The Wikipedia Post covers the past five years of the dispute about GamerGate on Wikipedia. It begins with the first fights over the article on indie game developer Zoe Quinn, a central figure in the corruption scandal that sparked the controversy, and continues through fights over the GamerGate article itself. The early stages of the dispute culminated in a case brought by this author before the site’s Arbitration Committee, often likened to a Supreme Court, which was the subject of considerable media controversy. A false narrative regarding that case became established in the media. The Wikipedia Post serves to rebut that narrative as well as show how the narrative pushed the “encyclopedia anyone can edit” to become more closed off and censorious.
T. D. Adler is an alias used by former Wikipedia editor “The Devil’s Advocate” who edited Wikipedia for over eight years helping two articles to “good article” status and getting eight articles to appear on the front page of the online encyclopedia. He was banned from the site after blowing the whistle on an administrator violating conflict of interest policies in a controversial case that prompted widespread community outcry.
Prior to being banned, Adler was involved in disputes over the GamerGate article on the site and filed a case with the site’s Arbitration Committee, which led to several opponents of GamerGate being sanctioned and widespread media coverage. Adler has been a contributor to Breitbart Tech for over two years, has published numerous pieces on Medium, and co-authored a blog post for Wikipedia criticism site Wikipediocracy.
Adler can be contacted on Twitter and by e-mail on DM request.
Facts About The Wikipedia Post
Word count (Main piece): ~33,400
Word count (Appendices A-D): ~5,200
Q & A
Why did you write The Wikipedia Post?
This started out as a blog post I wanted to write for Wikipedia criticism site Wikipediocracy in the immediate aftermath of the GamerGate Arbitration Committee case to correct the false narrative in the media. Given the scope of things I wanted to cover and difficulty navigating my unfavorable view of Wikipediocracy’s role, I held off on finalizing and submitting the piece. After I was banned from Wikipediocracy and received a three-month ban from Wikipedia, I pitched the piece to Breitbart. I spent the next few years working on it off and on as other events, such as my indefinite ban from Wikipedia and my other writing for Breitbart, took up my time to dedicate to the piece. It gradually became more a history of the GamerGate dispute on Wikipedia and how GamerGate influenced the site. As it went beyond anything they could publish in its entirety even in parts, I settled on publishing the long-form piece on Medium and writing a summary piece for Breitbart.
Why do you use an alias?
I have been involved in a lot of contentious disputes on Wikipedia and with critics of the site. A number of people have attempted or threatened personal retaliation against me for those disagreements. On several occasions I have seen or learned of incidents where members of Wikipedia or criticism sites have viciously gone after people and those associated with them in their personal life when they know their real identities. This includes incidents mentioned in Part 10 of my piece and more recent incidents. My conflicts on Wikipedia have no substantive connection to my activities outside Wikipedia. Given that, I do not wish to submit myself and those I know to what is certain to be extreme harassment when nothing about my real identity is relevant. From what I have seen, people who demand to know or reveal real identities solely to provide “accountability” really mean “I want to be able to make this person regret disagreeing with me.”
Does the title have any significance?
My intent was for the title to be reminiscent of The Zoe Post, which started GamerGate. I read that post in some depth and believe it showed Eron Gjoni was abused, but the response was to smear him and ignore what he was trying to warn people about. From what I have read about the origins of GamerGate, I firmly believe his concerns and the concerns of those who picked up on some of the personal connections noted in the post were legitimate and dishonestly misrepresented by the press, who wanted to suppress criticism of their own unethical tendencies.
Are you being a “devil’s advocate” like your Wikipedia username?
As stated previously, I believe GamerGate supporters have legitimate concerns that were ignored and suppressed through dishonest means. When I chose the username “The Devil’s Advocate” it was not because I sought to “play a role” online, but because it reflects my typical approach to any issue. I examine the popular and unpopular narratives to get at the hard truths. My opinion after doing that with GamerGate is that GamerGate was essentially correct in all its chief claims, including on the specific allegations sparking the movement. Press dishonestly seized on those spreading erroneous derivations of the original claims to dismiss the entire foundation of the movement. They do that a lot.
