Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Shakespeare authorship question

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Main case page (Talk)Evidence (Talk)Workshop (Talk)Proposed decision (Talk)

Case clerks: AGK (Talk) & X! (Talk) Drafting arbitrators: Newyorkbrad (Talk) & SirFozzie (Talk)

Case Opened on 14:52, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
Case Closed on 20:47, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Case Amended by motion on 05:32, 23 October 2014 (UTC)

Watchlist all case pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

Please do not edit this page directly unless you are either 1) an Arbitrator, 2) an Arbitration Clerk, or 3) adding yourself to this case. Statements on this page are original comments provided when the Committee was initially requested to Arbitrate this page (at Requests for arbitration), and serve as opening statements; as such, they should not be altered. Any evidence you wish to provide to the Arbitrators should go on the /Evidence subpage.

Arbitrators, the parties, and other editors may suggest proposed principles, findings, and remedies at /Workshop. That page may also be used for general comments on the evidence. Arbitrators will then vote on a final decision in the case at /Proposed decision.

Once the case is closed, editors may add to the #Log of blocks, bans, and restrictions as needed, but this page should not be edited otherwise. Please raise any questions at Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration#Requests for clarification, and report violations of remedies at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Arbitration enforcement.

Involved parties[edit]

Preliminary statements[edit]

Statement by LessHeard vanU[edit]

The SAQ article derives from a small but vocal minority of Shakespeare students and occasional academic who hold that the mainstream Literature view that William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon was the sole or principal author of the works ascribed to him is false, and that there are other better suited candidates for the title. That there is this viewpoint is accepted by Shakespeare scholars, although there is little credence given to the arguments or the other claimants, and it is WP consensus that the article should reflect this.
However, there is a sustained and possibly co-ordinated campaign to have the Wikipedia article reflect the POV of the "anti-Stratfordians"; providing potential authorship candidates (and one in particular presently) an enhanced (preferably equal) standing within the article to that of Shakespeare. This is attempted by use of tendentious editing of the SAQ talkpage, exhaustive Wikilawyering over detail (often while ignoring the substantive issues) during discussions, non consensus edits to the article page - usually by ip's or throwaway accounts, and personal attacks, attempted outing and harassment of those editors who attempt to maintain and explain Wikipedia:Neutral point of view editing of the article.


Attempts to resolve these issues by the editors and uninvolved admins has not been successful, in part because new accounts - presenting the same or similar arguments - appear as existing ones (are made to) withdraw. These new accounts, quoting Wiki policy ("Consensus can change" is often cited), require existing editors to concentrate upon making the same good faith responses to the usual points, lest there are claims that process is being flouted or that the points are not able to be countered and that consensus should reflect the presented POV. Other attempts to address concerns regarding behaviour and attitudes of various editors have been met with stonewalling, allegations of (admin) bias, and counter claims upon other editors; there is an almost complete absence of any attempt to engage upon or mitigate inappropriate interaction.
There is a small (and diminishing) core of dedicated contributors trying to maintain Wikipedia:Neutral point of view within a subject against a seemingly inexhaustable group of advocates and pov pushers - there needs to be a proper evaluation by ArbCom and the provision of restrictions which will enable editors to concentrate upon improving the article and deprecate efforts to promote viewpoints. 23:38, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

Addressing Newyorkbrad's request; The article exhibits WP:BATTLE tendencies, possibly owing to a misunderstanding of WP:NPOV and WP:CONSENSUS, with resultant violations of various policies and guidelines as noted above. Appropriate methods of conduct and dispute resolution need to be affirmed, provisions put in place for continuing violations to be dealt with, and only as a last resort some editors may need to be warned or sanctioned, to ensure a properly encyclopedic editing environment going forward. 11:19, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Moonraker2[edit]

Looking at the statement by LessHeard vanU, it is not clear exactly what is complained of nor who is considered to be answerable. I think what is at the heart of this is the suggestion of "a sustained and possibly co-ordinated campaign to have the Wikipedia article reflect the POV of the "anti-Stratfordians" ", but I am not aware of any such a thing and certainly would not be associated with it if it existed. If anyone believes there is such a campaign, then I suggest that further details of how that view was arrived at are needed here at an early stage.

Specific comments

First bullet point "Tendentious editing": this is no more than an assertion, as no detail is provided.

Second bullet point, "Wikilawyering": this offers two astonishingly weak instances and fails to take account of the contexts.

Third bullet point, "Disruptive editing": this refers only to a single edit, by an anonymous user,, whose contributions show only that one edit. In my view this cannot be relevant here.

Fourth bullet point, "Personal attacks/harassment": this is highly selective in the "personal attacks" referred to. Those made by the users referred to later as a "core of dedicated contributors" are also at issue.

Fifth bullet point, "Attempted outing": I am unable to comment on this, as one or both of the revisions has been deleted.

In reply to "new accounts - presenting the same or similar arguments - appear as existing ones (are made to) withdraw... a seemingly inexhaustable group of advocates and pov pushers", this seems to me to allege serious misconduct by one or more users, but no detail is provided of which accounts are complained of, nor indeed any details of any pov pushing, so more detail is needed to substantiate these sweeping statements. If LessHeard vanU can identify all users and accounts concerned, it will be clear whether there is a case for individual accounts to be referred for investigation. If not, these remarks may need to be withdrawn.

Moonraker2 (talk) 01:16, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

I am copying this material here at the suggestion of X! on my talk page.

