User:Gary Goodman/Draft 3

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The Essjay scandal is a well-known scandal concerning Wikipedia that first arose in February 2007 after The New Yorker magazine corrected an earlier article about Wikipedia, stating that it had since learned that a prominent Wikipedia editor and administrator called Essjay, later self-identified as Ryan Jordan, was found to have made false claims about much of the information on his Wikipedia user page[1] and had also lied[2][3][4] in a phone interview with Stacy Schiff of The New Yorker[5] about his age, job, activities, background, and academic credentials.[6][7]

Although Essjay, who was briefly employed at Wikia, had claimed to hold doctoral degrees in theology and canon law as a tenured professor at a private university, he was in fact a 24-year old community college dropout from Kentucky, in the United States,[8] he did not have any teaching experience,[5] and had relied on sources such as Catholicism for Dummies[9] when editing articles.[10][11][12] The discrepancy in credentials was brought to public attention in late February 2007 when The New Yorker attached an editorial correction to a July 2006 article about Wikipedia, for which Essjay had been interviewed.[5]

Reaction to the disclosure was broad-based, encompassing commentary and articles in the electronic, print and broadcast media.[13] The Wikipedia community researched Essjay's article edits on the site to verify accuracy, along with creating and debating various proposals to improve the project's handling of identification and credentials.

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia co-founder[14][15][16] and president of Wikia,[17] who also has an ongoing role overseeing the workings of the Wikipedia community, initially showed support for Essjay's use of a distorted persona which bolstered false credentials. Travelling within India at the time, he said, "I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it," citing how valuable he had been as a Wikipedia contributor.[5] Later, however, during intense scrutiny internally from Wikipedia and when it became clear that the false credentials were used in "content disputes,"[8] Wales withdrew his support and asked for Essjay's resignation from his positions of trust on the Wikipedia project,[18] and from his paid job as Community Manager at Wikia.[1] On the 3rd of March 2007, the same day that Wales asked for his resigination, Essjay announced his retirement from Wikipedia.[10]


The Essjay affair has been the most publicized controversy about Wikipedia to date. It began in early 2007 when it became known that a prominent English Wikipedia editor, administrator and short-lived Wikia employee going by "Essjay" had lied about his age, background, and academic and professional credentials to 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Stacy Schiff during an interview she conducted for The New Yorker magazine for an article about Wikipedia. The public revelation of Essjay's deception, along with the breadth of media coverage that soon followed, spurred a flurry of public debate about Wikipedia. Critics decried the incident as evidence of their concerns about Wikipedia's accuracy, article-creation system, non-vetting of its contributors and administrative personnel, and even the legitimacy of the Wikipedia project as a whole. Wikipedia itself went into a shocked phase of introspection over numerous of the very same issues, which as remain without closure.

  • August 16, 2005: Essjay first posts on his Wikipedia user page, that he is a professor of theology, with doctorates in Theology and Canon Law.
  • Around June 2006: The Wikipedia Foundation highly recommended Essjay to do an interview with The New Yorker despite knowing beforehand that Essjay made a veracity of credential claims on his Wikipedia user page that were not verified.
  • July 31, 2006: The New Yorker publishes story about Wikipedia by Schiff, which features an interview with Essjay.
  • January 2007: Essjay was hired as a manager by Wikia, a wiki-hosting service founded by Wales and Angela Beesley.
  • January 7, 2007: Essjay posts autobiographical details on his user page at Wikia, giving his name, age, previous employment history from age 19, and positions within various Wikimedia Foundation projects. These details differ sharply from previous assertions on Essjay's Wikipedia user page about his academic and professional credentials.
  • January 11, 2007: A member of a messageboard called "Wikipedia Review" posts a message linking to the Wikia user page;[19] the ensuing discussion brings to light the contradictions and prompts Daniel Brandt to contact The New Yorker.
  • February 23, 2007: Wales announces his appointment of Essjay to Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, a group with powers to issue binding rulings in disputes related to Wikipedia.
  • In late February of 2007: The New Yorker issues a retraction nearly seven months after its initial article about Wikipedia.
  • February 28, 2007: Radar Online notes the fact correction appended to the The New Yorker article.
  • March 3, 2007:Wales issues a statement on his user talk page for Wikipedians to read. Essjay announces his retirement from Wikipedia on his user talk page at Wikipedia.
  • March 5, 2007: Story covered by The New York Times, describing the perils of open collaboration and also portraying the transparency of the Wikipedia process.
  • March 6, 2007: Story received extensive media coverage, including a national U.S. television broadcast on World News with Charles Gibson.
  • March 7, 2007: Story covered in an Associated Press article picked up by over 100 media outlets listed in Google news cache which has been the most publicized controversy about Wikipedia to date. .
  • March 19, 2007: The New Yorker publishes a formal apology by Jimmy Wales who is currently the de facto leader of Wikipedia.



