Wikipedia's notorious co-founder, Jimmy Wales, has launched an investigation to determine if any of the pseudonyms who edit the world's biggest encyclopedia are in fact (or suspected to be) classified security info leaker, Edward Snowden. Wales got the urge to learn more early this morning (Tuesday, June 25), asking his minions who follow his "Talk" page:
Snowden editing? -- I'm sure this has been discussed somewhere. In the media there have been reports of user accounts used on various tech discussion sites by Edward Snowden. He was apparently quite an active person online, particularly a few years back when he was younger. It seems highly likely to me that he would have edited Wikipedia - most people who fit his profile (tech savvy, internet activist types) will have done so. Do we have any evidence of that, or suspicions about that? -- Jimbo Wales
Certainly many journalists and government investigators may already be trying to match Wikipedia user accounts to the wanted fugitive Snowden.
However, a key problem for Mr. Wales is that Wikipedians aren't allowed to snoop into the identity of other other Wikipedia editors who have not disclosed their real name on Wikipedia. Certainly as the man who co-founded the Wikipedia project and who has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from speaking to assembled audiences about Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales should know better than to ask others to violate one of its community's most respected rules. But that does not appear to be the case.
Reject the accusation
As we have seen time and time again with Mr. Wales, when he is called to task by a long-time productive editor of his encyclopedia, Wales' reaction is to admonish and shun the accuser. When Belgian Wikipedia administrator "Fram" brought notice of Wales' attempt at outing Snowden's account(s), Wales reaction was not to apologize for his violation of Wikipedia policy. Instead, he reacted by saying that he considered Fram's "manufactured and implausible complaints like this to be harassment".
Despite that, the Wikipedia community seems to agree quite a bit more with Fram than with Jimmy Wales. Some editors at the administrative noticeboard picked apart Jimbo with a precision only Wikipedians could exact:
...the complaint has some merit. In the case Snowden is an editor, and could continue to edit, outing him seems a bad thing to do, just like for any other editor.
...I agree that Fram's concern has foundation, and I am concerned with Jimbo's removal [of talk] page posts, as well as his dismissal of them as 'trolling.'
...I disagree with Jimbo when he says that this isn't a case of 'outing'.
...I fully support Fram's concern here. Journalists are entititled to investigate whether Snowden had an account on Wikipedia (and if so; which account/s); Wikipedians are not entitled to speculate on Wikipedia about real-life identities.
...Jimbo, you send mixed messages when you encourage us to out a Wikipedia editor just because he's in the news.
Wales was unfazed. "Feel free to relay your concerns to me directly at my talk page. All but Fram are welcome to discuss it further." This is Wales' pattern. He frequently asks those who happen to criticize his motives or actions to never again grace his Talk page, even though he is the name and face behind the encyclopedia "anyone can edit". Apparently there are limits to one's ability to edit Wikipedia, and one of those red lines not to be crossed is criticism of Jimmy Wales.