For those not on scoop, this is the latest email bar one on the latest
release from Wikileaks. I am *most* annoyed in particular because I was not
given any opportunity to rebut items within it.
Since then I've been emailed by Wikileaks telling me "chin up", "eat
own dog food". I will be having nothing more to do with them, and if I find
out who leaked private emails to them I'll have their balls as sweetmeats.
From: Brian McNeil [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 17 June 2008 23:49
To: 'Jason Safoutin'
Cc: 'Wikileaks Press Release'; 'Wikileaks News Releases'; 'Wikinews
list'; 'Communications Committee'
Subject: RE: [WL-News] Did the Wikimedia foundation lie about muzzling
I still want to find out who the hell leaked the two deleted articles to
Wikileaks in the first place. If it was someone who had cached copies in
their browser there is little we can do about it. Were it an administrator
then we are talking about what I consider a serious breach of trust. The
only interest served by the leak was that of Wikileaks. I have those I
suspect, and this incident has, and will continue to, colour all subsequent
communications with them. Chilling effect? You bet.
"Effective Office Action" is not the same as an office action. It is a
convenient way to describe what happened. For both deleted articles, I was
contacted with some urgency about potential legal repercussions. In both
cases, the final decision to delete was mine, but with words of advice from
those better versed in the US legal system. You can easily read the articles
in question, some dolt leaked them to Wikileaks. One basically says
everything short of calling Erik Moeller a paedophile, the other put the
Foundation's legal counsel in a very tricky position. He asserted all
material on the case in question had been removed from Wikipedia, but in
covering it on Wikinews there is a real and serious concern that the court
would not make the distinction between Wikipedia and Wikinews.
Why is Wikileaks digging this up again? Why am I being made out to be a
puppet of the Foundation office staff? And, once again, why can't Wikileaks
do the goddamn job properly and contact people for input? My email address
isn't that difficult to find.
From: Jason Safoutin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 17 June 2008 23:27
To: Brian McNeil
Cc: 'Wikileaks Press Release'; 'Wikileaks News Releases'
Subject: Re: [WL-News] Did the Wikimedia foundation lie about muzzling
Also note, that this is a PR based on something said during the issue at
hand. I am also wondering why this is coming across now?
Brian McNeil wrote:
I would like to thank Wikileaks for demonstrating that
they are prepared
go against accepted journalistic practices when
reporting material they
consider sensational. Due diligence involves making a reasonable effort to
contact involved parties.
I am the "Brian McNeil" mentioned in this article and not one person
attempted to contact me to discuss my take on this issue. Private emails I
have sent have been shared and I have, consequently, lost a great deal of
trust in various members of the Wikinews community. The context in which
these emails were sent is not conveyed in an effort to catch a headline
someone is a liar.
Wikinews administrator & accredited reporter.
[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Wikileaks Press
Sent: 17 June 2008 21:41
Cc: Wikileaks News Releases
Subject: [WL-News] Did the Wikimedia foundation lie about muzzling
Wikileaks Press Release
Tue Jun 17 20:28:25 GMT 2008
DID THE WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION LIE ABOUT MUZZLING WIKINEWS?
ERIN HALASZ & staff
Tuesday June 16, 2008
The Wikimedia Foundation ordered an admin to delete two controversial
Wikinews articles, and Jay Walsh, the Foundation's head of
knew more about this than he would like to admit, according to Wikinews
author Jason Safoutin.
Safoutin contacted me after listening to this interview with Walsh.
denied first-hand knowledge of an internal
conversation about the
articles and emphasized Wikinews administrator
Brian McNeil's role in
But Safoutin, who has written 750 articles for Wikinews under the
name DragonFire1024, said Walsh did not tell the
"I have proof, and also proof that Mr. Walsh knew of these actions,"
The proof: a series of emails, available online, between McNeil,
Foundation lawyer Mike Godwin, and Sue Gardner, the Foundation's
director, with Walsh CC'd. The emails reference the deleted articles.
"If this was not an action of the foundation," Safoutin wrote, "why
a contributer (Brian), who has been on Wikinews
longer than me and
the time it started, write a concerning e-mail to
all these people
(Godwin, Sue Gardner, Jay), saying that Godwin TOLD him to delete BOTH
articles saying `Mike has got me to effectively perform office actions
delete two articles in the past day or so?'"