Bishonen wrote at User:Bishonen/Further RfAR statement (a page she later deleted):

I have no doubt that if/when Nina is banned from Wikipedia, the next person in the long, shadowy line of "Oxfordians" out there will step up to the plate, be welcomed by Moonraker2, claim special consideration as a new user, and set about preventing Shakespeare authorship question from ever becoming a FA.

The further exchange went like this:

Bishonen, would you kindly control your fantasies? You say "I have no doubt that if/when Nina is banned from Wikipedia, the next person in the long, shadowy line of "Oxfordians" out there will step up to the plate, be welcomed by Moonraker2..." That clearly imputes to me some undesirable role in a concerted campaign by "Oxfordians", and I am not even an Oxfordian myself. It appears to me that you have a completely paranoid perception of anyone who does not share your animosity towards NinaGreen. Moonraker2 (talk) 02:39, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
How dare you come here with your name-calling? What the hell are you doing in my statement and my userspace? Aren't you an established editor? Do you really not know any better? Kindly peruse the instructions on the Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case page (they come up in edit mode) and apply them here as well, as this is part of the Case Request. Remove your bloody interference immediately. Bishonen | talk 03:05, 16 January 2011 (UTC).
Please see Wikipedia:Civility. Why is it that I am not surprised by your choice of words? I "dare" to reply here because I see nowhere else to reply. If you can suggest a better place, I have no objection to using it. You can hardly expect to make such unfounded personal criticisms of me without my having a right of reply. Moonraker2 (talk) 03:30, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Nina Green[edit]

LessHeard should have opened this with this statement:

However, there is a sustained and possibly co-ordinated campaign to defame, demean, disparage and discourage all anti-Stratfordian editors of the SAQ article and drive them away so that Tom Reedy and Nishidani, who have both admitted to bias in the editing of the SAQ article (Nishidani terming the authorship controversy 'this ideological mania' and Tom Reedy terming it 'a wacky theory'), can continue to own the article contrary to Wikipedia policy WP:OWN, and prevent any substantive edit being made to the article other than one which Reedy and Nishidani either make themselves or personally sanction. This bias on the part of Nishidani and Tom Reedy motivates them to incessantly subject editors of the SAQ article who are not of their persuasion to personal attacks, defamation, and endless wikilawyering and other forms of harassment designed to drive those editors away from editing the article which are so numerous that it would be impossible to list the literally hundreds of them found on the SAQ Talk page and elsewhere in recent weeks. Not one of these defamatory attacks on anti-Stratfordian editors of the SAQ article has been commented on by any administrator monitoring the SAQ article, although the most minor technical infraction by anti-Stratfordian editors has been instantly jumped on by administrators monitoring the SAQ page. Moreover Nishidani and Tom Reedy's relentless ridiculing of any suggested substantive edits to the SAQ article by anti-Stratfordian editors and their instant reversion of any substantive edits to the SAQ article by anti-Stratfordian editors despite those edits being put up for discussion on the SAQ Talk page either before or immediately after such edits were made has resulted in NOT A SINGLE SUBSTANTIVE EDIT BY AN ANTI-STRATFORDIAN EDITOR BEING ALLOWED BY TOM REEDY AND NISHIDANI IN THE SAQ ARTICLE DURING THE PAST MONTH, a situation which is clearly untenable and in clear violation of WP:OWN. Wikipedia administrators monitoring the SAQ article have likewise ignored all complaints by anti-Stratfordian editors that the SAQ article has been exclusively 'owned' by Tom Reedy and Nishidani in violation of WP:OWN.

Had LessHeard framed the arbitration request in that way, there would have been something to it. Moreover LessHeard should also have mentioned in his framing of the arbitration request that Nishidani has already been banned from numerous Wikipedia pages for personal attacks. Nishidani himself posted this on my Talk page confirming that he is known for his personal attacks on other editors:

Certainly. Happy to oblige. It's becoming a meme round here, to cite that record as proof I am an editwarrior. Smatprt used it first I think. Michael Price does the same regularly on the Ebionism page.Nishidani (talk) 01:51, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

NinaGreen (talk) 03:12, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Bishonen[edit]

I don't know how Tom Reedy manages to add any content to Shakespeare authorship question in the aggressive barrage from Nina Green and to some extent her helpers Warshy, Moonraker2, Zweigenbaum, and MoreThings on the talkpage. Nina herself is by far the most productive of text, rendering the talkpage intolerably long and repetitious. Here are some examples of her recent edits:

  • [1]
  • [2]
  • [3]
  • [4]
  • Accusation of editing an archive (Tom was attempting to remove an inadvertent outing). No information about how editing this archive is supposed to harm Wikipedia, but Nina believes she has found a "direct violation of Wikipedia policy", so she posts, and posts again.[5] [6]

Note some repeated mannerisms in the diffs above:

  1. References to what Wikipedia policy allows/does not allow. As a user of seven months, Nina is understandably ignorant of policy, but pronounces on it as if she were an expert. At first, I attempted to help her understand policy and the spirit of it, but her combative responses made me feel so much like mr K in The Trial that I have given up this project. I no longer believe she wants to know.
  2. Accusations without evidence or example, against Tom and Nishidani of wikilawyering (I wish I hadn't taught her that word; it was inadvertent), bad faith, dishonesty, insults, POV, attempts to push other editors off Wikipedia, and, the new favorite, of being "defamatory", as in "personal attacks on me which are not only personal but which go far beyond that and are defamatory."[7]. She provides no diffs, and I have upbraided other editors for asking her for them, since she obviously has trouble with diffs. I have attempted to counsel Nina as to why diffs are helpful, and suggested a simple way of producing them, but this effort was ignored.[8]
  3. Rhetorical questions about when "administrators" are going to do something about Tom's and Nishidani's alleged abuse. Despite the plural form, I guess these administrators are me, since I'm the only admin who'll go near the page. (Excepting always LHvU, but he merely lurks.)
  4. Repetition. Ooooow, yes.

