Wikinews talk:Story preparation/Wikipedia class action lawsuit linked to possible earthquake charity fraud

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About this investigation

Please read this before participating in the discussion.

QuakeAID is an organization that has solicited donations for earthquake relief and which has apparently attempted to use Wikipedia for self-promotion. It is not generally recognized as a charity, seems to have been delisted from some directories apparently because of legitimacy concerns, and appears to be associated with w:Greg Lloyd Smith, a person who is himself notable for some questionable activities. It is indisputably linked to BAOU.COM, a company which has published Holocaust denial articles on its newswire.

BAOU.COM has engaged in attacks against Wikipedia in its newswire and appears to be behind the alleged "class action lawsuit" at wikipediaclassaction.org. Use and consult the Wikipedia article QuakeAID for all the hard, published facts which we should be able to rely on. In order to reduce the impact of malicious changes to that article, a permalink to a recently reviewed version is posted and updated below.

Because of Wiki[mp]edia's involvement, we must pay special attention to maintaining absolute neutrality and double-checking all facts. This article should not be published until a thorough investigation into the matter has been conducted. If another news site will beat us to the story, this is the price of being thorough. See particularly the updated to-do list and investigation pages linked below before even thinking about publishing this story.

During your research, always save the evidence. Links may expire, including links to the Wayback Machine.

Notes

Let's try not to duplicate information from the Wikipedia article QuakeAID here:

  • /QuakeAID - Information that directly relates to QuakeAID's alleged charitable purpose
  • /BAOU - Information about QuakeAID's mother organization (and directly related companies), as well as its "OfficialWire"
  • /Individuals - Person associated with QuakeAID
  • /Class action lawsuit - About the lawsuit website and effort
  • /Wikipedophilia - Another campaign website, possibly associated with OfficialWire/BAOU
  • /E-mail to BAOU - What should be in an official e-mail inquiry to BAOU from Wikinews?

What about this one? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perverted-Justice.com - Rahhhz December 24 2005

Links

Hello, you have great site!

Main to do list

These are absolute must have research tasks that need to be completed before this article is published.

  • Get an interview with or at least a statement from someone associated with QuakeAID/BAOU.com. Rex Curry (/Individuals) is also a living person with contact information and a website associated with OfficialWire (QuakeAID) and should be contacted and investigated.
  • Research the Holocaust denial links further (see Wikipedia article and /BAOU) - what is BAOU's political orientation and why?
  • Search news archives for stories about QuakeAID (may have to include paid archives such as Lexis-Nexis)
  • Get direct quotes from other organizations involved in earthquake relief.
  • This conspiracy site dealing with BAOU cites correspondence with Jennifer Monroe where she states: "Greg (I presume you mean Greg Lloyd Smith), has no position here, given his death last year. His father does, but his name is not Greg". There's one recent article on OfficialWire bylined Greg Lloyd Smith. [1] If we can verify that the e-mail is from JM, we've caught them red-handed.
    • I've contacted the JDO and asked for a raw headers copy of the e-mail.--Eloquence 03:20, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Review Internal Revenue Code section 6104(d) which specifies "Public Disclosure of Material Relating to Tax-Exempt Organizations" which specifies what QuakeAID must disclose and how to get the information from them. Mdavis 16:47, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

"Don't feed the trolls"

BAOU's "Wikipedia lawsuit" has no merit and seems harmless, so not feeding the "trolls" may be a common response to this whole affair. However, QuakeAID presents itself as a charity providing earthquake relief and solicits donations in this capacity. It has been listed in various directories, and is working hard to get re-listed. This is not just some schoolboy setting up a few websites. There is money involved, even an IRS registration, and given the time and effort put into projects like QuakeAID's "JustVolunteers" network, as well as Greg Lloyd Smith's apparent past involvement in scams, it seems not unlikely that this is a major scam operation. If Wikinews or other media can expose it as such, people may go to prison. This is serious stuff.

