Sunday, January 21, 2007

Erik Bornmann article on Wikipedia proves highly controversial: a tale of intrigue and attack of the "Sock Puppets"


Spin doctors and sock puppets at work defending reputation of Bornmann - key figure in BC Legislature Raid and crown witness against David Basi and Bob Virk in breach of trust case involving BC Rail

Erik Bornmann creates controversy wherever he goes - including the online Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Bornmann is scheduled to testify as the key crown witness against former BC Liberal provincial government ministerial aides David Basi, Bob Virk and former government communications aide Aneal Basi in a BC Supreme Court trial starting April 2.

But in the meantime a ferocious battle has been raging at Wikipedia for almost a year over an entry about Bornmann, as well as on the BC Legislature Raids. In fact, the BC Legislature Raids article on Wikipedia does not even mention Bornmann's name, despite his key role in the case!

Bornmann, who faces a "good character" hearing in front of Ontario's Law Society of Upper Canada, where he hopes to practice law, obviously has supporters who are attempting to make the Wikipedia article as non-descript as possible by omitting much controversial information about Bornmann.

I was recently made aware of this to and fro war over words because several articles I've written over the past three years in the Tyee, 24 hours and previously the Georgia Straight were attacked and references removed from Wikipedia by persons unknown.

Wikipedia's unique open-ended approach to information is commendable. Contributors are encouraged to add to or edit existing material in a cooperative quest for knowledge.

Unfortunately, the open nature of the website also leaves it vulnerable to highly biased and motivated individuals to dramatically alter content to suit their interests.

A clear record of what has been happening at Wikipedia on the Erik Bornmann article is documented and available for all to see at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Erik_Bornmann

The Wikipedia folks use a number of interesting terms:

"Sock puppets" - A sock puppet is an additional username used by a Wikipedian who edits under more than one name. The Wikipedian who uses a sock puppet may be called a sock puppeteer. Use of sock puppets is discouraged in most cases.

"Sock farm" - is of course the home of the sock puppets

So here are just a few excerpts, particularly ones that target my articles. [Emphasis added by me.]

This article was nominated for deletion on 2006-12-28. The result of the discussion was No consensus.


I removed the editorializing about tactics used during the Paul Martin leadership campaign. Let's leave that to the pundits and keep this encyclopedia about the facts. I also removed the Tyee link given that the author is a well known NDP political pundit.

I also question the appropriateness of including snippets of unproven allegations from police warrants. Again, this is an encyclopedia, not a compendium of breaking news about Bornman. I would suggest that we wait until all the information is out and allegations are proven or disproven before we start including them in a biography as fact.

It is entirely appropriate for the CBC to report on the contents of the warrants...it was news. But this is an ongoing story where new information comes out daily. Given that, it is difficult to give a definitive account as one would expect from an encyclopedia.

I am worried that the objective here from certain posters is to write the most negative bio of Bornman rather than the most accurate.

-- Sharon Rosie

Thats fine, but you'll notice that even in Bill Clinton's biography, that Whitewater are mentioned. When evidence contradicts what has been raised by the RCMP, then add it, but don't sabotage info that is public and widely known now.

-Lebrun


Slander & Harrassment
Some users continue to put Wikipedia at risk by posting information on the "Erik Bornmann" that is simply untrue.


Typically this information is sourced to political blogs and or commentators. Bornmann is Crown witness and it is evident that individuals either sympathetic to those that have been criminally charged or subscribing to different political views are attempting to ruin his credibility by making slanderous and outlandish edits to this page.


This is similar to the type of activity we've seen on other wikipedia bios for political figures. This is not a court nor the floor of a legislature and these posts have no place here.


Crown Witness
I am disturbed by the fact that this has become a forum for cronies of those that have been criminaly charged to attack an individual that has come forward to testify on behalf of the crown. Wikipedia must be concerned by the fact that the encyclopedia is being abused in this way. I encourage others to remain vigilant in preventing this continued abuse.


--rascalpatrol 01:08, 01 December 2006 (UTC)


All of the sourced material was purged by a sock before Proto got here, so I restored it. A total of 18 socks, not counting Rascalpatrol were confirmed as sockpuppets by a request for check user, including Randy3, who keeps deleting material and adding Bornmann's photography website here.


I don't have time right now to work on this, but Proto's right - everything needs to be sourced properly, even non-controversial statements.


Bobanny 17:36, 8 January 2007 (UTC)


Semi-protected
I have
semi-protected the page due to continual disruptive editing from a confirmed sock farm.


Proto:: 11:16, 9 January 2007 (UTC)



Can some of the references obtained for this article be lifted across?