Nina attempts to learn more about Nishidani's real life identity, and shares her efforts with the talkpage, with strange hints which I do not understand: [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14](Here "Administrators" are instructed to tell Nishidani to shut up about his qualifications.)

The diffs I have offered above are all from the last two days only, unless I've made a mistake somewhere. This has been going on unremittingly for months! I hope Tom is going to post about the sheer mass of text, the frequency with which the page needs archiving now, etc, as I'm not well up on these figures. I have, however, tried in various ways, all equally ineffective, to contain Nina's excesses. I've suggested a voluntary ban to Nina on the amount of posting,[15] something which offended her (understandably, no doubt) and brought Moonraker to the fore as her champion. Nina claimed that "Tom Reedy has posted at least as many times on the SAQ Talk page as I have, and I would be willing to wager that his total word count exceeds mine" (I'd win that wager). I have warned her about "commenting on the editor", as is her habit, directed her to WP:NPA (but I don't have the impression she clicks on these things) and even mentioned blocking.[16] This last threw her helpers into a state of great indignation, suggesting I needed to "recuse myself"(?) since my impartiality was "in doubt",(Moonraker2) I was playing a baffling "game" (MoreThings) and I probably had rabies (Warshy). Here, also, is a post from me, giving an example of Nina's repetitiousness (showing more or less the same (erroneous) post eleven times). Please accept this case. It's impossible to get the community to touch it (see my ANI thread about Zweigenbaum with its minimal and frankly useless input[17]) because the talkpage is so repulsive and life is so short. But you arbs get paid, don't you..? Bishonen | talk 04:10, 15 January 2011 (UTC).

Darn, this statement is already some 660 words long, and I wanted to respond to Newyorkbrad's request. OK, I've put that response in my userspace, here. Bishonen | talk 02:23, 16 January 2011 (UTC).

Breaking news ;-) : I moved all my commentary out here because Moonraker2 had the everloving effrontery to disrupt my statement and userspace. I'm truly sorry the whole is now so long and boring, but, well. A clerk is deleting MR's contribution from my space as we speak—no doubt it will turn up here instead, name-calling and all. And here is my response to Newyorkbrad:

Response to Newyorkbrad: I think Nina Green needs to be banned for at least a year, either from Wikipedia or from Shakespeare pages broadly construed; it comes to the same thing, as de Vere's authorship of Shakespeare's plays is her only interest on Wikipedia. She daily violates WP:FRINGE, WP:EXHAUST, WP:AGF, and—I'm sorry to have to say this—WP:COMPETENCE as well, thereby wasting the time and energies of Shakespeare scholars and other competent editors. Whether or not she's here to build an encyclopedia, her actual impact is negative. In my efforts to help her become a useful Wikipedia editor I have found her quite unreasonable (as in, impossible to reason with) and in active flight from any learning process about how to contribute appropriately. There is a small selection of my efforts on the RfAR page. Naturally others have tried too, especially the unflappable User:Johnuniq.

However, a ban of Nina Green is not IMO the main matter before the committee. It is absolutely necessary to find some way of durably restricting the WP:EXHAUST and WP:FRINGE problems which are now — and usually — rampant on some Shakespeare pages. These pages should be the jewels in Wikipedia's crown, which is impossible if they're produced on a battlefield where every word is contested by aggressive SPAs who live only for seeing their pet authorship theory receive Justice. It took 3 or 4 years to liberate the "authorship question" from the cold dead hand of the civil POV-pusher Smatprt, something that the joined forces of the community and LHvU have now finally accomplished (for one year only, though; S will be back): [18] (Warning: huge ANI thread, may cause dehydration or insanity.) After a short, idyllic interlude in November 2010 where Tom Reedy and Nishidani prepared Shakespeare authorship question for FAC, Nina Green appeared and all was soon as before: the lawyering, the delaying tactics, the extended WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT, the 5 or 10 posts about each tiniest detail, the insistence on answers, the disinterest in them when they came (see Pestering), in sum: the wearing down of good-faith and highly-skilled editors by attrition. The only difference from the era of Smatprt was that the "civil" part of "civil POV-pusher" was missing this time, as Nina's method for disrupting the page included hassling, harassment, and far-fetched accusations. I have no doubt that if/when Nina is banned from Wikipedia, the next person in the long, shadowy line of "Oxfordians" out there will step up to the plate, be welcomed by Moonraker2, claim special consideration as a new user, and set about preventing Shakespeare authorship question from ever becoming a FA. Please protect the articles from the fanatics, not only now, but systematically and ongoingly.

How? I don't know. I guess this is as good a time as any to throw the new arbs in the deep end and have good old ArbCom Discussion? If this and this are working well, then perhaps..? It should at least be easier to find uninvolved admins for Shakespeare than Climate Change, I imagine. Bishonen | talk 03:45, 16 January 2011 (UTC).

  • Moonraker2 states above that he is moving his disruption of my statement to this page at my suggestion on his talkpage. Savour the unlikeliness of that statement, if you will... There will be a prize for anybody who can see me making such a suggestion on his Talk. Bishonen | talk 04:53, 16 January 2011 (UTC).