Wikipedia was launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in January 2001 as a multilingual, Web-based, free content encyclopedia that anyone with access to one of its project Websites can edit. Changes made to Wikipedia articles undergo no formal peer review and are immediately viewable on the World Wide Web. Under this deliberately open model, Wikipedia's growth has been nothing short of exponential. Within only a month, Wikipedia had 600 articles, and year later in January 2002, 20,000. On November 20, 2004, the English Wikipedia alone reached 400,000 articles, and by March 1, 2006, that number had reached 1-million. Based upon Randian objectivism, Wikipedia's undergirding philosophy is that most of its contributors are well-meaning, and that unmoderated collaboration among them will gradually improve the encyclopedia such that it is both reliable and reputable. Organizationally, Wikipedia is headed by the Wikimedia Foundation, which includes an eighteen-member advisory board with less than ten employees, each headed de facto by Jimmy Wales. Sanger left the project in 2002.

Given its radically egalitarin method of encyclopedia-building, Wikipedia has been subject to often intense criticisms since its 2001 inception, and increasingly through its years of growth. While able to point to some successes, Wikipedia's article creation system and resulting content, especially on living personalities and controversial topics, have been subject to several well-publicized controversies. On November 29, 2005, John Seigenthaler Sr. wrote an op-ed in USA Today to criticize Wikipedia about a biography written contributors had written about him, which stated he had been suspected of direct involvement in the assassinations of both John and Bobby Kennedy. In late 2006, pro-golfer Fuzzy Zoeller voiced similar concerns when he filed a libel suit against the owner of an IP address, from which allegedly defamatory remarks were posted to his Wikipedia biography article.

Wikipedia runs on MediaWiki software, the sort of "guts" of Wikipedia which make it a dynamic wiki capable of producing its contents through the interactions of its users. One feature of the MediaWiki software is that it provides for each account-holding editor to create a special "user page" where they may write personal material, including information about their background, education, and accomplishments if they choose. That feature would prove instrumental in the Essjay Controversy that eventually developed.


In February, 2005, Ryan Jordan of Kentucky signed up with the user name "Essjay" for an account as a Wikipedia editor, the title Wikipedia gives to all of its article contributors. Shortly thereafter, he added details to his invented online persona. "I am a tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern United States," he wrote on his userpage, where he additionally indicated he held a Ph.D. in theology and an additional doctorate in canon law. Almost straightway, Essjay went on to prove himself an extremely useful and prolific editor in the eyes of most Wikipedia contributors and its leadership. He applied to become an administrator, a user with power to delete materials and ban users, and was confirmed by majority of Wikipedia users who voted during his nomination. All the while, he exhibited what seemed a proclivity for articles on Catholic topics, which he said was his area of degreed expertise, and cited his credentials either by inference, reputation, or sometimes overtly within content disputes. Essjay began to quickly move up within Wikipedia's ranks.

The New Yorker July 2006 article

During that time, in mid-2006, The New Yorker contacted the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's parent organization, to request contact with a model Wikipedia volunteer. The renowned magazine planned a feature article about Wikipedia. Obliging, the Foundation referred the magazine to Essjay, who then contacted him by email. Phone interviews followed between Schiff and Essjay over what Essjay claimed was six hours. Irrespective of their actual length, Schiff queried Essjay about his real-life background, credentials, and activities. In response, Essjay directed Joyce to his Wikipedia user page, where he said he had profiled such material (see images of Essjay's user page). Relying on what Joyce described as the Wikimedia Foundation's strong commendation and authentication of Essjay, she accepted Essjay's user page material as truthful and cited it in her article titled "Know It All," published in The New Yorker's July 31, 2006 issue.