I still feel a bit unclean about chasing someone who did "us" wrong: it smacks of revenge. If a company sets up a website alleging stupid things about Wikipedia, why do we feel compelled to choose them to go after? There are enough corrupt politicians, unclear points of view, strange happenings to investigate; spending time on these people seems like a waste. Anyways, just my POV. -- IlyaHaykinson 23:38, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
We have a lot of concrete evidence in this case. Do you have a story of a "corrupt politician" or "strange happenings" worth investigating where we have similarly strong leads? Again, the revenge came from OfficialWire, after Wikipedians called the legitimacy of QuakeAID into question. We are simply continuing this original investigation here.--Eloquence 00:36, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

General comments

Information relevant to the above notes subpages should be moved there. Please note that this discussion page has been refactored (summarized). See the version before the refactoring.

Title

The title will have to be changed depending on the results of the investigation. Amgine has also pointed out that so far, there is no lawsuit but only a "gathering of complaints", so the title will have to reflect the facts at the time of publication.--Eloquence 01:16, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Maintain NPOV

No matter what your feelings are for Wikipedia or QuakeAID/WCAL, remember to always adhere to the NPOV policy. There are no exceptions to this, so be aware, be respectful, stay neutral.

I'd like to think that we can document whatever efforts Baou may make to portray Wikipedia in a bad light without this discussion becoming something they report on. I.e. don't do a Jeremy Paxman on anyone, even if Jennifer Monroe starts posting on this page. Brian McNeil / talk 23:02, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
I am going to have to stress this much further than some of you are seeming to take it seriously. Wikinews does not attack anyone, no matter how ruthless they may seem. Investigations are not our thing, they are hardly ever NPOV and I doubt this case can adhere to the policy, given its nature and Wikinews' nature. There are no exceptions for this - even if we are owned by Wikimedia, the obvious victim in this case. Do not stoop to BAOU's level, that's not how we are. Besides, no one who has even a shred of sanity or intelligence reads what they say, anyways. --MrMiscellanious (talk) (contribs) 20:01, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
Investigations are not our thing? Since when? Investigative journalism has always been one of the goals of Wikinews. And there are a few stories in Category:Original reporting which qualify, but this one is a true challenge. Yes, NPOV needs to be maintained. But it is absolutely not true that "investigations are not our thing". Original reporting, digging deeply, getting to the facts, this is what Wikinews is about.--Eloquence 23:43, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
Investigations mean that you come to a conclusion. This conclusion comes into play with the NPOV policy because they mean that Wikinews is taking a side or a theory. That is not what Wikinews is here for. If you are here to smear QuakeAID, I'm going to have to ask you to abstain. We do not do that. Stay neutral, don't take sides. But don't focus on the claims of the organization as a fraud; that is not in accordance with the NPOV policy, we are part of the Wikimedia Foundation and any outcome we have will quickly be questioned due to our affiliation and the previous history. In the outcome of this, our POV will be questioned. Our authenticity will also be questioned. I urge that people take extreme caution in the development of this investigation to be as impartial as possible. Additionally, conducting an experiment should be based under impartial claims, as many Wikipedia users have claimed this is a scam, and we should not base the investigation on those claims. --MrMiscellanious (talk) (contribs) 23:55, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
At the moment, we are investigating facts. Which of these facts are indisputable, and which require attribution, can be decided if and when an article is to be written. There is nothing inherently POV about investigative journalism when it is done in a collaborative fashion, and when controversial interpretations are either omitted or attributed.--Eloquence 00:17, 20 December 2005 (UTC)
I disagree; quality journalism is all about presenting information in a way that lets the reader draw their own conclusions. Some things, like facts, are for a journalist to identify. It is also the journalist who can identify the possible outcomes, or the potential meanings. Staying neutral means not saying "so, as a result, X is right in this debate". However, it is very possible to stay neutral and say "So, as a result, X appears to be behaving unethically" or "X appears to be lying about Y". We do, however, run the risk of taking sides when we deal with a biased situation such as this one; which is why I highly disagree with the choice of this particular article... -- IlyaHaykinson 00:01, 20 December 2005 (UTC)
My first and primary goal was to move the original research that was taking place on Wikipedia to Wikinews. What we do with the results of this research - whether we send it to the FBI for further investigation, publish an article based on it, do both, or do nothing, can be decided later as the results unfold. However, I am strongly of the opinion that given the evidence that already exists, there is a strong moral case to be made for continuing this investigation, regardless of the involvement of Wikipedia. To ignore an important case just because the organization in question happens to attack us is not the way to deal with controversies.
This is going to happen a lot more often, since our investigations are by necessity somewhat public, and many companies and organizations may respond with a preemptive anti-Wikipedia or anti-Wikinews campaign. Remember that this started when Wikipedians began raising questions about QuakeAID - that's when "OfficialWire" ran its first anti-Wikipedia story. This is not in doubt. So the issue of whether this charity is legitimate came first, and it should continue to be examined, regardless of the fact that OfficialWire is responding to these allegations by trying to discredit Wikipedia, apparently through multiple parallel campaigns.--Eloquence 00:17, 20 December 2005 (UTC)
I remember there being some discussions about "original conclusions" in the past -- I found that discussion here. --Chiacomo (talk) 00:09, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