Statement by MoreThings[edit]

Bishonen has informed me that I'm involved in this case. She's also listed me as one of Nina Green's "helpers". I've made no edits the article, no edits to the talk page, and two edits to Nina's talk page. For the record, I think Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare--William Shakespeare of Stratford Upon Avon, the upstart crow. I'd never heard of Nina Green until she started posting on the SAQ page. I'm not unduly exercised by the Shakespeare Authorship Question.

Has a prima facie case been established here? Which of the diffs point to "a possibly coordinated campaign"? Where are these legions of ips and throwaway accounts engaging in it? What have been their contributions? Here is the edit history since smatprt was banned. LHVU apprises us that there is a small, dedicated group valiantly defending NPOV. I think it's incumbent upon on him to name those happy few, and likewise to identify the miserable conspirators. As to the other charges, is there anything among those diffs that you couldn't see on a hundred thousand other talk pages? Any egregious personal attacks? Any clear violations of policy?

It should be noted that no article was harmed in the making of this arbcom case. The SAQ article has been relatively stable. No one has violated or gamed 3RR. Everyone is using the talk page. The discussion there has centred on whether it's reasonable to use the term "fringe", what constitutes scholarly consensus, and so on. Those kinds of discussion serve to strengthen the cause of NPOV within the project, not to weaken it.

That said, things have got out of hand in recent days and something needs to be done. All of the evidence that you've been presented with so far points the finger at one side, and at one editor in particular. If you decide to accept this case, you'll see that in truth it's been the usual Punch and Judy kind of stuff, with each side giving as good as it gets before all parties agree to shake each other warmly by the throat, but none of it really requiring your arbships' attention.

The real problem is that discussion about content has now degenerated into discussion about editors. I suggest that some kind of special sanction be implemented which authorises admins to issue escalating blocks for any whiff of ad hominem argument. My own view is that it would be better to cap the block at, say, 4 weeks. If an editor knows that one way to remove an opponent from an article is to incite him to ad hominem argument, then there's a temptation to do precisely that. If all editors know that they're stuck with one another until they eventually roll up their sleeves and reach a compromise, then that's what they'll do. A cap would also help mitigate any idiosyncratic adminning of the sanction.

There are many very knowledgeable editors listed in this case. They are the people who should be writing our SAQ article. Removing any or all of them from the project, or from that topic, would be much to the detriment of encyclopedia. MoreThings (talk) 13:31, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by warshy[edit]

I completely agree with everything MoreThings said above. Let me just emphasize that the opening statement of the case made by LessHeard vanU is completely wrong and biased in my view, pointing fingers directly at one side to begin with, which happens to be the minority skeptic view side on this debate, and which happens to be the side that did NOT initiate this official request for arbitration. Let me also emphasize, as I have already declared elsewhere, that there is an open, declared and concerted effort by the majority mainstream side to steamroll this article to FA status no matter what, on the face of any opposition by the minority skeptic view side that may appear on their path. This request here and this arbitration case, as far as I understand it is just another step towards that avowed relentless effort/goal. In fact, this is pretty much a repetition of a very similar case that was also arbitrated by LH vU and which ended with the unfair (in my view) ban of Smatprt. That case was started by the same people that have started this one, and toward the same goal. warshytalk 17:43, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Johnuniq[edit]

Please accept this case and consider whether it would be appropriate to establish some form of topic probation that would allow administrators to issue warnings or short blocks to any editors who repeatedly violate community norms for article editing or talk page communication, for articles in Category:Shakespearean authorship.

The main article (Shakespeare authorship question) is being developed for FA, yet Talk:Shakespeare authorship question is being filled with repeated claims without substantial evidence. Articleinfo shows that there were 1,145 edits to the talk page in the last month, and NinaGreen averages one edit per two hours. The frequent talk page commentary has interfered with development of the article.

There have been numerous examples of poor use of the article talk page, resulting in two problems: (1) unreadable sections where it is hard to determine who-said-what-when; (2) essentially the same issue is repeatedly raised, and there is little engagement with previous replies.

Both problems are present in the following example. NinaGreen raised some issues regarding a source which involved three substantive questions. After some back-and-forth, Tom Reedy provided a detailed replydiff then tweaked itdiff. The reply included bold text to show NinaGreen's queries, with Tom Reedy's reply underneath. At that point, the talk page section looked like this (with Tom Reedy's reply at the bottom).

Within an hour (with no one else contributing to the discussion at that time), NinaGreen made five edits to the section(1 2 3 4 5). At that point, the talk page section looked like this. Problem: the talk page section is now unreadable because there are five interspersed replies, each using {{outdent}}.

An example of problem (2) (repeatedly raising the same issue) can be seen by searching for "WP:OR" in this section: permalink. See the "Claims of OR are not correct" subsection at the bottom where I attempted to summarize the case, and see the responses.

The current talk page (permalink) includes 34 instances of the words "defamation" or "defamatory" (less than 10 of these are used in replies where editors comment on usage of these terms).

That is a week after I explaineddiff that " is not advisable to use loaded terms like "defamatory", and it is not acceptable to claim that personal abuse has been directed at an editor without any evidence—do not make serious claims like that without at least linking to a discussion that attempts to support the claims...". Also see this diff where I was more explicit, with a link to perceived legal threats and an explanation that it is a personal attack to make a serious accusation without evidence.