After the positive press, Essjay continued to move up within Wikipedia's ranks. Jimmy Wales appointed him to Wikipedia's twelve-member Arbitration Committee, a body of jurists of sorts with powers to decide and enforce major disputes between Wikipedia contributors. The roles of bureaucrat and then steward soon followed, each representing higher levels of power Essjay held over other Wikipedia's contributors and, ultimately, its content. Once, he said he sent a letter to a professor in which he used himself and his credentials to defend Wikipedia as a reliable academic source. Around this time, Essjay began claiming he had once been an account manager with a Fortune 20 company, where he was part of a ten-member team that managed $500-million in annual sales, and that prior he had worked as a paralegal for five years, including nearly a year with Louisville firm that represented doctors in medical licensure matter and a three months in special position with a United States Bankruptcy Trustee. All the while, to most, Essjay remained the model Wikipedia contributor. Prior only a volunteer, Essjay was hired in January 2007 by Jimmy Wales for a paid position with Wikia, founded by himself and Angela Beesley. Only, neither Essjay's rise nor his story went unnoticed to certain of Wikipedia's critics.

Identity discrepancy

The New Yorker interview

The New Yorker ran a feature about Wikipedia by Stacy Schiff.[5] Experts including the president of Encyclopædia Britannica, Jorge Cauz, and the co-founder[20] of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, gave their opinions on the future of Wikipedia. Cauz stated that Wikipedia risked a "decline into a hulking, mediocre mass of uneven, unreliable, and, many times, unreadable articles" and that "Wikipedia is to Britannica as American Idol is to the Juilliard School". Wales countered by stating that he would consider Britannica a competitor, “except that I think they will be crushed out of existence within five years.” Stacy Schiff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writing for The New Yorker, also interviewed Essjay as a source for the article about Wikipedia ("Know It All" July 31, 2006) after he was recommended to her by a member of the Wikimedia Foundation. According to The New Yorker, Essjay "was willing to describe his work as a Wikipedia administrator but would not identify himself other than by confirming the biographical details that appeared on his user page."[5] Describing his academic credentials as including two doctorates, the article said that Essjay was spending fourteen hours or more a day on Wikipedia but was careful to keep his online life a secret from his colleagues and friends. Essjay was portrayed as often taking his laptop to class, so he could be available to other Wikipedians while giving a quiz.[5] At the heart of the revelation, Essjay had bragged on his Wikipedia user talk page about having fooled Schiff by "doing a good job playing the part."[7]

The New Yorker correction

In late February 2007 The New Yorker updated its article with a rare correction indicating that "Essjay" had subsequently identified himself as Ryan Jordan[8] and further stated, "he was described in the piece as 'a tenured professor of religion at a private university' with 'a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.' The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky reported that Jordan had attended but never graduated from Centre College and Bluegrass Community and Technical College (formerly known as Lexington Community College). The paper also stated that despite his claim to have had a three-month special position with a United States bankruptcy trustee, the office had no record that Jordan ever worked there.[8] Essjay now says that his real name is Ryan Jordan, that he is twenty-four and holds no advanced degrees, and that he has never taught."[5] Essjay, who by this time had identified himself as Ryan Jordan, now said these credentials were part of an online persona he had created in part to avoid cyberstalking.[2] Andrew Lih, Assistant Professor and Director of Technology Journalism and of the Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong[21] said that a portion of Essjay's comments on the incident constituted libel against Stacy Shiff, the reporter for The New Yorker. Essjay stated, "She made several offers to compensate me for my time."[22] Lih noted, This is an accusation of the highest degree to make about a journalist. Paying a source for a story is an absolute no-no in the normal practice of print journalism. And it struck me immediately how incredible it was he would accuse Stacy Schiff, a Pulitzer Prize winning author writing for The New Yorker, of this crime. We either have a serious breach of ethics with Ms. Schiff or another dubious statement claim from Essjay. Andrew Lih who is also Blogger and prominent contributor to Wikimedia Foundation projects says he contacted Schiff for comment about whether she had offered to pay Essjay for his time, and quotes her return email. In it Schiff stated that Essjay's assertion was "complete nonsense."[23]

