This article explains how a single user on Wikipedia with an agenda can manipulate the project over an extended period. Wikipedia lists a number of articles under the category “English murderers“, and as of writing this category has a handful of subcategories: English assassins (7), English murderers of children (36), English people convicted of murder (155), English female murderers (40), and English regicides (mostly those involved in the execution of Charles I). For some reason Wikipedia does not have a category “English male murderers” which some may consider a bias in itself.
Lets focus on the two categories English people convicted of murder (155) and English female murderers (40). It turns out that 35 of the 40 “English female murderers” are also in the category “English people convicted of murder”; the remainder are male. Assuming that eventually the missing 5 women will get added to the category, Wikipedia has 120 articles (75%) concerning male murderers and 40 articles (25%) concerning female murderers. How does this compare to actual gender breakdown of murder convictions in England?
In 1995/6 (which does not seem to be a special year) there were 935 males convicted of murder (90%) and 101 females convicted of murder (10%). How is it that a female is 2.5 times more likely to be listed as a murderer on wikipedia than a male? Enter the special interest contributor by the name of Shakehandsman, a Wikipedian who tends to add negative copy to articles on women. Even when Shakehandsman isn’t writing overt negative comment, his additions are designed to denigrate the person indirectly. For example here is the before and after Shakehandsman version of the article on journalist Lorraine Davidson. Astute readers will see the section on her personal life has been added replete with a link to material that Shakehandsman would not have been able to add directly. Shakehandsman has been pursuing an agenda against women from his very first edit in 2006 to his latest series of edits in April 2012.
How does Shakehandsman’s agenda affect the imbalance in male/female murderers? Well, not only has Shakehandsman written 5 of the 40 articles in the category “English female murderers”, but he has also edited 29 of the other ones too. The vast majority of the articles that reference “English female murderers” do so because Shakehandsman has added the category either directly to the article, or indirectly by adding them surreptitiously to page redirects that hardly any other Wikipedia contributors are keeping an eye on, in some cases even creating the redirect as well.
The way that Shakehandsman pushes an agenda on Wikipedia can be observed with the article he created about Rekha Kumari-Baker. Naturally he added the “English female murderers” category but also a whole bunch more, including “English people of Indian descent” and “People from Cambridgeshire”. The point of categories is that they provide more links to the article, and more ways by which the article may be found. But just to be sure Shakehandsman also created an article on the “Cambridge Crown Court“, along with a section on Notable cases which, at the time of writing, had one single entry on … yep, you guessed it. Still Shakehandsman isn’t done yet because Wikipedia is littered with articles on all sorts of trivia, one of which is devoted to East Road in Cambridge, so what better than to make that article link to the new Crown Court article, too.
According to Wikipedia editing rules, the Kumari-Baker article shouldn’t even exist, given that any such article should be about the case, not the perpetrator. Shakehandsman created a chain of links, from the East Road article to the Crown Court article and on to the article on Kumari-Baker for one reason, and one reason alone. Five years on from the case, not many visitors to Wikipedia will recall Kumari-Baker, let alone search the site for her name. They may, however, look up Cambridge Crown Court, and curiosity may lead them to the article on Kumari-Baker, and then perhaps to all those other evil women carefully curated under “English female murderers” and “English child murderers”.
Photo credit – Flickr/Digital Sextant: licensed under Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)