Apart from NinaGreen there are two other editors whose procedures are problematic (information upon request). In addition there are some good editors who support NinaGreen's challenges to the article. Those editors should be asked to explain proper procedures at User talk:NinaGreen when a problem is apparent. Johnuniq (talk) 07:08, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Tom Reedy[edit]

I don’t believe there is a great conspiracy among Oxfordians, but there is an overall public relations push by anti-Stratfordians in general and Oxfordians in particular to have the Shakespeare authorship question reclassified as a minority view instead of a fringe theory, and Wikipedia articles are certainly used to gain visibility and promote the idea. For example, the Oxfordian articles have their own category within the authorship category (which has its own template), with 17 articles, including Chronology of Shakespeare's plays – Oxfordian and Oxfordian Theory - Parallels with Shakespeare's Plays, which, after a token nod to the mainstream view, goes on to make arguments for Oxford’s authorship, all of them cited to fringe sources.

After Smatprt was topic-banned on 23 Nov 2010, I solicited editors to help bring the SAQ article up to FA status. A few editors who had been avoiding the page because of the constant disruption and edit wars began to trickle back in. NinaGreen began editing the page on 16 Dec 2010. I had tried to work with her on the Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford page, which began amicably enough, but problems soon emerged:

original research

refusal to accept a reliable source unless she agreed with it

repetitive insistence on using non-RS sources

On 15 Dec 2010 she made more than 20 edits to the SAQ peer review that were so repetitive, lengthy and off-topic that an administrator zipped them up.

Her first edits on the SAQ pager were deletions of sources and statements she didn’t agree with. She has made a total of 71 edits to that page, 44 of them the first day. I asked her several times to discuss major edits. It is not true that all her edits have been reverted.

She demanded that I recuse myself from editing because 12 years ago I co-authored an essay with David Kathman, that I used synthesis and original research, that I controlled the article, and that I mischaracterised the academic consensus by using a source that described the SAQ as a fringe theory [19]. This conversation is almost surreal and is a good example of how discussions have gone with her and User:Zweigenbaum, who showed up on 17 Dec.

No one’s hands are spotless in this matter; I myself have lost my temper and had to apologise and retract some remarks. No such self-awareness has been forthcoming from her. Any remonstrations from editors or admins are taken by her as a personal attack.

I believe the nature of the topic is such that the policies of Wikipedia are not sufficient to stop disruption from advocates of the view that someone else wrote Shakespeare’s works. It is not a rational view based on evidence, and therefore it is championed by those whose methodology is directly opposed to the principles behind the policies of Wikipedia. I don’t have space to describe the process that produced the present article, but I think some lessons could be drawn from the experiment to be used in handling other problems caused by the coverage of fringe theories on Wikipedia. What needs to happen now, however, is to find some way that these articles can be brought and kept in line with the core Wikipedia policies. Tom Reedy (talk) 07:49, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Paul Barlow[edit]

I have been editing Shakespeare related pages for a very long time. The authorship-related pages have always been a problem because it is very difficult to engage the editors who are committed to various "alternative" theories in consensus building. This is a generalisation of course. Each editor is different. However the current situation is absolutely intolerable. "Carpet bombing" seems an appropriate phrase indeed. It is almost impossible for any new editor to make sense of the discussions on the talk page. Contributions by user:Charles Darnay and user:Zweigenbaum are typically long and difficult to follow. Neither editors shows much interest in wikipedia's policies. The latter apparently considers them irrelevant because established scholars have all been wrong [20]. But the main problem for collegial editing is the behaviour of Nina Green. Nina engages in extraordinary acts of synthesis as in this exchange while adopting even more extraordinary interpretations of policy, such as demanding a reliable source that uses the actual word "fringe" in order to state that a theory is fringe. Unless the word fringe is used it is "original research". WP:fringe makes no such demand. Indeed it would be unworkable if it did. When such a source (published by Oxford University Press, edited by Stanley Wells) is found, she declares it inadmissible on the basis of her personal view about the author. She calls "original research" accurate summaries of the conclusions of sources, while creating her own synthesised arguments against what the sources say. This discussion is perhaps the most mesmeric example.

It is the unrelenting, attritional, repetitive nature of the argumentation that is the problem here. I don't suggest there is any worked-out strategy, but the effect is simply to drive away all but the most committed editors. The atmosphere becomes poisonous and everyone who is involved has lost their temper at some time when faced with this unrelenting barrage. Paul B (talk) 20:20, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Statement by Xover[edit]

I have long been convinced—though I've hoped I was wrong—that only ArbCom can cut this particular knot. The immediate cause for this request may be the actions contrary to both letter and spirit of Wikipedia's policies and collegiate editing that NinaGreen (aided by her supporters) have exhibited; but the problem is a long-standing one with wider scope than only this article. At least as far back as the FAC for William Shakespeare there have been periodic instances of POV pushers (polite and otherwise), IP editors, and Sockpuppets that to greater or lesser degree attempt to inject mention of the Authorship position everywhere on Shakespeare-related articles (using them as coatracks); shifting balance to gain credibility for the Authorship "cause"; and some times just plain causing as much disruption as possible (cf. Barryispuzzled and the several SPI cases). Numerous RFCs, AN/I reports, etc. have been entirely unsuccessful in dealing with the problem, partly because no sane editor or administrator will wade into the quagmire, and partly because these new editors exhibit a marked ability to navigate policy documents regardless of their unfamiliarity with even basic editing principles, so that you need to wade through page upon page of editing history to see the pattern.

The constant disruption and wikilawyering, and the resulting toxic atmosphere, has driven away—through sheer attrition—several members of the Shakespeare wikiproject; has essentially halted progress on the articles within this scope; and has put an immense strain on the remaining editors' ability to assume good faith (I think most of us now view it as a suicide pact, since failure to exhibit an assumption of good faith, even when obviously confronted with a tendentious editor, will be latched on to as reason to spare the editors in question from sanctions).