Given your history, should this not be viewed as a revenge piece?
Once more, as stated earlier, my original intent for this piece was to set the record straight on what happened with the GamerGate dispute on Wikipedia. Some have continued propagating a narrative to this day that biased anti-GamerGate editors were really defending neutrality against GamerGate supporters who were using burner accounts created solely to provoke those editors into misconduct so they could be banned. I wrote this to present the other side of the story and highlight how the false GamerGate narrative negatively influenced the trajectory of the top information source in the world. Even though I have significant disagreements with a number of the people mentioned in this piece, I am not including anything for the purpose of causing anyone harm. A full accounting of notable events related to GamerGate is likely to be unflattering for many of them, but the purpose is to get truth out and show how severely Wikipedia and its ostensible mission have been compromised.
You write for Breitbart, does this mean you are politically conservative?
For most of my life I have called myself an “independent” and that applies to this day. My political views are a mixture of conservative and liberal on both social and economic issues. When I take one of those political tests I am always close to the center, usually with a strong libertarian streak. I voted for Johnson in the 2016 Presidential Election and typically vote for candidates from both major parties as well as alternative parties during elections. Though I am generally critical of the media, there are outlets I believe to be essential sources for alternative viewpoints and Breitbart is one of them.
Are you worried harassment will result, given GamerGate’s reputation?
Whenever people are criticized online there is a risk of harassment resulting and I am always concerned by harassment. I do not wish to see anyone face genuine harassment of any kind. GamerGate opponents triviailizing harassment of GamerGate supporters was, in fact, a major reason I requested ArbCom intervene in the dispute. I don’t believe GamerGate’s negative reputation is warranted or relevant. Unlike the BlackLivesMatter and Antifa movements, no one who supports GamerGate has resorted to violent attacks to further the movement’s agenda. The irony is some who support GamerGate have been violently attacked for their views. While I disagree with online threats and harassment, the fact movements far more prone to violent assaults on opponents do not have the same media reputation is telling and is why its reputation is not of special concern to me. I have read Medium’s policies and ventured to keep the tone as tame as possible. That said, I have no control over how other people react to what I write and neither does anyone else. I also know some people will claim harassment whenever they face criticism, even when it clearly does not apply. All I can control is what I say.
Some claim you are not being truthful about your ban. Are they right?
I have written a lengthy post about my ban. Officially, the reason the Arbitration Committee gave for my ban was harassment. After months of the Committee not telling me or anyone else what that entailed in violation of policy, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales admitted under community pressure that my ban was triggered by me reporting an administrator for violating rules on conflicts of interest and nothing else. He argued I harassed this administrator by investigating the administrator’s conflicts of interest and warning the administrator about the rules regarding conflicts of interest several times prior to submitting my report. My investigating was done using open source information after seeing another editor’s public allegation against this administrator. I warned the administrator three times that I could prove the administrator was violating the rules and would contact the Arbitration Committee unless the violations stopped, but they continued. Wikipedia’s rules clearly state investigating misconduct and warning people about misconduct are not violations of the harassment policy. None involved in my ban have explained how my conduct is inconsistent with those rules. A key part of their defense is to claim my allegations were wrong, though I have strong evidence some supporting my ban knew the administrator’s conduct violated policy and supported banning me anyway. Even Wales acknowledged this situation boiled down to a difference of interpretation. Their interpretation is just the one that decided the outcome.
You used real names for several Wikipedia editors. Are you doxing them?
In addition to those users on Wikipedia whose usernames are their real names, all those identified by real name in The Wikipedia Post have publicly disclosed those names on Wikipedia or related sites. Two of those identified by name disclosed their real names on the Meta Wikimedia site when they ran for seats on the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. No personal information included about these editors goes beyond what they have publicly disclosed themselves in prominent places.