Gardner, Godwin and McNeil also discussed other Wikinews issues, such
the problems of writing about an organization you
work for and the idea
creating a private site where writers can edit articles out of the
eye before they're published.
In his interview, Walsh did admit that the Wikimedia Foundation advised
McNeil that Safoutin's articles might be libelous because of what they
said about Erik Mo:ller, the Foundation's deputy director. Mo:ller has
brought the Foundation some bad press for allegedly approving of sex
between very young children, and Safoutin's article referenced the
But for Safoutin, the main problem was that the article was deleted
without any input from him. He loves writing for Wikinews and has
continued to write in spite of his frustration with some people in the
I emailed him to find out more about his views on Wikinews, Walsh, the
Foundation and the controversy surrounding his deleted articles. He
responded with some thoughtful insight on what happened to his articles
and what is in store for the Wikinews project.
The full Q&A is below:
: I'm curious if this is the first time in your experience
with Wikinews that something like this has happened - that people
the Foundation have gotten involved with deleting a
story. If it's
happened before, when and why?
Jason Safoutin: This was the first time in my history that this has
happened. If this has happened before, then it was before I joined
Wikinews which was January of 2006.
WL: What about other articles that haven't worked (if there have been
any)? What were they about? Were there other legal concerns?
JS: We published an article about Wikimedia/Wikinews getting a
infringement notice from the Church of Latter Day
about a web link in an article to Wikileaks which
they claimed violated
the DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act). The Link was removed pending
review, and was later re-added. Someone leaked the request the Church
to Wikimedia and we wrote an article on that. Concerns were brought up
about the leaked request, but nothing about the article itself, or
legal concerns. Only the initial concern was the actual request itself,
and whether or not it was valid. Here is that article:
WL: Jay did say in the interview that the Foundation gives legal advice
users over issues such as libel and defamation. Have you asked them for
legal advice before? Was their advice before this ever to delete an
JS: If they give any kind of legal advice, on an individual level or on
community level, then they have never, until these
advice to me. I have never asked them for legal
advice because I was
aware I needed any nor was I aware that they
provided free legal advice
contributers on any project. If they do provide it then they sure don't
make it aware to anyone.
WL: What about Erik Moller? Were the quotes you cited untrue? Or just
embarrassing for Wikimedia?
JS: What I wrote about Moeller was based edits he made to Wikipedia,
papers/reports he wrote in school. I never once
stated that Moeller was
pedophile. I stated that based on my research that
he supports the idea
and concept of pedophilia. Other blogs and websites stated that he was
seemed to be one. I contacted Moeller and Godwin
for a statement to
confirm and or give a statement regarding the
allegations and within an
hour or so the article was deleted on grounds it was "false." If it was
false, then I should have been allowed to correct those portions with
advice and/or counsel, but was not given the chance. I would say that
whole situation in general would be embarrassing
for Wikimedia, but
are able to exert control over Wikinews and other
Based on conversations I had with individuals from all over, I would
that yes this is quite embarrassing for
Wikimedia...not just the
without a general cause to the public/community and me (at least prior
deletion), but the way they did it and how they did
WL: What do you think about the conversation in those emails you linked
about creating a private space to edit articles so that issues like
are better avoided?
JS: I think it is a great idea, provided it is not just talk to keep us
entertained for a little bit. It was widely supported by the community
Wikinews. We had submitted the proposal in January
of 2008 to the
developers at Wikimedia, but was denied because it "had to go through
committees". I asked some people, including a
board member who had no
what "committees" meant. It is my understanding that the developers
begin a new "project" or space for Wikimedia, without approval from the
language committees or the board of trustees. That being the case, I
see how Sue Gardner, or anyone else working for Wikimedia, can hand us
that Wiki or any other space on a silver platter.
A link of this denial is here:
That said, its a great idea. I just want to see the effort to get it to
first rather than just talking about it.
WL: What are some issues you see in the Foundation and Wikinews that
to be figured out?
JS: The foundation needs to recognize us as a project. I hear
complain about other websites that misquote
Wikimedia all the time and
then we need to hear about how bad that website is afterwards. If
Wikimedia would come to Wikinews first and get the story out, then that
problem might not exist. I don't see Wikimedia doing anything for us,
least until we do something they might see as
"bad", like the recent
situation for example. There is not enough communication or help when
ask for it. We are a project of Wikimedia just like
any other and we
should be treated with the same respect.