That being said I do not believe, as has been suggested elsewhere, that the immediate situation involves sockpuppetry (at least not primarily). I do personally believe, for various reasons, that there is off-wiki coordination happening, but I do not believe that there has been sufficient evidence to level that accusation at any one, or any one group, of editors.

My belief, based on years of involvement in this topic area on the project, is that the scope of this arbitration and, in particular, its eventual remedies, should extend to all articles either directly related to this particular fringe theory (e.g. articles on the specific theories, and the subjects of those theories such as Oxford, Bacon, etc.), as well as all articles within the scope of the Shakespeare WikiProject; and should extend to the entire history of this stream of tendentious editors and not focus too narrowly on just this article and the editors currently involved. Experience shows that should, hypotethically, a remedy here remove all the problem editors from the article, new tendentious editors would simply appear in short order to continue the disruption to the project.

I am not familiar in detail with the oft-cited "Climate Change" case, but judging from what few effects of its remedies I've happened across, I suspect it may indeed be an approriate point of reference; and that any remedies in this case may need to involve administrators with wide discretionary powers of sanction (which, I believe, were among the remedies in the mentioned case). The normal dispute resolution process has proven unable to deal with this problem, and the attrition among editors too great to sustain the disruption any longer. Some rather more fundamental change is needed before the last active editors throw in the towel and leave entirely.

I'd provide the salient diffs here, but they would quickly run into the hundreds, if not thousands, and several has been provided elsewhere in this case. My immediate suggestion for illustration would be to take a look at Talk:Shakespeare authorship question and its archives for the last three months, and realise that the very impenetrability and sheer length exhibited is the proximate cause for this request for arbitration; and illustrative of the ongoing problem with a stream of champions here to Right a Great Wrong against the "stonewalling" by the mainstream scholars and aided by all those pesky biased administrators on Wikipedia. --Xover (talk) 22:01, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

(Arbitrator note: This statement will be received and considered. A clerk may move it to the talkpage, but we will still read it. Newyorkbrad (talk) 23:31, 16 January 2011 (UTC))

Statement by Jdkag[edit]

I am guilty of having a POV, my POV being that Wikipedia should present documented facts that may be relevant to someone interested in researching a topic. The facts of SAQ are presented at many sites on the web, such as, a site to which I have no personal connection. I would highly recommend that the arbitrators not merely look at the confrontational issues involved in editing the SAQ entry but investigate the pro-SAQ references to determine the more fundamental question as to whether SAQ is a valid issue. If it is valid, then the entry needs to be written very differently. As noted on the home page, two universities, one in the U.S., the second in the U.K., have research centers in authorship studies.

My own involvement in this case began a year ago when I was introduced to the book "Sweet Swan of Avon" by Robin Williams. Based on the book's premise, I added Mary Sidney's name to the Shakespeare Authorship entry, including a few sentences as to why she was a valid candidate and citing the Williams book and additional references that propose her as a candidate. I also added a brief section to the Mary Sidney entry, mentioning that she was an authorship candidate. Both these edits were subsequently removed by Stratfordian POV editors.

My suggestion for resolving the issue would be to have two sections under the SAQ entry. One would be for a pro-SAQ editor to write a concise (500 word?) section summarizing the main reasons why the authorship question exists, this section being off-limits to pro-Stratfordian editing. The second section (with the same length limit) would be for the Stratfordian response. A further section should include the list of candidates and relevant references (and pro-SAQ editors should be allowed to include mention of the candidacy within the linked candidate entries, in contrast to my experience with Mary Sidney).

Preliminary decisions[edit]

Arbitrators' opinion on hearing this matter (11/0/1/1)[edit]

  • Awaiting statements, but tentatively leaning toward acceptance. It is evident that the collaborative environment on this topic is in a bad state. Those commenting on the request who favor acceptance are invited to opine on the potential scope of any case. Those favoring our declining the case should suggest what other methods of dispute resolution should be attempted. Newyorkbrad (talk) 00:32, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
    • Accept. Newyorkbrad (talk) 03:26, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    • The case has been accepted and will be opened today. The drafters will be SirFozzie and me. All evidence should be submitted within one week, if possible, and the target for a proposed decision will be no later than two weeks from today. [Note: The deadlines were later extended a bit, partly due to the temporary unavailability of one of the parties. Newyorkbrad (talk) 01:35, 12 February 2011 (UTC)]
  • Ditto - leaning accept but awaiting responses from other involved parties. Accept. Casliber (talk · contribs) 02:01, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • I was involved with mediating this dispute, so I'll recuse. PhilKnight (talk) 03:18, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept On a quick read through, the conduct issues appear to be sufficiently serious and multiparty that a case seems be the best way to sort it all out. Jclemens (talk) 08:05, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept, but noting that any decision would focus on conduct, not content. SirFozzie (talk) 08:34, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept. Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs(talk) 16:07, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept, seems like this isn't something easily sorted. Shell babelfish 16:21, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept, being clear that Arbcom is not qualified to decide on who wrote the plays. Note Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Shakespeare authorship doubters - I nominated this article for deletion because it was in my opinion an OR coatrack of people who had at one time or another offered an opinion at a cocktail party, but withdrew the nom when the article was rewritten to Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, which I consider to be a notable topic. I have no particular interest in who wrote the plays, other than to note that a girl from my school (in the early 1970's) once proved by textual analysis that the junior English mistress wrote all the comedies. If persons from any side would prefer I recuse because of this, please just let me know. Elen of the Roads (talk) 16:27, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept. Risker (talk) 18:29, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Note: I have asked Bishonen to move her response to arbitrator Newyorkbrad's question into her statement proper, despite the fact that it takes the sum of her commentary over the word limit. All participants are reminded of the instructions for response to the statements of others, which requires that you comment only in your own statement section and not elsewhere; threaded discussion is not permitted in either the RFAR statements or in the evidence pages. Any further inappropriately placed discussion will be removed without notice. Repeated violations may result in additional sanctions or restrictions. Risker (talk) 04:08, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment The issue here is not who wrote the plays but whether those debating it are doing so within policy. This is because prolonged disruption usually renders the topic toxic and thwarts the consensus model on which content decisions are made.

