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Wikipedia punishes child safety whistleblower

By Peter Damian

Retaliatory treatment of whistleblowers nearly always attracts public interest. The recent sacking of a Ryanair pilot, for “gross misconduct” after speaking out on a TV documentary about safety fears, was widely covered in the press. Stories about the climate of fear surrounding the exposure of child predators in the BBC and in the Roman Catholic church have been extensively covered in the mainstream media. The plight of Mike McQueary, who was made a scapegoat after his allegations of child sexual abuse at Penn State University, made headlines across the United States. Whistleblowing is big news. And rightly so – if people are afraid to expose evil, evil will flourish.

Yet there has been no press coverage about the punishment last week of a whistleblower in the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. Last week, a long-serving editor who we will call “Keith”, who had made hundreds of contributions to articles about set theory, mathematics and statistics, was punished by the encyclopedia’s powerful Arbitration Committee, for raising complaints of a serious nature about child protection and predatory editors. Despite his considerable contribution to Wikipedia, he was indefinitely blocked from editing the site. This was not covered by any mainstream media.

“… the only place in their lives where their age doesn’t matter.”

The Wikipedia Adventure Wikipedia rarely features in media coverage of online child protection. Articles like this mention the usual suspects like Facebook and Twitter. They never mention Wikipedia, probably because of its image as a scholarly enterprise whose contributors include teachers and scholars like Keith. Yet a substantial minority of Wikipedia editors and administrators are children, and the Wikipedia itself deliberately targets young editors. “There’s a recurring motif inside Wikipedia of preteen editors who’ve spent their lives so far having their opinions

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