Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-06-30/Community view

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A CEO biography, paid for with taxes: How an Irish state-level paid editor tried to turn me into the villain.


In June 2018, I came across the biography of Martin Shanahan, the CEO of IDA Ireland, the state body who brings US firms like Google and Facebook to Ireland. The bio was created by a single purpose account called Corecontent, who later disclosed they were paid by the IDA. The article was promotional, and was given a conflict of interest tag by Kudpung.

The references showed a different picture than the article did. For example, Shanahan did not have extensive industry experience prior to his appointment, and his record of attracting financial services firms to Ireland as a result of Brexit was very poor. Another user appeared, IDAComms, who attacked me and my work on other Irish tax-related Wikipedia articles, on the Martin Shanahan talk page.

Public escalation

Things took a dramatic turn in April 2019 when Irish technology entrepreneur, Paddy Cosgrave, tweeted that the IDA was caught paying people to edit Wikipedia articles related to taxes, as well as the article for their CEO. The story was picked up by the Irish and UK media.

The IDA spun the story to journalists that they had to hire editors to combat my "negative" edits and that I was a "paid agent" with over "40,000 edits attacking Ireland's tax system"; however, it was likely they had been using hired editors for some time, to edit WP articles relating to Irish tax and their CEO. These newspaper stories led to vandalism of Irish tax-related articles, a Wikipedia incident report (AN/I) (which cleared me of WP:PAID), and some unpleasant reddit threads (showing some used WP:SOCK accounts on Irish tax articles).

Tax is a complex topic; it helped I could show my re-writes of Irish tax-related articles were well-received off-wiki. Leprechaun economics, was cited in a tweet by Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman, while Double Irish arrangement, was cited by the Council on Foreign Relations blog as the "best source" for the topic.

The Washington Post

Cosgrave decided to go to war with the IDA and created a fake company called "The Irish Tax Agency" offering low rates of taxation through a Facebook marketing campaign. His ads linked to several of Wikipedia's Irish tax-related articles (e.g. QIAIF and Double Irish arrangement), which resulted in even more media coverage of the IDA's unfair allegations against me: Irish Times Irish Times The Times The Times Bloomberg News

IDA Ireland was able to obfuscate what they had been doing on Wikipedia through their relationships in the Irish media, casting me as a paid villain. The newspaper stories inspired apparent meatpuppets to go after me; one new SPA, Renmap0o, created a huge attack page on me in their sandbox, and tried to recruit meatpuppets from Irish Wikipedians to "build a case" against me (see here); they failed.

The affair only died down when The Washington Post wrote an article, stating: "Politicians, policymakers, and the legal-finance profession responded vigorously and tried to discredit the Wikipedia articles. But none of these critiques have challenged their substantive truth".

Can a volunteer editor survive when attacked by a paid state-level editor? In this case I did.