    Disclosure: I was heavily involved in taking Hamlet to featured article and, while the authorship question has largely passed me by and I have no particular views on it, I will recuse if requested to by any of the parties.  Roger talk 20:51, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Accept. As everyone is offering recusal rationales, I should point out that I (like many others) was handed a good number of works purported to be written by Shakespeare in high school (which may have coloured my impression of the good bard). –xenotalk 21:42, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept John Vandenberg (chat) 05:21, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Accept. - Mailer Diablo 13:02, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Temporary injunction (none)[edit]

(Clerk note) There was no temporary injunction for this case. AGK [] 20:42, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Final decision[edit]

All numbering based on /Proposed decision, where vote counts and comments are also available.


Purpose of Wikipedia[edit]

1) The purpose of Wikipedia is to create a high-quality, free-content encyclopedia in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect among the contributors.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Conduct and decorum[edit]

2) Wikipedia users are expected to behave reasonably, calmly, and courteously in their interactions with other users, and to approach even difficult situations in a dignified fashion and with a constructive and collaborative outlook. Editors are expected to be reasonably courteous to one another, even during disputes. Unseemly conduct, such as personal attacks, incivility, and unwarranted assumptions of bad faith, is prohibited.

Passed 13 to 0 with 2 abstentions at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Editorial process[edit]

3) Wikipedia works by building consensus through the use of polite discussion—involving the wider community, if necessary—and dispute resolution, rather than through disruptive editing. Sustained editorial conflict or edit-warring is not an appropriate method of resolving disputes.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Neutral point of view[edit]

4) All Wikipedia articles must be written from a neutral point of view. They must fairly portray all significant points of view on a subject, in accordance with their prevalence as reflected in the best and most reputable sources, and without giving undue weight to minority views. Where an article concerns a theory that does not have majority support in the relevant scholarly community, the article must fairly describe the division of opinion among those who have extensively studied the matter. Good-faith disputes concerning article neutrality and sourcing, like other content disputes, should be resolved by a consensus of involved editors on the article, or if necessary through dispute resolution procedures.

Passed 14 to 0 with 1 abstention at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Discussion of minority views[edit]

5) While all articles must be neutral, the nature of an article is often relevant to how extensively non-majority views should be discussed. For example, a minority or fringe view about a given subject might properly receive little weight in the main article on the subject but, if the view is notable, may receive greater attention in an article on the minority or fringe view itself. Even in the latter article, however, the degree of scholarly acceptance of the non-majority view should not be overstated.

Passed 13 to 0 with 2 abstentions at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Single-purpose accounts[edit]

6) Editors may choose to focus their contributions to Wikipedia narrowly or broadly. However, editors who focus primarily or exclusively on a narrow subject—sometimes referred to as single-purpose accounts—are expected to contribute neutrally instead of following their own agenda and, in particular, should take care to avoid creating the impression that their focus is on advocacy rather than neutrally presenting information.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Tendentious editing[edit]

7) Users who disrupt the editing of articles by engaging in sustained aggressive point-of-view editing may be banned from the affected articles, or in extreme cases from the site, either by community consensus or by the Arbitration Committee.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Talk pages[edit]

8) The purpose of a talk page is to provide a location for editors to discuss changes to the associated article or project page. Article talk pages should not be used by editors as platforms for their personal views on a subject. Editors should aspire to use talk pages effectively and must not misuse them through practices such as excessive repetition, monopolization, irrelevancy, advocacy, misrepresentation of others' comments, or personal attacks.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Casting aspersions[edit]

9) An editor should not make accusations, such as that another editor or a group of editors is biased or habitually violates site policies or norms, unless the accusations are supported by evidence. A persistent pattern of making false or unsupported accusations is particularly damaging to the collaborative editing environment, as is repeating accusations that have been shown to be incorrect.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Revealing personal information[edit]

10) Wikipedia editors are permitted to choose whether to edit anonymously, to edit under a username but to disclose their real identity (for example, on their userpage), or to edit under their own real name. Identifying information about an editor who chooses not to disclose his or her identity may not be revealed on-wiki by others. When an editor is unsure whether another editor wishes his or her identity to be known, the safer course is not to refer to it; for example, to refer to that editor by his or her username rather than his or her real name.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Review of community sanctions[edit]

11) The Wikipedia community, acting through a fair discussion leading to consensus achieved on the administrators' noticeboard or another appropriate venue, may impose a sanction on an editor who has engaged in problematic behavior. A sanctioned editor may request an appeal to the Arbitration Committee. While the Arbitration Committee is authorized to overturn or reduce a community sanction, such action is relatively rare, and would be based on good cause such as a finding that (1) some aspect of the community discussion was procedurally unfair, (2) the sanction imposed appears to be significantly excessive or overbroad, (3) circumstances have changed significantly since the community sanction was imposed, or (4) non-public information that should not be addressed on-wiki, such as personal information or checkuser data, is relevant to the decision.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Conduct on arbitration pages[edit]

12) The pages associated with arbitration cases are primarily intended to assist the Arbitration Committee in arriving at a fair, well-informed, and expeditious resolution of each case. Participation by editors who present good-faith statements, evidence, and workshop proposals is appreciated. While allowance is made for the fact that parties and other interested editors may have strong feelings about the subject-matters of their dispute, appropriate decorum should be maintained on these pages. Incivility, personal attacks, and strident rhetoric should be avoided in arbitration as in all other areas of Wikipedia.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Problematic editing[edit]

13) Contributors whose actions over a period of time are detrimental to the goal of creating a high-quality encyclopedia should be directed to refrain from those actions, when other efforts to address the issue have failed, even when their actions are undertaken in good faith.

