On November 29, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s Wikipedia page was edited 34 separate times. Most of the traffic involved minor adds or corrections, but some of it was aimed at turning the page into campaign propaganda — and counter-efforts to restore content removed or altered by the propagandists.
The lead actor in this one-day drama was “Alaenahunt.” The AH account on Wikipedia was created at 3:41 p.m. on November 29. AH made eight edits to Gray’s Wikipage between 4:12 and 7:35 p.m., and has done nothing since then. “Alaenahunt” is presumably a pseudonym; editors can post biographical information but they don’t have to, and AH didn’t. But it’s obvious that AH is either a very staunch Gray supporter or a member of her campaign team. AH’s deletions involved potentially controversial material; additions read as though they were lifted straight from Gray campaign material.
This sort of thing has happened before. In 2016, when former state Senator Peter Galbraith made a doomed run for governor, an editor named “Devotedamerican” repeatedly added positive material and deleted negative stuff from Galbraith’s Wikipage. That editor was repeatedly upbraided by other Wikifolk for obvious shilling.
On three days in May 2012, when then-attorney general Bill Sorrell faced a challenge from then-Chittenden County state’s attorney (and current AG) TJ Donovan, there was a torrent of activity on Sorrell’s Wikipage. Until then it had been a stub with very little information. Suddenly, an anonymous user started adding whole chunks of favorable material and deleting the unfavorable. It basically turned the page into a campaign ad for Sorrell.
Wikipedia has rules about such things; you’re not supposed to engage in advocacy, opinion, scandal mongering, self-promotion or advertising/PR. But it happens.
One of the most curious aspects of the whole Peter Galbraith/Wikipedia sideshow is the furious debate over whether or not he was a candidate for Congress in 1998.
The stuff about the Kurds and Galbraith’s oil wealth and his frequently contentious career as a diplomat, that’s understandable. It seems clear that Galbraith himself, or a close ally, has been scrubbing his Wikipedia page of negative material. On the other hand, some critics of his diplomatic adventures have been just as obsessive about his Wikipedia entry.
Following in the footsteps of Matt Dunne, Sue Minter has put out her first TV ad for the gubernatorial primary. And following in the footsteps of Matt Dunne, her ad raises strategic doubts in my mind. (Not counting the missed opportunity to use “Minter Fresh” as the tagline.)
(Gee, why am I not a campaign manager?)
The ad focuses on her work as Irene Recovery Officer, which strikes me as a questionable place to start her TV effort.
First of all, Irene was a traumatic event, but it was five years ago already. It’s been front and center in her campaign since day one. Doesn’t she have anything more recent to brag on?
Second, the ad is misleading on a key point: she was the second Irene Recovery Officer. She succeeded Neale Lunderville, who occupied the post during the critical first few months of the operation. Irene happened in late August 2011; Minter took over in January 2012.
(This is the same convenient omission made on Minter’s Wikipedia page by FourViolas, an editor who’s made 13 changes to the page since mid-March.)
Recently, I’ve written a couple of posts about Peter Galbraith’s Wikipedia entry and the extremely assiduous pro-Galbraith editing activity of two anonymous persons — Devotedamerican and Westencivil.
Well, now I’ve got more intrigue to report, and it involves one of Galbraith’s competitors for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Those who’ve been following the Galbraith story way too closely for proper maintenance of mental health will recall that the activity of Devotedamerican was brought to attention by another Wikipedia editor.
The plethora of edits was flagged to VTDigger by FourViolas, a Wikipedia editor from Vermont who reported having stumbled upon Devotedamerican’s work while inserting policy positions on the pages of all the Vermont gubernatorial candidates.
In an email, FourViolas asked to be identified only by Wikipedia username, saying the community appreciates anonymity.
Yeah, well, here’s the thing. FourViolas has been extremely busy editing Sue Minter’s Wikipedia page. FourViolas’ first edit came on March 17; after that, s/he was inactive until May 21. Since then, FV has been responsible for 12 more edits. Most of them add biographical detail fleshing out Minter’s experience and qualifications.
One of FourViolas’ edits conveniently omitted an important fact. See if you can spot it:
A few days ago, VTDigger’s Jasper Craven reported that an anonymous someone had been doing a whole lot of editing to Peter Galbraith’s Wikipedia page. The person known as “Devotedamerican” made dozens of edits to Galbraith’s entry between 2008 and 2011, all adding material favorable to Galbraith or removing unfavorable information. During that period, Galbraith actively considered a run for governor before deciding to run for state senate in 2010.
Devotedamerican has been silent since 2011. But now, Galbraith has a new WikiFriend, “Westerncivil.” It’s a cognomen strikingly similar in content and structure to “Devotedamerican.”
Westerncivil began editing Galbraith’s entry in the fall of 2014, but was only occasionally active until June 10, when Westerncivil made eleven separate edits to Galbraith’s page in a single day.
Craven’s article revealing Devotedamerican was posted on June 9.
Coincidence? Ehh, not buying it.
And Westerncivil has never edited anything else on Wikipedia.
Way, way back in the spring of 2012, it came to light that an anonymous South Burlington resident had been adding a whole lot of material to Bill Sorrell’s WIkipedia page — turning it from a brief stub into a very Sorrell-friendly recounting of his accomplishments, and omitting anything at all negative.
Much of the added verbiage was strikingly similar to the bio on his campaign website. And at least once, Sorrell was referred to as “Bill” — an odd thing for a dispassionate Wikipedia editor to do.
Well, according to VTDigger’s Jasper Craven, there’s a new entry in the pantheon of small-minded Vermont politicos. Because one specific individual has spent ungodly amounts of time editing Peter Galbraith’s Wikipedia entry. The edits have been done by a user called “Devotedamerican,” but it’s hard to believe that anyone other than Galbraiith himself was responsible.
The Galbraith shenanigans go deeper than Sorrell’s. Not only did Devotedamerican post obvious fluffery, s/he also repeatedly scrubbed anything negative from the entry, particularly about Galbraith’s oil dealings in the Middle East. (You know, the ones that made him a rich man.) And did it so frequently that Devotedamerican was actually upbraided for his work.