- The false narrative about Wikipedia’s GamerGate dispute began with blog posts by anti-GamerGate editor Mark Bernstein claiming pro-GamerGate “throwaway accounts” provoked GamerGate opponents trying to keep the article neutral until they became uncivil and were banned, further claiming ArbCom decided “feminists were to be purged” from the site. When numerous news outlets considered “reliable” on Wikipedia repeated this false narrative as the outcome of the case before it even closed, an editor created an “ArbitrationGate” article repeating the false narrative about Wikipedia on Wikipedia itself. Corrections following statements from ArbCom and the Wikimedia Foundation debunked part of this false narrative, but key falsehoods have remained. (Covered in Part 1)
- For over a year, the article on GamerGate falsely claimed the blog post that first started the controversy had suggested indie game developer Zoe Quinn had sex for favorable reviews of her game Depression Quest. In fact, the blog post never mentions Depression Quest or reviews. The material was later changed to make the slightly less inaccurate claim that the blog post suggested Quinn had sex for favorable coverage. (Covered in Part 12)
- Anti-GamerGate editors regularly sought to slant the article on GamerGate against the movement. This included repeatedly trying to remove mention of the fact women supporting the movement existed and that supporters of the movement had been harassed. Editors engaged in this biased editing were protected by administrators who opposed GamerGate and were somtimes directly involved in the content dispute on Wikipedia. Following the ArbCom case, numerous efforts slanted the article further, including by removing mentions third-party trolls attacking both sides of controversy, and this slanting of the page sometimes involved support from anti-GamerGate throwaway accounts. An attempt to rewrite the article to be more neutral was rejected with a statement that the GamerGate article has to prominently and explicitly present the movement as being about harassment. (Covered in Part 1, Part 3, Part 5, Part 8, Part 11, Part 12, and Appendix C)
- This author created an article about The Fine Young Capitalists, a radical feminist group who ran a contest for a female-designed video game that was supported by GamerGate in solidarity with the group’s prior mistreatment by Zoe Quinn, and got it to appear on the front page of Wikipedia in the heat of the controversy as well as later helping behind-the-scenes to get it approved for “good article” status. GamerGate opponents, who dislike attention being drawn to this positive contribution, sought to have the page deleted or redirected to the main GamerGate page. Unsuccessful, they then made various frivolous or baseless attacks on sources favorable of the group to get its “good article” status revoked and gutted the page until it was a hit piece despite this author’s behind-the-scenes efforts to have the page’s status upheld. (Covered in Part 11)
- Wikipedia’s page on Anita Sarkeesian contains no criticism of her or her videos criticizing video games despite ample sourcing available in sources considered reliable on Wikipedia covering or making such criticism. This is due to editors favorable of Sarkeesian raising frivolous objections to keep out criticism or shunting material off to the article on her YouTube series. One of these editors is an administrator who used his position to protect GamerGate opponents despite being involved in disputes on the site about a central figure in the controversy. (Covered in Part 3 and Appendix A)
- One of the “Five Horsemen of Wikibias” who was banned from the GamerGate topic as part of the ArbCom case was NorthBySouthBaranof, an employee of the National Forest Service by the name Travis Mason-Bushmann. In addition to his biased editing about GamerGate, Bushmann made edits slanting articles in favor of his employer’s fellow federal land agencies in their disputes with the family of rancher Cliven Bundy, environmental groups, and Native American tribes. He repeatedly violated his ban from GamerGate-related articles and “gender-related disputes” even admitting to violating the ban as he was appealing it. His appeal was granted despite the admitted violations. (Covered in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 6, Part 9, and Part 11)