Passed 11 to 0 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Disruptive influence[edit]

14) It is disruptive for established Wikipedians to countermand good advice to new editors, or otherwise encourage them to continue flouting community norms.

Passed 10 to 1 at 20:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Findings of fact[edit]

Locus of dispute[edit]

1) This case addresses allegations of disruptive editing on the Shakespeare authorship question and related articles that discuss whether William Shakespeare or someone else, such as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, authored the plays and other writings attributed to Shakespeare.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:40, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Persistent disruption[edit]

2) The collaborative editing environment on Shakespeare authorship question has been dysfunctional for several years. A series of editors have behaved poorly, some of whom are no longer active. The problems are demonstrated by the fact that Talk:Shakespeare authorship question has 21 archive pages. Extensive and lively talkpage discussion on an article may sometimes reflect active, productive collaborative editing by engaged and knowledgeable editors happily working together—but not in this case. Rather, these talkpage archives reflect a miserable history of talkpage misuse and disruption, fully consistent with the troubled history of the article itself.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:40, 16 February 2011 (UTC).


3) NinaGreen (talk · contribs), who has focused virtually all of her editing on the Oxfordian hypothesis (evidence), has engaged in a persistent pattern of disruptive behavior, including advocacy rather than neutral editing, misuse and extreme monopolization of talkpages to the point of rendering them useless, repeated false and unsupported allegations against fellow editors, failure to improve her behavior after having been repeatedly counseled in the past, and continued disruptive behavior during this arbitration case itself. (Sample evidence here, here, here.)

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:40, 16 February 2011 (UTC).


4) Smatprt (talk · contribs), who has focused much although not all of his editing on the Oxfordian hypothesis, was the subject of a community sanctions discussion based on a long history of disruptive editing relating to the authorship issue. On November 3, 2010, a community sanction was adopted, under which Smatprt was "topic-banned from editing pages relating to William Shakespeare, broadly construed" for a period of one year. Smatprt has appealed to this committee from the topic-ban. However, there is ample support for the community's conclusion that his editing concerning authorship of Shakespeare's work was severely disruptive and warranted a topic-ban from that subject. A somewhat closer question is whether Smatprt could, as he has proposed, edit usefully on aspects of Shakespeare-related articles unrelated to the authorship issue.

Passed 14 to 1 at 20:40, 16 February 2011 (UTC).


Note: All remedies that refer to a period of time, for example to a ban of X months or a revert parole of Y months, are to run concurrently unless otherwise stated.

Discretionary sanctions[edit]

1) Standard discretionary sanctions are authorized for all articles pages related to the Shakespeare authorship question. The sanctions should be administered in such a fashion as to treat all contributors fairly while ensuring that future editing of these pages adheres to high standards of both Wikipedia behavior and Shakespearean scholarship.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:44, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Amended to change "articles" to "pages"

Passed 7 to 1 by Motion, 05:32, 23 October 2014 (UTC)

NinaGreen banned[edit]

2) NinaGreen (talk · contribs) is banned from Wikipedia for a period of one year. She is also topic-banned indefinitely from editing any article relating to the Shakespeare authorship question, William Shakespeare, or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, all broadly construed.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:44, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Smatprt's community sanction endorsed[edit]

3) The Arbitration Committee endorses the community sanction imposed on Smatprt (talk · contribs). Thus, Smatprt remains topic-banned from editing articles relating to William Shakespeare, broadly construed, for one year from November 3, 2010.

Passed 13 to 0 with 1 abstention at 20:44, 16 February 2011 (UTC).


Enforcement of discretionary sanctions[edit]

1) Should any editor subject to a discretionary sanction under this decision violate the terms of the sanction, then further sanctions may be imposed as appropriate pursuant to the discretionary sanction remedy.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:45, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Enforcement of decision sanctions[edit]

2) Should any editor subject to a restriction under the terms of this decision violate the restriction, then the editor may be blocked for a period of up to one week by any uninvolved administrator. After three blocks, the maximum block period shall increase to one year. As an alternative to blocking under this paragraph, the uninvolved administrator may impose a discretionary sanction, which shall be in addition to any sanction imposed in this decision.

Passed 15 to 0 at 20:45, 16 February 2011 (UTC).

Log of blocks, bans, and restrictions[edit]

Any block, restriction, ban, or sanction performed under the authorisation of a remedy for this case must be logged in this section. Please specify the administrator, date and time, nature of sanction, and basis or context. Unless otherwise specified, the standardised enforcement provision applies to this case. All sanctions issued pursuant to a discretionary sanctions remedy must be logged at Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee/Discretionary sanctions/Log.


On 3 May 2014 Arbcom established a new method of notifying for discretionary sanctions which is explained at WP:AC/DS#Awareness and alerts. All notices given prior to the May 2014 cutover date will expire on 3 May 2015. New notices are to be given using {{Ds/alert}} and they expire one year after they are given. No new notices should be logged here.