WL: How often does the Foundation intervene in the reporting and
JS: They have never interfered on Wikinews prior to this. If they have
was long before my time.
WL: Have you written other articles about Wikimedia controversies? Did
similar things happen?
JS: I wrote an article about Carolyn Doran and about Mike Godwin not
attending an ethics panel discussion on Wikipedia. I also wrote about
IP address which made an edit to Wikipedia on the
Benoit, who posted the death of his wife 14 hours
before police knew
the murders of her and his son. Did they ever intervene then? Not once.
fact Moeller helped us with Benoit for a moment when FOX News took some
our work and tried to call it their own. But this is the first time
anything `negative' came of an article that did
not show Wikimedia in a
WL: For this article, did you have the option to update the article
it was deleted?
JS: No. I didn't have a chance to remove any alleged false information
correct any of the alleged mistakes in either of
the two articles. I
not told what could have been wrong with them until
after they were
WL: Do you think you'll still write for Wikinews once this is resolved?
JS: I still am as we speak and don't have any plans to stop writing. My
concern is not with Wikinews which I love to death, but with the
staff/board members and how they handle their concerns. Things around
Wikinews and other projects are generally done on consensus and office
actions are needed for extreme situations. I have written about 750
articles since January 2006. I think this situation could have been
treated with a bit more respect towards me and the community. I was
working hard on two articles, one of which was nowhere near completed.
This could ave been done a lot nicer.
WL: Any more thoughts on the subject? Things that haven't been
JS: Yes. I want to respond to a few things about the interview with Jay
Walsh: We do write interesting things about interesting people. I don't
know if he takes the time to read Wikinews at all, even while this is
going on, but he would see we work incredibly hard for something we do
get paid to do. The deletions were done by a Wikinews administrator who
was told to do so (delete them) by Mike Godwin. I know this because the
initial e-mail to Sue Gardner and Mike Godwin was also sent to Jay
So unless he doesn't read his e-mail, then he
was made very aware of
situation at about the time the articles were
deleted. The discussion
forwarded to him and note that neither Godwin or
Sue denied that the
articles were deleted as an office action. Here is that e-mail in
Evidence from the foundation-l mailinglist
On the foundation-l mail-list, it is clear that the foundation's view
Wikinews should be be able to publish freely,
"When doing so doesn't compromise our goals, yes." -- Dalton
Brain McNeil declares the articles as libel. He also admits wanting
case-law buildup and says something not nice about Bauer.
Mike Godwin acknowledges the theory of office actions that look like
community actions (even if the theory is questionable):
"So the theory here is that we're clever enough to cloak an
action as a community action, and even to convince some
members that they believe they're
merely acting on advice
than under a "WMF mandate," but
not quite clever enough to fool
you about our cloaked agenda?"
Despite issues of conflict of interest, it is clear that the nature of
"request" is pivotal between office and community actions:
"On that, I would agree. However, when it -is- WMF taking an
official action, it should be clearly marked as such. If it is
not, it should be made absolutely, 100% clear that this is
Godwin, the editor" not "Mike
Godwin, the WMF representative"
putting forth the position. What should be studiously avoided
(ESPECIALLY in cases where the material at issue is critical of
WMF) is some grey area between the two."
Dalton acknowledges the precedence of legal matters over community
(i.e. the "request"):
"But would you ever dismiss it if it was the foundation's
telling you there were legal concerns? We
all know the law
The conflict of interest is obvious. The request being made to the
community from the foundation, or the foundation taking unilateral
can, both, be seen as identical:
"True, but I'd still say such a situation is pretty much
to the WMF performing the action itself." -- Anthony 
It is also acknowledged that sysops/admins are unwilling go against
foundation (or undo) suggestions, and that "preventative" reactions
It is clear that Wikinews is essentially controlled by the WMF,
astroturfing attempts to conceal the control not withstanding:
"The attempt to make this look like a community decision when
really appears to be a WMF mandate
("strong suggestion", or
whatever we want to call it) is what I find disturbing
The lack of a clear editorial independence of Wikinews opens a can of
"One other point, and then I'm done for the day. What is the
foundation going to do when the people who would otherwise sue
foundation realize they can't do so and turn to the community
members who implement these "suggestions" and sue them instead?
Will it help them defend themselves, or will it leave them to
NB. Wikileaks is unrelated to the WMF or Wikinews.
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