Directory:The Wikipedia Point of View/Sam Blacketer controversy

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The Sam Blacketer controversy was a news story regarding the use of multiple user accounts on the English Wikipedia by David Boothroyd, a London lobbyist and local councillor.[1][2][3][4][5] Boothroyd stepped down from the website's Arbitration Committee, on which he had been serving under the alias "Sam Blacketer", in May 2009 after admitting to having used other undisclosed user accounts in the time period before he became an arbitrator.[1] The practice of using multiple accounts can be acceptable in many cases. Boothroyd's use was seen as violating Wikipedia's policies which is held in tension with his involvement with the Arbitration Committee that, according to the site "the community of editors at large has elected to resolve the most complex or intractable disputes".[6]


"Sam Blacketer" is the name of a Wikipedia user account run by David Boothroyd, a Westminster Labour Party councillor in London, United Kingdom.[1] In December 2007, he was elected to the Arbitration Committee, a body within the online encyclopedia Wikipedia that settles editorial disputes.[1]

Sometime in May 2009, it emerged that Boothroyd had operated multiple accounts before he became an arbitrator, and was found to have used them to grant extra support for a viewpoint in editorial disputes.[1] That, along with what has been described as a major conflict of interest, led to him being forced to step down from the Committee.[1] Consequently, several media outlets reported on the episode. In response to the controversy, Paul Williams, volunteers director at Wikimedia UK, said: "Sock-puppeting is a very serious offence for anybody. But for someone on the Arbitration Committee it is even more so. It can result in a lifetime ban. The problem with Wikipedia is that you can hide behind user names, but there is an expectation that you don't write for self-interest. In this case there is a conflict of interest."[1] Boothroyd has defended himself by saying that his use of multiple accounts was an "innocent oversight", and said he had created other identities after his political allegiance had been discovered and he was consequently accused of bias.[1][7] Wikipedia's logs show that he had stopped using his alternative accounts "Fys" and "Dbiv" in 2007, before becoming an arbitrator but after he had been promoted to site administrator.[2]

Alleged inappropriate edits

The photo of David Cameron Boothroyd removed as having "saintly overtones."
The image Boothroyd inserted instead.[2]

Boothroyd was accused of making inappropriate edits include changing a picture of David Cameron, leader of the Labour Party's rival, the Conservative Party, on the relevant Wikipedia article to one "not carrying saintly overtones".[1] The image Boothroyd deleted originated from a post on the Peter Hitchens blog on the website of The Daily Mail.[8]

The Daily Mail reported that Boothroyd has "made regular alterations to the Tory leader's page", as well as trying to adjust the description of the Conservative Party's lead in opinion polls over the Labour Party, though the paper did say that the alterations "were not inaccurate or overtly critical".[7] In the edit about the Tories' lead in the opinion polls, Boothroyd inserted information about the Tories having been "consistently ahead throughout 2008", wording which was not present before his edit. In the same edit, Boothroyd inserted a passage saying that "Cameron's appearance on the cover of Time in September 2008 was said by the Daily Mail to present him to the world as 'Prime Minister in waiting'." Boothroyd regularly expunged instances of vandalism to David Cameron's article, throughout his tenure as an arbitrator in 2008 and 2009.[2] The controversy has been described by the Daily Mail as an "embarrassment" for the governing Labour Party in the UK, and a "blow" for Wikipedia.[7]

See also