[Wikinews-l] FW: [WL-News] Did the Wikimedia foundation lie about muzzling Wikinews?

Brian McNeil brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org
Tue Jun 17 22:04:26 UTC 2008

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 your
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.

Brian McNeil

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian McNeil [mailto:brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org] 
Sent: 17 June 2008 23:49
To: 'Jason Safoutin'
Cc: 'Wikileaks Press Release'; 'Wikileaks News Releases'; 'Wikinews mailing
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.

Brian McNeil

-----Original Message-----
From: Jason Safoutin [mailto:jason.safoutin at wikinewsie.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?

Jason Safoutin

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.
> Brian McNeil
> Wikinews administrator & accredited reporter.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: news-bounces at lists.sunshinepress.org
> [mailto:news-bounces at lists.sunshinepress.org] On Behalf Of Wikileaks Press
> Release
> Sent: 17 June 2008 21:41
> To: Wikinews
> 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
> s%3F
>    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
> communications,
>    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
>    deleting it.
>    But Safoutin, who has written 750 articles for Wikinews under the
>    name DragonFire1024, said Walsh did not tell the whole story.
>    "I have proof, and also proof that Mr. Walsh knew of these actions,"
>    Safoutin wrote.
>    The proof: a series of emails, available online, between McNeil,
> Wikimedia
>    Foundation lawyer Mike Godwin, and Sue Gardner, the Foundation's
> executive
>    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
> and
>    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
> of
>    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
>    allegations.
>    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
>    organization.
>    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:
>    Wikileads.net: 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 Saints (Mormon
>    about a web link in an article to Wikileaks which they claimed violated
>    the DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act). The Link was removed pending
> legal
>    review, and was later re-added. Someone leaked the request the Church
> sent
>    to Wikimedia and we wrote an article on that. Concerns were brought up
>    about the leaked request, but nothing about the article itself, or
> general
>    legal concerns. Only the initial concern was the actual request itself,
>    and whether or not it was valid. Here is that article:
> ment_claim_from_Mormon_Church
>    WL: Jay did say in the interview that the Foundation gives legal advice
> to
>    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
>    article?
>    JS: If they give any kind of legal advice, on an individual level or on
>    community level, then they have never, until these articles, given
>    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
> to
>    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 Wikimedia projects.
>    Based on conversations I had with individuals from all over, I would
>    that yes this is quite embarrassing for Wikimedia...not just the
> deletions
>    without a general cause to the public/community and me (at least prior
>    deletion), but the way they did it and how they did it.
>    WL: What do you think about the conversation in those emails you linked
> to
>    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
> clue
>    what "committees" meant. It is my understanding that the developers
> cannot
>    begin a new "project" or space for Wikimedia, without approval from the
>    language committees or the board of trustees. That being the case, I
> don't
>    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:
>    https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=12528
>    That said, its a great idea. I just want to see the effort to get it to
> us
>    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
>    process?
>    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 wrestlers article
>    Benoit, who posted the death of his wife 14 hours before police knew
> about
>    the murders of her and his son. Did they ever intervene then? Not once.
> In
>    fact Moeller helped us with Benoit for a moment when FOX News took some
> of
>    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
>    good light.
>    WL: For this article, did you have the option to update the article
> before
>    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
>    deleted.
>    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
> Wikimedia
>    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
> not
>    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
>    question:
> .html
> 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, only:
>            "When doing so doesn't compromise our goals, yes." -- Dalton
>    Brain McNeil declares the articles as libel.[2] He also admits wanting
>    case-law buildup and says something not nice about Bauer.[3]
>    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?"[4]
>    Despite issues of conflict of interest, it is clear that the nature of
> the
>    "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."[5]
>    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
>            community policy."[6]
>    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
> identical
>            to the WMF performing the action itself." -- Anthony [7]
>    It is also acknowledged that sysops/admins are unwilling go against
>    foundation (or undo) suggestions,[8] and that "preventative" reactions
> are
>    swift.[9]
>    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
>    worms:
>            "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
> the
>            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
> fend
>            for themselves?".[11]
> NB. Wikileaks is unrelated to the WMF or Wikinews.
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