- Ryulong was another one of the horsemen and was the only one banned from Wikipedia entirely due to the Arbcom case. He was one of the main reasons this author requested ArbCom invovlement as he pushed for removing or treating as opinion the fact that female GamerGate supporters existed, even going so far as to threaten adding smears of GamerGate supporter Mike Cernovich if the material was kept. During the case he became embroiled in fights with several parties in the controversy, such as moderate anti-GamerGate writer David Auerbach of Slate, 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan, and Adland. Ryulong also proposed a mass-banning of supposed “GamerGate throwaway accounts” that included people who barely edited the page and two administrators. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales repeatedly requested Ryulong withdraw from involvement in the GamerGate dispute, but he continued even after receiving hundreds of dollars from members of an anti-GamerGate reddit community. After his ban Ryulong continued to push biased content about GamerGate on the predominantly left-wing RationalWiki site, until he was banned from there as well. (Covered in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 6, and Part 9)
- Left-wing editors have heavily edited the Wikipedia page on Breitbart to put, often excessive, focus on any negative information about the outlet. GamerGate opponents also sought to remove any mention about Breitbart’s major reports on the leaked gaming journalist mailing list GameJournoPros despite sources considered reliable on Wikipedia covering its reports. Some opponents, including NorthBySouthBaranof, negatively edited Breitbart’s page as they cited its Wikipedia page as proof the site was unreliable. (Covered in Part 3 and Appendix B)
- An anti-GamerGate administrator by the username Swatjester, who worked as a lawyer for several video game companies and later a producer for Fallout 76, had harassed indie game developer Brad Wardell on Twitter and later edited his page to spread smears from a rejected sexual harassment lawsuit against Wardell. Mention of his past comments to Wardell were deleted as “personal information” because it mentioned his Twitter account by the same username. Swatjester’s real name had already been publicly disclosed by Swatjester himself when he ran for a seat on the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. (Covered in Part 11)
- Several of the site’s administrators took actions to censor content favorable to GamerGate. This included administrator Guy Chapman adding the unofficial GamerGate site GamerGate.me to a spam list, making it impossible to link to the site. Chapman has a history of using the spam list to push personal agendas and had previously called GamerGate a cult. A number of administrators repeatedly censored a piece by gay GamerGate supporter J. W. Caine detailing how GamerGate supporters had always been raising concerns about ethics in game journalism in response to the Zoe Post and did include women, LGTB individuals, and non-white people. Such censorship made it so that even regular administrators could not see edits mentioning the piece. Editors were even banned for linking to these sites. (Covered in Part 1, Part 3, Part 5, and Part 6)
- In an effort to suppress pro-GamerGate editors who used low-activity accounts or created new accounts to object to content on the site, administrators devised a special restriction on the GamerGate page prohibiting anyone from editing the page without 500 edits and 30 days of editing history. This restriction was imposed to avoid imposing sanctions on TheRedPenofDoom, one of the two horsemen still allowed to edit about GamerGate. Subsequently, the restriction was imposed on articles related to the Arab-Israeli conflict at the urging of pro-Palestinian editors who wanted to suppress pro-Israeli accounts. Eventually, this restriction was expanded even more and formalized as an administrative tool called “extended confirmed” page protection. (Covered in Part 8 and Part 9)
- Following a piece by anti-GamerGate administrator Robert “Gamaliel” Fernandez in the Wikipedia Signpost, a Wikipedia newsletter, talking about feminism-related disputes on Wikipedia such as GamerGate and tying it to a need to deal with “harassment” on the site, Wikipedia critic Andreas Kolbe started several discussion suggesting the Wikimedia Foundation create machine-learning tools to detect harassment. Said discussions were later cited for a research project called “Detox” where the Foundation’s research team worked with Google’s Jigsaw division to developed a “toxicity” detection tool. The tool, related to Google’s controversial Perspective API, generated media attention about Wikipedia’s alleged toxicity. It was eventually shut down when editors found the tool treated comments towards women as more hostile than the same comments towards men, did not detect anti-Semitism as hostile, and treated identifying as gay as toxic. (Covered in Part 8)
