By Delicious Carbuncle
Another in a in a series of blog posts highlighting lesser-known Wikipedia editors.
“There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear. How we work. What we think. It’s all about the information. The world isn’t run by weapons anymore. Or energy. Or money. It’s run by little ones and zeroes. Little bits of data. It’s all just electrons.”
That’s a quote from the 1992 spy comedy Sneakers. It is curiously appropriate for describing a type of warfare in which Wikipedia is used to advance a particular ideology or worldview. This quote appears on the userpage of Wikipedia editor For An Angel.
For An Angel recently created a biography of minor actress Annalise Basso. Minor both in the sense that she has yet to have a lead role and also in that she is 14 years old. In fact, For An Angel’s Wikipedia editing has two distinct areas of focus – child or teen actresses and television shows aimed at teens and pre-teens. For An Angel is not the only editor who contributes mainly to this subject area, but in this particular case, there is more than meets the eye.
On For An Angel’s userpage, they have a list of articles that they have created. The odd thing is that some of the listed articles were created by another editor and For An Angel has made only minor edits. That editor, Ospinad, stopped editing at the beginning of 2008, the same time For An Angel started editing. For An Angel simply picked up where Ospinad left off, editing the same articles under a new name just days after. In April 2008 Wikipedia admin and police enthusiast Tiptoety deleted Ospinad’s userpage and talk pages with a comment indicating that Ospinad had invoked their “right to vanish”. Talk pages are not supposed to be deleted if a user vanishes (there is a separate paragraph covering this in the guideline).
There is no rule on Wikipedia about starting up a new account and abandoning the old one, but you can easily have your username changed if you decide you don’t like it anymore. So why did Ospinad decide to become For An Angel? One possible reason is to allow the user to distance themselves from comments made about pedophilia on the talk pages (like this one for example). For An Angel seems to have avoided making similar comments, but they attracted my attention when they removed material from the Child erotica article, claiming that material was unsourced. The source was a Justice Department document cited in paragraph immediately preceding the removed sentence.
The girllover userbox
If you take the time to look at the edits of Ospinad/For An Angel in depth, it becomes clear that their interest in pedophilia and adolescent girls is more than just intellectual curiosity, but it is often difficult to convince other Wikipedia editors that there is cause for concern, let alone action. Thankfully, Ospinad has done us a favor.
In 2006, Wikipedia was faced with a problem. Some editors had placed “userboxes” on their userpages which identified them as pedophiles. Admins deleted the userboxes. Other admins undeleted them. Admins blocked the users. Other admins unblocked the users. The “pedophilia userbox wheel war” went to Wikipedia’s supreme court and became part of Wikipedia history. In late 2007, the issue resurfaced (which is what issues do when you don’t deal with them). One of the editors displaying a pro-pedophilia userbox was none other than Ospinad. Ospinad described himself as a “girllover”. So Ospinad/For An Angel is someone who is sexually attracted to adolescent or prepubescent girls.
The hidden message
Should Wikipedia be concerned that someone who identified himself as a pedophile is still editing Wikipedia? There are those who will say that despite his overt interest in young actresses, he is doing nothing wrong and is adding “good content” to Wikipedia. They will say that whatever he is does not matter so long as he is not acting on it in some way in Wikipedia. Those people have failed to understand the nature of the “war” referred to earlier in the Sneakers quotation. Pro-pedophilia advocacy is the goal here, not somehow luring young girls through Wikipedia.
But the point is moot. For An Angel is the self-declared pedophile Ospinad, but they have given us a clear declaration of their own. “Girllovers” have their own special symbol and Wikipedia has a copy of that symbol. Notice where that symbol is used. Nowhere on Wikipedia except on userpages of two users. One of those users is, of course, For An Angel (the other is Logical Fuzz). For An Angel has placed the symbol in the markup of a table where it it will not be seen and then placed that table on a collapsed section of their userpage, marking the text to display the table the same colour as the background. It seems to be a poor but very deliberate attempt to both have this symbol linked to their page but also hide it.
Your move, Wikipedia…
So we have a Wikipedia editor who has self-identified as a pedophile and yet they have been a prolific editor of Wikipedia for years, especially in the areas of teen actresses and television shows aimed at adolescents. What happens now? That is entirely up to the Wikipedia community, although experience suggests that public exposure leads either to fast resolution of these kinds of situations, or to the shooting of the messenger.
Image credit: Flickr/catnapping - licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)