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West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM
Published: 5 June 2009
Westbourne Labour councillor David Boothroyd
Westbourne Labour councillor David Boothroyd
ArbCom ‘Sam’ quits Wikipedia

Labour councillor loses role as online encyclopedia arbitrator after using multiple identities

LABOUR councillor David Boothroyd has become embroiled in a global internet scandal after he was forced to resign from the powerful ruling body of Wikipedia after revelations he used multiple identities to edit pages including the entry for Tory leader David Cameron.
The log of publicly available page edits reveals the Westbourne ward councillor made numerous changes to Mr Cameron’s Wikipedia entry under the alias “Sam Blacketer”, changing his picture to one “not carrying saintly overtones”, and giving rise to a “conflict of interest”.
Now the councillor’s own Wikipedia entry has been purged from the site and his fall from grace is the subject of fevered discussion in internet chat rooms and blogs the world over.
Unlikely as it sounds, when the Labour politician wasn’t fighting council housing sell-offs and service cuts at Westminster City Hall, he and 14 other global technophiles who sit on Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee were settling the hundreds of bitter “editorial wars” that rage daily on the internet encyclopedia, the eighth most popular site on the web.
From the trivial – whether JK Rowling’s surname is pronounced “ow” or “oll” – to the politically explosive – the total number of people killed by the CIA, or the geographical borders of Palestine.
The position also comes with the power to ban people from writing for the site, a punishment mainly meted out to Scientologists who try to erase criticism from their entry. Wikipedia was hailed as a utopian vision when it was founded in 2001 – an encyclopedia for the people, by the people. But eight years on, it is plagued by hoaxes and vandalism that sees people try to revise history and erase inconvenient truths for their own self-serving ends.
For the main, Cllr Boothroyd was Wiki­pedia’s answer to Robocop, correcting vandalism attacks on David Cameron’s page on a daily basis, such as reverting his religion back to Church of England from “Church of Satan”.
But his membership of the Arbitration Committee, or Orwellian sounding “ArbCom” for short, has come to an abrupt end after it emerged he committed one of the most serious crimes in cyberspace, known as “socketpuppeting” – using multiple online identities to create the illusion of support for a point of view, belief or person.
Cllr Boothroyd told the West End Extra he was “wrong” to have three simultaneous identities. He says it was an “innocent oversight” and he never edited any page with an agenda or with any bias.
“I can be partisan when I want to be but I can look at things objectively,” he said.
“The reason I created different user names was because people found out I was a Labour councillor and kept harassing and insulting me, accusing me of being biased. Getting a new name was a form of defence.
“I have never written anything to self serve, but I admit it was wrong, although an innocent oversight.”
He hasn’t been banned from the site.
What is more interesting is how Cllr Boothroyd got elected to a position that is the online equivalent of breaking into Fort Knox in the first place.
He fought off competition from thousands of computer whizzes in America, Europe and Africa to win a seat on the committee in 2007. While he says he never thought he would be picked, Cllr Boothroyd is something of a Wikipedia celebrity, winning awards for his writing and research on such dispar­ate ­topics as
Britain’s longest-serving prisoner John
Straffen, the forgotten Tory MP Hubert Duggan and the “I’m Backing Britain” 1968 campaign to boost the economy.
Paul Williams, volunteers director at Wikimedia UK, the British arm of the American company, said: “Socketpuppeting is a serious offence for anybody. But for someone on the Arbitration Committee it is even more so. It can result in a lifetime ban.
“The problem with Wikipedia is that you can hide behind user names, but there is an expectation that you don’t write for self-interest. In this case there is a conflict of interest.”

SpongeBob to Cameron...

Below are a seclection of edits made by Cllr Boothroyd during his time as a respected Wikipedia arbitrator:

• Changing the successor of Queen Elizabeth II from SpongeBob SquarePants back to Charles Prince of Wales
• Nominating to delete altogether the entry for Jack Tweed, husband of the late Jade Goody in 2007
• Adding to the criticisms of David Cameron that he was once characterised as “Dave the Chameleon” in a Labour broadcast
• Calling Eton “the most prestigious” public school rather than “a prestigious” public school on David Cameron’s page

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