Identity unraveled

Essjay's Wikipedia user page[24] (now removed) made the following claim: I am a tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern United States; I teach both undergraduate and graduate theology. I have been asked repeatedly to reveal the name of the institution, however, I decline to do so; I am unsure of the consequences of such an action, and believe it to be in my best interests to remain anonymous. Essjay also claimed on his user page that he held four academic degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies (B.A.), Master of Arts in Religion (M.A.R.), Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology (Ph.D.), and Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD). Essjay specialized in editing articles about religion on Wikipedia, and on one occasion he was called in to give some "expert testimony" on the status of Mary in the Roman Catholic Church.[25]

Before his identity discrepancy was known to The New Yorker, Essjay claimed to have sent a letter to a real-life college professor using his invented persona and phony credentials,[26] vouching for Wikipedia's accuracy.[7] In the letter he wrote in part, "It is never the case that known incorrect information is allowed to stay in Wikipedia."[7] When Ryan Jordan was hired by Wikia in January 2007, he reportedly made changes to his Wikia profile and "came clean on who he really was."[27][28] Other Wikipedia editors questioned Essjay/Jordan on his Wikipedia talk page about the apparent discrepancy between his new Wikia profile and his previously claimed credentials.[29] At some point, American activist and Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt,[30][31][32] found out about Essjay's identity and subsequently wrote a letter;[33] then reported the Essjay/Ryan Jordan connnection to The New Yorker.[34] When Ryan Jordan was hired by Wikia in January 2007, he reportedly made changes to his Wikia profile and "came clean on who he really was."[27][24] On March 3, after his true identity become known and as the controversy was unfolding, Essjay wrote in part on his user talk page that he was leaving Wikipedia, "I've enjoyed my time here, and done much good work; my time, however, is over, and leaving is the best thing for me and for Wikipedia. I walk away happy to be free to go about other things. I hope others will refocus the energy they have spent the past few days in defending and denouncing me to make something here at Wikipedia better."[35] Essjay also resigned his position with Wikia. A subsequent article in the Louisville Courier-Journal suggested that the new résumé he had posted at his Wikia page was also exaggerated.[8]

Breaking the story: from "Essjay" to Ryan Jordan

In January 2007, staunch Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt began publicly voicing concerns about Essjay at his Website, Wikipedia Watch. A month later, a small number of Wikipedia editors began to express their own misgivings, the number of which increased as the days progressed. Meanwhile, Brandt had already begun documenting his concerns about Essjay in a series of private communications to the The New Yorker.[36]

With Brandt having apparently piqued the alarm of The New Yorker, in February 2007 it issued a rare correction. Its July 31, 2006, article "Know It All," contained an important error, it said. Essjay was, in fact, 24-year-old Ryan Jordan of Kentucky. He held no advanced degrees and had never taught. Later revelations revealed that Jordan was a college dropout who had often used Catholicism for Dummies to source his editorial work on Wikipedia articles, having once stated, "This is a text I often require for my students, and I would hang my own Ph.D. on it's credibility." Jordan's claim to have had a three month special position with a United States Bankruptcy Trustee in Louisville also proved false, when the Trustee office denied Jordan's claim.


Wikipedia community

Discussing the incident, the New York Times noted that the Wikipedia community had responded to the affair with "the fury of the crowd," and observed:

The Essjay episode underlines some of the perils of collaborative efforts like Wikipedia that rely on many contributors acting in good faith, often anonymously and through self-designated user names. But it also shows how the transparency of the Wikipedia process — all editing of entries is marked and saved — allows readers to react to suspected fraud.[37]
Early on, one of the responses by Jimmy Wales, the de-facto leader of Wikipedia,[38] to the news of this administrator's invented persona was:
Speaking personally about Jordan, Wales said, “Mr. Ryan [sic] was a friend, and still is a friend. He is a young man, and he has offered me a heartfelt personal apology, which I have accepted. I hope the world will let him go in peace to build an honorable life and reputation.”[39] Moreover, Wales intially defended Essjay and did not see a problem with the online pseudonym.[5]