It's in your hands now

My main interest here was to move the original research from Wikipedia to Wikinews. I've integrated all the information from the Wikipedia article into the various notes categories. The WP article now focuses on hard, indisputable facts without any insinuations.

This is a big, big topic and a big chance for Wikinews to shine. I cannot commit myself to anything of this magnitude at the moment. But I hope that with the collaborative work of Wikinewsies and Wikipedians, we can get some of the facts out. And this is big for Wikipedia as well. The whole BAOU operation is running a major operation against WP, from its OfficialWire articles, which are indexed by Google News, to the campaign websites (WikipediaClassAction.org and possibly Wikipedophilia.com, perhaps others).

It's up to you to give this story wings.--Eloquence 03:46, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

It probably should not have been removed from wikipedia. It was a valuble resource there, even for figuringo ut what to write about here. Why not leave their article with the info, give it a sources tag, and mention that all the original research needs to be listed here. Nyarlathotep 13:12, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Response of Mr Wales to this investigation ?

I see the subject has been brought up on his talk page. Brian McNeil / talk 14:17, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Stories so far from "OfficialWire"

See /BAOU#Anti-Wikipedia stories on "OfficialWire" Please use {{source}} template if adding any additional stories from Officialwire.

Yes. This is duplicating the research at /BAOU.--Eloquence 18:16, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

:: Missed that one, the sub-pages need linked in more places, not all are obvious. --Brian McNeil / talk 18:22, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Zap these comments if what I've put above is likely to help others avoid doing the same as I did. Brian McNeil / talk 18:42, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Parents for the Online Safety of Children

This organisation is responsible for the Online Encyclopedia Is A Gathering For Internet Predators article. I have an email from a Mr Alfred Cunningham as a spokesperson of the above-mentioned organisation, and as the author of the above which he described as a press release. I'd said it was odd not to have a website, but apparently some of the children they're concerned about are helping them out with the technical issues. I also got emailed from the OfficialWire email address a link to the 'Founded On Porn, Wikipedia Shapes The Way You Think article.

I expect to get a link to the POSC website when it comes into existence, then I can look into the registration on that and inquire about membership numbers and any drive to draw in new members. Brian McNeil / talk 22:41, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Based on my experiences, it seems highly unlikely that kids would be joining such an effort. In any case, the notion that an organization devoted to online issues exists since 1997 without any public record or even a website, and then suddenly appears in an anti-Wikipedia article, seems a bit difficult to accept. Have you looked at the headers of the email? Where does it originate?--Eloquence 00:53, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
It is from a Gmail address, the earliest Received: header is for 10.49.32.14 which I don't seem to be able to do anything with using Visual Traceroute. I'll send some followup questions. Brian McNeil / talk 05:36, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Quote from initial mail from Mr Cunningham: "At the moment, POSC is a networking of concerned parents dedicated towards the issue of Online material; in the past our activity was limited to reporting the administrators of websites about their content and writing to Congressmen. However, with our recent discovery of the pedophiles within wikipedia, we felt it was time to publicly issue a press release on the matter of wikipedia. I will contact you once the website is up." --Brian McNeil / talk 14:17, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

I have another response from Mr Cunningham, /POSC email2. Their website is at http://www.theposc.com. Registration is listed as "Private Registration" to "1&1 Internet inc.", looks like another proxy registrar which I'm sure they can claim is justified as they state on the site they've received death threats. --Brian McNeil / talk 08:16, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