- A feminist activist editor named Laura Hale wrote a research paper in 2014 referencing GamerGate and other “harassment” cases outside and on Wikipedia to argue for Foundation intervention alongside external pressure from social justice organizations in order to “fix” Wikipedia’s “toxic” community. Her paper met with apparent approval from Foundation staff. Later, Hale was a complainant against administrator and Foundation critic Fram, who the Foundation subsequently banned for one year in an unprecedented intervention along the lines proposed by Hale herself in her research paper. The ban sparked an editor revolt against Foundation corruption and the censoring of critics reminiscent of GamerGate and smeared with the same false narrative about GamerGate by the Chair of the Foundation board. Fram’s ban was lifted after The Wikipedia Post was finished when the Foundation allowed the community-elected ArbCom to review his ban. (Covered in the Conclusion)
- Members of Wikipedia Criticism site Wikipediocracy doxed two editors who edited Zoe Quinn’s page to try and add reliably-sourced information about the corruption scandal engulfing her in the early stages of the GamerGate controversy. Quinn herself shared the doxing piece on Twitter, but later deleted the tweet. Wikipedia’s community, rather than show sympathy for the editors, immediately discussed banning them by adopting the baseless smears of the piece as reality. Both editors would be eventually banned from the GamerGate topic in questionable actions by partisan administrators with a history of abusing their tools: Robert “Gamaliel” Fernandez and Future Perfect at Sunrise. (Covered in Part 1 and Part 3)
- The architect of the false narrative about the GamerGate dispute on Wikipedia, Mark Bernstein, repeatedly used his blog and Wikipedia itself to accuse various editors of being part of a secret GamerGate conspiracy. Bernstein fixated on moderate anti-GamerGate administrator concerned about the GamerGate page’s aggressively anti-GamerGate tone, alleging he was the leader of this supposed cabal. Over the course of a year, in addition to repeatedly attacking him in his blog posts, Bernstein used various forms of repeated incivility and mockingly alluded to Masem’s alleged sexual predilections. When Masem complained of Bernstein’s harassing conduct, several fellow administrators claimed there was no harassment or it wasn’t significant and that he should instead be banned from the GamerGate topic. Guy Chapman compared Masem calling himself anti-GamerGate to a racist saying he had black friends. Eventually, Masem caved and voluntarily banned himself from the GamerGate topic for half a year. Horseman Tarc, a.k.a. Jay Herlihy, would respond by doxing Masem on Twitter and mocking his alleged sexual predilections. Herlihy was consequently banned from Wikipedia. When asked about kicking Masem while he was down, Herlihy compared it to shanking a pedophile in prison. (Covered in Part 3, Part 5, and Part 6)
- Anti-GamerGate throwaway accounts repeatedly followed Masem and other editors trying to counter the anti-GamerGate bias on the page. This extended to articles completely unrelated to GamerGate where these accounts started conflicts. One of the most persistent of the throwaway accounts in following his opponents was PeterTheFourth, who has a history of harassment on the for-profit wiki site Fandom a.k.a. Wikia. Peter particularly targeted editor DHeyward and pursued him to numerous articles until DHeyward departed the site in early 2018. Several of these throwaway accounts congregated on an anti-GamerGate blog about Wikipedia alongside Mark Bernstein.(Covered in Part 8 and Part 12)
- David Auerbach, a Slate journalist who took a moderate anti-GamerGate position, became critical of Wikipedia after being smeared on the GamerGate page by horseman Ryulong. Auerbach’s criticism extended to an ArbCom case involving anti-GamerGate administrator Robert “Gamaliel” Fernandez abusing his admin privileges to keep up a page mocking the size of then-candidate Donald Trump’s hands and attacking critics of his conduct as GamerGate supporters. The ArbCom case was perceived as being rigged in favor of Fernandez, who was a member of the Committee following an election the previous year. Fernandez retained his administrator privileges and most sanctions against him were requested by himself in an irregular process viewed as helping him avoid the most serious consequences. During the case a member of ArbCom falsely claimed Fernandez had resigned from his position on the Wikimedia DC chapter organization. Auerbach privately sought to clarify the reasons for this claim several times when it did not appear that Fernandez had resigned and Fernandez began contacting Auerbach’s employers in an attempt to get him fired. When Auerbach raised the question publicly, several anti-GamerGate editors and members of the Arbitration Committee claimed Auerbach’s criticism of Fernandez over the case on Twitter was harassment and engaged in or restored personal attacks against Auerbach. Fernandez received no sanctions for his actions and even was a recipient of a Foundation grant allowing him to serve as the head of communications for a Wikipedia conference. (Covered in Part 10)