As the controversy continued to erupt, Essjay responded with a statement on his Wikipedia user talk page, writing in part:

…I *am* sorry if anyone in the Wikipedia community has been hurt by my decision to use disinformation to protect myself. I'm not sorry that I protected myself; I believed, and continue to believe, that I was right to protect myself, in light of the problems encountered on the internet in these trying times. I have spoken to all of my close friends here about this, and have heard resoundingly that they understand my position, and they support me. Jimbo and many others in Wikipedia's hierarchy have made thier [sic] support known as well…[40]

Larry Sanger, founder of Citizendium and a co-founder of Wikipedia,[41] responded to Wales on his Citizendium blog:

There’s something utterly breathtaking, and ultimately tragic, about Jimmy telling The New Yorker that he doesn’t have a problem with Essjay’s lies, and by essentially honoring Essjay after his lies were exposed.... Doesn’t Jimmy know that this has the potential to be even more damaging to Wikipedia than the Seigenthaler situation, since it reflects directly on the judgment and values of the management of Wikipedia?[42]

However, Jimmy Wales later issued a new statement on his Wikipedia user talk page:

I have been for several days in a remote part of India with little or no Internet access. I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes. I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people's trust. I want to make it perfectly clear that my past support of EssJay in this matter was fully based on a lack of knowledge about what has been going on. Even now, I have not been able to check diffs, etc.

I have asked EssJay to resign his positions of trust within the community. In terms of the full parameters of what happens next, I advise (as usual) that we take a calm, loving, and reasonable approach. From the moment this whole thing became known, EssJay has been contrite and apologetic. People who characterize him as being "proud" of it or "bragging" are badly mistaken.[43]

The next day, Sanger responded:

Jimmy’s statement implies that the only thing that occasions his request for Essjay’s resignation–just ten days after appointing him to the Arbitration Committee–was his newfound knowledge that Essjay “used his false credentials in content disputes.” That apparently is the only thing that would ”violate people’s trust.” Since Jimmy declared he didn’t “have a problem with it” to The New Yorker, it seems Jimmy finds nothing wrong, nothing trust-violating, with the act itself of openly and falsely touting many advanced degrees on Wikipedia. But there most obviously is something wrong with it, and it’s just as disturbing for Wikipedia’s head to fail to see anything wrong with it.[44]

Reaction from within the Wikipedia community was sharp, voluminous, and mixed. While most editors denounced at least some aspects of his behavior, responses ranged from offering complete support to accusing Jordan of "plain and simple fraud."[37]

As a result of the controversy, Wikipedia users began a review of Essjay's previous edits and discovered evidence he had relied upon his fictional professorship to influence editorial consideration of edits he made. For example, in a content dispute Essjay wrote: This is a text I often require for my students, and I would hang my own Ph.D. on it's credibility.[45] "People have gone through his edits and found places where he was basically cashing in on his fake credentials to bolster his arguments," said Michael Snow, a Wikipedia administrator and founder of the Wikipedia community newspaper, The Wikipedia Signpost. "Those will get looked at again."[37]

Wales was "...reported to be considering vetting all persons who adjudicate on factual disputes."[46] "I don't think this incident exposes any inherent weakness in Wikipedia, but it does expose a weakness that we will be working to address," Wales added.[39] He reportedly insisted that Wikipedia editors still would be able to remain anonymous if they wished. "We always prefer to give a positive incentive rather than absolute prohibition, so that people can contribute without a lot of hassle," Wales commented. However, he also warned that “It's always inappropriate to try to win an argument by flashing your credentials, and even more so if those credentials are inaccurate.”[47] Wales reportedly "...expects contributors to the site who claim certain credentials will soon have to prove they really have them."[27] However, Florence Devouard, chair of the Wikimedia Foundation (which is no longer headed by Wales), was not supportive of his credential proposal, saying, "I think what matters is the quality of the content, which we can improve by enforcing policies such as 'cite your source,' not the quality of credentials showed by an editor." Vigorous debate over how to improve Wikipedia continued in the first few months.[6]

As a followup to his initial comments to The New Yorker, Wales wrote this apology to the magazine, which appeared in its March 19, 2007 issue:

I am writing to apologize to The New Yorker and Stacy Schiff, and to give some follow-up concerning Ryan Jordan (Editors' Note, March 5th). When I last spoke to The New Yorker about the fact that a prominent Wikipedia community member had lied about his credentials, I misjudged the issue. It was not O.K. for Mr. Jordan, or Essjay, to lie to a reporter, even to protect his identity. I later learned more about the deceptions involved and asked Mr. Jordan to resign from his positions of responsibility at Wikipedia. He has since resigned from his position at Wikia as well. Mr. Jordan is a wonderful and thoughtful young man who made a series of very bad judgements. I consider him a friend, and I hope that the world will allow him to move forward in peace and dignity to regain his honor through a life well lived. Wikipedia is built on trust and love. Our trust has been broken, and only love can rebuild it. The community has begun discussing a proposal of mine that we adopt some verification measures for claimed credentials, so that Wikipedia may further improve from this painful experience.[48]



Critics of Wikipedia had been heavily weighing in since day one. The blogosphere was particularly replete with critics' words.

Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief of online encyclopedia Citizendium,[49] and a founder of Wikipedia[14][15][16] who left the project in 2002,[50] called Essjay's response as "a defiant non-apology"[51][52] and elsewhere characterized Essjay's actions as "identity fraud."[53] Sanger and longtime Wikipedia critic Andrew Orlowski harshly criticized Jimmy Wales for hiring Essjay at Wikia and appointing him to the Wikipedia arbitration committee after Essjay had apparently admitted his previously claimed academic and professional credentials were false.[52][54] In another blog post titled "Wikipedia firmly supports your right to identity fraud," which was quoted by both The Register and Dan Blacharsk of ITworld, characterized Essjay's actions as "identity fraud." Orlowski wrote in The Register that Essjay's actions betrayed a dangerous community mindset within Wikipedia, stating:
Wikipedians have plainly become a very insular group: they have their own mores and requirements, which are completely independent of the real world. Indeed, that's what this story is about, after all: real-world identities and credentials are rejected as unnecessary by Wikipedia. How could Wikipedia fail to become insular with that attitude?[26][54][55]

Dan Blacharsk of ITworld additionally reviewed and linked to blog comments by Seth Finkelstein. Finkelstein said that Wikipedia "fundamentally runs by an extremely deceptive sort of social promise," in which he says Essjay is a product of.[56] Blacharsk continued by summarizing Finkelstein, "Legitimate writers, scholars and industry experts have very little motivation to contribute to Wikipedia — leaving the project with wannabes and posers like Essjay with too much time on their hands to churn out content."[26][57]

In an opinion piece for The Guardian's Technology supplement Finkelstein described Wikipedia contributors as being sold the dream of getting academic prestige by working for free, letting Wikia investors reap the rewards, with "Essjay" as "that dream's poster child":
Wikipedia allowed him to revel in playing out a detailed fantasy role. Finkelstein considered it both ironic and a "red flag" about the value system that many considered lying in content disputes more serious than lying to the New Yorker, and described "cult appeal" as a key factor in Wikipedia, with a charismatic leader peddling "a type of spiritual transcendence through selfless service to an ideal, finding a cadre of acolytes willing to devote their lives (without payment) to the organisation's projects."[7]


On March 2, 2007, a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education concluded "the incident is clearly damaging to Wikipedia's credibility – especially with professors who will now note that one of the site's most visible academics has turned out to be a fraud."[58]

Ross Brann, a professor of Judeo-Islamic studies at Cornell University, said, "This [process of scholarly review] is completely removed [at Wikipedia]… They could make up your life if they wanted to." Brann said that Wikipedia "has no place in the University," and he believed the Essjay incident would do nothing to change the unfavorable opinion that academics generally hold about the online encyclopedia. Several students interviewed at Cornell indicated that they would continue to use Wikipedia as a quick source of information, though they would not cite it in scholarly work.[59]

