[WikiEN-l] Wikipedia-X-Files

Mathias Schindler mathias.schindler at gmail.com
Wed May 10 09:45:39 UTC 2006

Just when you think you've seen it all.

This is the spookiest story I've experienced in Wikipedia so far. And
it began just harmless.

On April 7, 2006, we received an email in the OTRS queue:

> wir von Planetopia Online planen einen Beitrag über Wikipedia und unter
> anderem auch über einige Fake-Einträge der Seite.
> Ich habe im Humorarchiv einen Artikel gelesen, der den Namen
> "Schnorchelspinne" trägt. Meines Wissens ist der Artikel schon gelöscht...

(rough translation: We from Planetopia Online are planning an article
about wikipedia and among it, about some fake entries on this page. I
have seen the article "Schnorchelspinne" (snorkel spider) in the
BJAODN archive. AFAIK, this article has been deleted.)

The OTRS people made a formal and friendly reply to his comments and
questions, trying to explain it and so on.


On April 10, 2006, a posting appeared on a German BBS:


wir von Planetopia Online suchen Menschen, die negative Erfahrungen
mit Wikipedia gemacht haben. Gesucht werden demnach alle, die dort in
irgendeiner Form verleumdet wurden, deren Angaben unberechtigt als
falsch gewertet wurden oder die durch falsche Angaben Probleme
bekommen haben. Sollte jemand Interesse haben, seinen Fall vor der
Kamera zu schildern und uns bei unserem Beitrag zu unterstützen, würde
ich mich über eine Email freuen.

(rough translation: "we from Planetopia Online are looking for people
who made negative experiences with Wikipedia. We are looking therefore
for all who were libelled in any way, whose data were unjustified
considered wrong or who experienced problems due to wrong information.
In case someone has interest in sharing his case in front of a TV
camera and in supporting our broadcast, I am thankful for an email")

Planetopia is a TV magazine in Germany's private TV station "Sat 1"
which has worked hard in getting a certain reputation in the last

However, the story about Planetopia (google for it, the second hit is
"Planetopia lies") preparing an article about made it to the german
language blogosphere with the usual kind of response.

On April 12, 2006, I was on recentchanges patrol and a friend came
across a rather interesting edit:


The article is about Gene therapy and consists maily about the
technology itself and 2 gene therapy projects. The edit was adding the
following sentence:

>Am 12.04.2006 ist einer der beiden erfolgreich therapierten Patienten
aus noch ungeklärten Umständen verstorben.

(rough translation: On April 12, one of the patients who were
successfully treated, died for unknown reasons)

The edit came from IP As the edit was without a source
and other news sources did not contain this story or anything similar,
I decided to revert this edit and asked the IP on his user talk page
for a source.

There was no reply.

As it turns out, the information was (mostly) correct - the patient
had died on April 10.

The information about the death of this patient was first released to
other scientists on a conference 13 days later. A journalist picked it
up and it became a public information on April 27.

Here is the strange part: The header files from the author from
planetopia's email reveal that the email was sent from

The IP is some kind of proxy server (mail.mscrm.de) belonging to a
company in the city of Mainz which is producing the Sat1 regional news
and Planetopia.

The story about Wikipedia as an encyclopedia which has scooped even
the scientific community for two weeks has now hit the media again:

Süddeutsche Zeitung (quality paper from Munich) has a story in today's issue:

Medienkrimi in Frankfurt
Wer wann was wusste

Wie ein Todesfall nach einer Gentherapie zunächst verheimlicht und bei
Wikipedia anonym öffentlicht gemacht wurde – für 16 Minuten.

Media thriller in Frankfurt
Who knew when what

How the death after a gene therapy was first kept secret and made
public anonymously via Wikipedia - for 16 minutes


>From a Wikipedia point of view, it was correct to remove this sentence
as there was no other source to confirm it. Even if the information
was correct. It is still unknown who exactly made this edit but the
link to Planetopia is simply amazing. I think I will pass this file to
Scully and Moulder.

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