of the criticisms of Wikipedia's editorial process.

> You appear to be unaware that Wikipedia's Articles For Deletion process is essentially based on a voting system.

Your comment is disingenuous at best. The voting process only applies to articles which were nominated for deletion and fail to meet Wikipedia's guidelines for notoriety. That means that you can only vote in favour of deleting any article if it already fails to meet the requirements for hosting the article to begin with.

In case you didn't understood the process, voting only applies either to false positives or false negatives. The process is set to make it possible to delete only articles which fail to be shown to be relevant. For example, you can't even nominate well established articles such as the article on Jesus Christ by any means, including nominating it to the AfD

Do read up on the process instead of making up stuff about it.


"The voting process only applies to articles which were nominated for deletion and fail to meet Wikipedia's guidelines for notoriety."

Citation please.

Look, I'll ignore your remark about disingenuousness because you're clearly confused. As per https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_process

"Normally, a deletion discussion must be held to form a consensus to delete a page."

The convention in such discussions is essentially a vote. Yes, it's a discussion vote, but that's the process of Consensus: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Consensus

You wish facts were so simple.

Is the new calendar reform idea wonderful or terrible?

Will the new oil pipe under a lake hurt the environment?

Is the universe expanding or are we misunderstand the data and invoking dark energy?

"Facts" you can't argue with are very very rare. They are typically observation without conclusion or understanding.

But because they lack those they are rarely very useful.

>Will the new oil pipe under a lake hurt the environment? >Is the new calendar reform idea wonderful or terrible?

Wikipedia is not supposed to give you the true truth on everything a "fact" would be "oil pipes in the past had frequent leak that damaged the environment", "This oil pipe was described as vital by various industries^[1]" or "scientific research raised many environmental concern over this oil pipe"

In a sourced encyclopedia "facts" means something you can refer to and (at your choice) distrust

(sorry if rude, not so well versed in english)

> It would be nice if Wikipedia let you vote on citations kind of like reddit. That way there is an easy consensus on what the top citations are and what the most dubious ones are.

That doesn't work at Reddit, and it wouldn't work at Wikipedia for the same reason -- people who vote about the topic, not the quality of its presentation. This is probably why such a system hasn't been put in place.

Site is banned in Thailand. Just shows up with government warning.

For the curious, this is what it looks like when you try to access dailymail.co.uk from Thailand: http://i.imgur.com/Ah1fwPF.png


  This site contains inappropriate content and information.
  Suspended by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society

I have no knowledge of this situation, but guessing blindly I'm gonna assume that this is because Wikipedia has content that could be interpreted as mildly critical of the King of Thailand?

daily mail is banned in .th, not wiki.


Daily Mail hit-piece.

Retaliation for wikipedia justifiably preventing the mail being used as a cite.

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