In an interview about a new course at the University of East Anglia in which postgraduate students studying for a masters degree in international relations and development are required to read and edit Wikipedia to see at first hand how knowledge is produced, the lecturer Dr Nicola Pratt stated that she was undeterred by the revelation about a 24-year-old student posing as a professor of religious studies. She stated that "The ethos of Wikipedia is that anyone can contribute, regardless of status... What's relevant is their knowledge as judged by other readers, not whether they are professors or not - and the fact the student was exposed shows it works."[60]


In the beginning, Wales planned a response to vet the credentials of all who claimed them on Wikipedia.[39][61][62] There was a brief proposal to encourage Wikipedians to verify credentials which was rejected by the community.[63] The Wikimedia Foundation discussed credential accountability.[64] Currently, there has been no official Wikipedia policy change directly related to this episode.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ratcliffe, Mitch. Wikipedia: Why does Essjay need to "protect himself"?, ZDNet, March 5, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Zaharov-Reutt, Alex. Wikipedia: did one of its admins lie?, iTWire, March 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Essjay’s entire Wikipedia life was conducted with only a user name; anonymity is common for Wikipedia administrators and contributors, and he says that he feared personal retribution from those he had ruled against online.
  3. Farrell, Nick. Wikipedia ‘expert’ lied about qualifications, The Inquirer, March 1, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  4. Claburn, Thomas. Wikipedia Mulls Proof Of Credentials, InformationWeek, March 8, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Schiff, Stacy. Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?, Know It All, The New Yorker, July 24, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cohen, Noam. After False Claim, Wikipedia to Check Degrees, Technology, The New York Times, March 12, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Finkelstein, Seth. Read me first, Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive, Technology, The Guardian, March 8, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Wikipedia's latest scandal is the revelation that a very high-ranking administrator, and employee (until this month) of an associated commercial venture, Wikia, had falsified his academic credentials. The misrepresentation was confirmed when, as part of the Wikia hiring process, accurate details of his identity were presumably required.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Wolfson, Andrew. Wikipedia editor who posed as professor is Ky. dropout, Local News, The Courier-Journal, March 6, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  9. Trigilio, John; Brighenti, Kenneth (April 28, 2003). Catholicism for Dummies. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing. ISBN 0-7645-5391-7. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Goldman, Russell. Wikiscandal: A Prominent Editor at the Popular Online Encyclopedia Is a Fraud, ABC News, March 6, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  11. Elsworth, Catherine. Wikipedia 'expert' admits: I made it up, The Age, March 8, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  12. Fake professor in Wikipedia storm, BBC News, March 6, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  13. ABC News broadcast on Essjay. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Mitchell, Dan. Insider Editing at Wikipedia, The New York Times, December 24, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Mehegan, David. Bias, sabotage haunt Wikipedia's free world, Business, The Boston Globe, February 12, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Bergstein, Brian. Sanger says he co-started Wikipedia, ABC News, Associated Press, March 25, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “The nascent Web encyclopedia Citizendium springs from Larry Sanger, a philosophy Ph.D. who counts himself as a co-founder of Wikipedia, the site he now hopes to usurp. The claim doesn't seem particularly controversial - Sanger has long been cited as a co-founder. Yet the other founder, Jimmy Wales, isn't happy about it.
  17. McNichol, Tom. Wikipedia founder hunts for gold, CNN, February 27, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  18. Cohen, Noam. Wikipedia ire turns against ex-editor, International Herald Tribune, March 6, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “By Saturday, Wales had changed his mind about the episode. He cleared off the 'talk' section of his own Wikipedia user page — usually cluttered with personal requests, policy debates and compliments — so that 'this statement gets adequate attention’ and announced that he had 'asked Essjay to resign his positions of trust within the community.’ He said 'that my past support of Essjay in this matter was fully based on a lack of knowledge about what has been going on.'
  19. Who is Essjay?, Probably he's Ryan Jordan, Wikipedia Review. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  20. This time, it'll be a Wikipedia written by experts, The Guardian, July 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Larry Sanger seems to have a thing about free online encyclopedias. Although his main claim to fame is as the co-founder, along with Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia, that is just one of several projects to produce large-scale, systematic stores of human knowledge he has been involved in... "[Jimmy Wales] saw that I was essentially looking for employment online and he was looking for someone to lead Nupedia"... Career: 1992-1996, 1997-1998 Graduate teaching associate, OSU; 2000-2002 Editor-in-chief, Nupedia.