On an intreasting note http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/hivemind.html use to have a listing of wikipedia admins and who they are, had a note at the bottom that said they refused tips via gmail because they couldn't track them and people were giving false info from emails from gmail. Bawolff ☺☻Smile.png 08:28, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

I would seriouly like to help do some honest work to help combat such misinformation campaigns, and if there's any way I can help, please LMK how I can or if I can. And even if no one replies, I'll still look for ways I can. --156.101.1.5 15:31, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Darn, didn't realize where I was. I am User:DanielCD at the regular Wikipedia. --DanielCD 15:45, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

I have received additional email from Mr Cunningham, someone has pointed him to this page - which obviously gave away that as an "independent journalist" my interest is seeing stories on Wikinews. :-) I may have to request the second email that's on a sub-page be deleted, the other issue he is concerned with it that some people here have stated or implied that POSC is "linked in any way to this scam organization", instead they contacted the Class action site. In my reply I have pointed out that the class action site looks connected to Baou, and that the manner in which people are being asked to join the suit is rather unorthodox. I've asked if I can have a publishable mail about their (nonexistent) relationship with Baou, we'll see. Brian McNeil / talk 10:58, 9 January 2006 (UTC)
Despite Mr Cunningham's concerns I'll lift the following from the opening of his last mail to me... "We're not linked in any way to this scam organization except for an email we sent out to wikipediaclassaction.com.", I find this perfectly believable, although I do wonder how he found links to this page. --Brian McNeil / talk 19:58, 15 January 2006 (UTC)

Bomis

One of the key allegations being made against Wikipedia is the association with pornography via w:Bomis, admittedly the Bomis site looks like a parked search portal at the moment, the supposed adult site at http://premium.bomis.com/ currently only says "Hi, mom!" --Brian McNeil / talk 14:17, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

That Bomis sold erotic content at one point is undisputed; the Bomis article on Wikipedia clearly states so and provides links to the archived versions of the relevant pages. However, the article also makes allegations of violations of copyright and other spurious claims; I've asked Jimmy to comment on those.--Eloquence 18:15, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
Doesn't that bring into question their use of images apparently belonging to Bomis? The thing is, there's very little online about the people who you might describe as prosecuting Wikimedia, but lots you can dig out of places like Wikipedia edit histories that they're using to fuel the controversy. Brian McNeil / talk 18:54, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
Bomis is a distraction. While we should get a response from Jimmy on it to set the record straight (and point out that yes, it is true that some of the initial money for Nupedia/Wikipedia came from the sale of soft porn), this is not where the real story is. BAOU and Greg Lloyd Smith are.--Eloquence 23:35, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

More about Greg Lloyd Smith

Someone sent me heaps more information about Greg Lloyd Smith - business records, news articles, etc. This provides some background on the international web we're dealing with (Smith moved from America to England to Greece and may now reside in Mauritius), and also an idea of the scale: Smith was involved in a high profile venture capital company called IEQ, which apparently resulted in a huge dispute with a company called "madeforchina.com" offering "permission email marketing". The people we're dealing with are not small numbers. The search results also include background on the Amazon.com.gr scam, where Smith apparently copied the site design, content, domain name and slogan (but lost the lawsuit). The responsible lawyer from Amazon.com might be worth talking to.

This is from Lexis Nexis and it is copyrighted, so I can't post it publicly. However, if anyone wants to work on processing this information for Wikipedia and Wikinews, drop me a mail. I will likely not have time for this over the next two weeks.--Eloquence 00:28, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

Graphics artist needed

We could use a good graphics artist to model the complex relations between Kestrel, IEQ, MPC, BAOU, QuakeAID, Just Volunteers, Greg Lloyd Smith, his wife, Rex Curry, "Jennifer Monroe", and other players. It could become a pretty big map. Do we have someone on Wikinews who would be qualified to do this?--Eloquence 05:01, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

If no one else steps up to the plate, I can lend a hand. -- NeoAmsterdam 11:23, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

Source Link

The source link dosen't seem to be working. MyName 19:56, 2 June 2006 (UTC)