Proto:: 10:14, 10 January 2007 (UTC)



I think what you mean is can they be migrated to BC Legislature Raids - ?? Necessarily they're often the same sources/references; those deleted from here (and slowly being restored) were also deleted from BC Legislature Raids ("the Ledge Raids" or "Ledgegate" for short btw), and so are also hidden in that article's edit history; for the usual "reasons" - that the columnist is an NDP (socialist party) or that the Straight or the Tyee is "leftist", or for whatever other non seqitur-ish reason.


Skookum1 19:02, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
Retrieved from "
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Erik_Bornmann"

Fortunately, some of Wikipedia regular contributors on a wide variety of topics have joined with Wikipedia's volunteer administrators to restore material previously deleted and to ban the "sock puppets" efforts to remove factual and documented information.


Unfortunately, you will not find a single reference to the several articles I have written for http://www.thetyee.ca/ at the Wikipedia website. This despite the fact that I have probably written more on Erik Bornmann and the BC Legislature Raids than any other journalist.


I have no problem if anyone wants to criticize me for my political views, which are well-known and never hidden.


But I am extremely vigorous in ensuring factual accuracy and documented sourcing in all my articles, as are my editors.


I would hope that Wikipedia not allow unknown individuals with unknown motives to remove factual content and links to published material on a matter of significant importance to British Columbians and Canadians.


Meanwhile, Bornmann's own website continues to trumpet his good works as well as his photography!

8 comments:

BC Mary said...

Well done, Bill. Thank you for the work you've done in following this bizarre activity and then making it readable for the rest of us.

You may be interested to know that my blog was swarmed on Christmas Day too. My blog is focused entirely on Basi, Virk, and Basi, the three accused in the B.C.Rail trial -- the trial in which Erik Bornmann is the star witness for the Crown. Several nasty days followed, as I moderated the comments coming in. But Christmas Day! Is that wierd, or what?

Thanks again for helping to clarify what's been happening.

BC Mary
The Legislature Raids
http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill, you've given readers a sense of the struggle that went on over 'Erik Bornman(n)'s' place in Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the average reader - in the future - will never appreciate the way all of this went down. Including, for example, a temporary 'blocking' of one of the most important and professional contributors to the Wiki BC Progect.

Some of the kinds of things which were written about this individual and, in truth, yourself, indicate just exactly to what ends Bornman(n) and his supporters will go to rehabilitate his image.

Erik's strange little website tells us a lot about him - as do those congratulatory flowers Gary Mason told everyone about in his holiday gift to the Basi Boyz.

Gazetteer said...

I agree with Mary and Anono Mouse.

Thanks Bill - and I also find the fact that you do not attempt to paper over your POV an important distinction as well

Tangentially, this kind of rigorous spade work by the folks helping run Wiki is, in itself, an important story that we never hear about in the MSM that instead just likes to trumpet how fast and loose the site is supposed to be playing with the facts.

Anonymous said...

Keep up your good work, Bill. I noticed the Wiki-shenanigans and think it's brilliant you've drawn others' attention to it.

This is a very important story for a lot of different reasons and I, for one, am grateful that you're on the job (and I'm not even a lefty!).

AR

Michael Thompson said...

Bill,

You have an interesting picture of the infamous Spiderman. Any details as to where this picture was taken? UBC Law School perhaps or is it a Liberal Party event?

Bill Tieleman said...

The photo was on the Liberal website at some point in the distant past and was at a Liberal event I believe. Probably around 2002 or 2003.

Anonymous said...

Bill your coverage of the bc rail case has been the best, bar none! I shudder to think what the coverage would have been like if we didn't have journalists like you. But what does it tell you about Bornmans "character" when you read the wikipedia site and all the spin associated with it and then look at his attempts to become a lawyer! Our system of justice is broken and beyond repair when the rcmp have to rely on a witness like Bornman, who readily admits to anything they want him to admit to so long as he can continue his law career. Any half hearted look into his background would reveal his questionable conduct in a number of areas. I just shake my head when I read some of this stuff and then try to make sense of it.

G said...

Bill, I said something like the following on the Public Eye blog comments section as well. First, I think you are doing stalwart work on the Basi trial, and I really look forward to your reporting. You rightly highlight the shenanigans on the Bornmann page in Wikipedia.

But the strength of Wikipedia is that if you see something wrong, you can change it. There is no easy way for "Wikipedia" (which is made up of thousands of committed readers and writers, rather than some central brain trust) to censor certain trouble makers. Better that you edit the thing yourself, adding links to your own (and others') work.

The worst that can happen is someone, "sock puppet" or otherwise, will delete it - but you can always put it back again. Yes, the process is a drag, but if you make a good case in the Talk section, you will have support from others.