  21. Andrew Lih, Hong Kong University. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  22. Andrew Lih, Andrew Lih, March 3, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  23. Lih, Andrew. Essjay’s Third Transgression, Andrew Lih, March 3, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Archived copy of Essjay's Wikipedia user page, The Internet Archive. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  25. Five solas discussion page, Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Blog Insights: Wikipedia's great fraud, ITworld. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Williams, Martyn. Wikipedia Founder Addresses User Credentials, PC World, March 9, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  28. Template:User:Essjay, Wikia, January 7, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  29. Michael Snow. New Yorker correction dogs arbitrator into departure, Wikipedia Signpost, March 5, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Jordan's real identity first became known when Wikia hired him as a community manager. His name and a photo appeared on his Wikia user page when he started work in January... On Wikipedia, however, the new persona began to prompt questions about how to square it with the old.
  30. Jesdanun, Anick. NSA Web Site Puts 'Cookies' on Computers, Associated Press, December 28, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  31. Goldenberg, Suzanne. US intelligence service bugged website visitors despite ban, The Guardian, December 30, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  32. Velshi, Ali. New Information About NSA Domestic Spying Program Emerges, The Situation Room, CNN, December 29, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  33. Brandt, Daniel. Dear Ms. Stacy Schiff:, Wikipedia Review, January 20, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  34. King, Ian. "A Wiki web they've woven", King’s Corner, 24 Hours, March 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Veteran Wikipeida [sic] critic Daniel Brandt of first dug up details of Jordan's bamboozling of both Wikipedians and the New Yorker, leading to the magazine running a correction this week, admitting it had been had.
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  36. Leyden, Joel. Experts: Citizendium Will Replace Wikipedia, Israel News Agency, March 28, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
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  38. Frith, Holden. Wikipedia founder launches rival online encyclopaedia, The Times, March 26, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Wikipedia’s de facto leader, Jimmy Wales, stood by the site's format.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Doran, James. Wikipedia chief promises change after ‘expert’ exposed as fraud, Tech & Web, The Times, March 6, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  40. Keen, Andrew. Laughter and forgetting on Wikipedia, ZDNet, March 7, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  41. Tiwari, Neha. Wikipedia today, Citizendium tomorrow, CNET, April 5, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  42. Wikipedia firmly supports your right to identity fraud, Citizendium Blog, Larry Sanger. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  43. Wales, Jimmy. User talk:Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  44. Jimmy Wales’ latest response on the Essjay situation, Citizendium Blog, Larry Sanger. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  45. Edit in which Essjay claims to a user that he had a PhD and students under his charge, WebCite, April 12, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  46. Staff. Wikipedia's 'bogus' editor ousted, Freelance UK, March 7, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
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  50. More than just a war of words, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Wikipedia is suffering from a credibility crisis. Some - such as the Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, who left the organisation in 2002 - say the malaise goes even deeper. He describes the organisation as "completely dysfunctional" and is heading for a reckoning.
  51. Farewell, Wikipedia?, The Register (U.K.). Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
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  53. Orlowski, Andrew. Bogus Wikipedia Prof. was blessed then promoted, Music and Media, The Register, March 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
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  58. Read, Brock. Essjay, the Ersatz Academic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
  59. Albanes, John. Wikipedia Stays Popular Despite False Sources, The Cornell Daily Sun, March 15, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. “Despite whatever downsides the site may or may not have, they do not seem to have affected its patronage, even after the recent “Essjay affair.” Perhaps this is because of people like Parthasarathy, who said, “Maybe sometime it has false information, but it usually has the information I’m looking for.” Whatever the cause of its growing popularity, the site seems to have acquired a niche in the online world that, for now at least, is here to stay.
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Additional sources



February 28, 2007

March 1, 2007

March 6, 2007

March 7, 2007

March 8, 2007

Audio and video



This draft uses content that originally appeared on Wikipedia.

[[Category:Controversies]] [[Category:Fraud]] [[Category:Internet culture]] [[Category:Internet hoaxes]] [[Category:Impostors]] [[Category:Living people]] [[Category:People from Kentucky]] [[Category:Scandals]]