Wikipedia: Grant Shapps

[Update: June 6th: Chase-Me has definitely been a very naughty boy indeed. The only question is whether he’ll hang on to his sysop bit.]

By popular request. And I’ve not seen anyone else wiki-literate discussing this, so I will (update: Wikipedia sockpuppetry is a problem, but baseless accusations are no better by a former checkuser is worth a read; it mostly supports what I’ve said here). the Graun says

Grant Shapps accused of editing Wikipedia pages of Tory rivals.

Online encyclopedia administrators block user account believed to be run by Tory party co-chairman or ‘someone else … under his clear direction’. Wikipedia has blocked a user account on suspicions that it is being used by the Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, “or someone acting on his behalf” to edit his own page along with the entries of Tory rivals and political opponents.

(and I should probably note that Grant Shapps denies Wikipedia claims according to Aunty). Some of this is the usual misunderstandings: Online encyclopedia administrators is wrong, indeed necessarily wrong, in using the plural: you can only be blocked by any one admin at any one time, and in this case there’s only one block, by User:Chase me ladies, I’m the Cavalry. Who I rate rather lowly, for reasons too obscure to go into or possibly even remember. But he should not be confused with Chase me, ladies, I’m in the cavalry who is much funnier (Colombia’s most feared terrorist, alias El Paisa, drinks Bailey’s Irish Cream according to this report. I went right off him when I read that. What a gigantic wooftah). References to the actions of “The online encyclopedia” are almost always really the actions of individual editors or admins. In this case, it does seem to be very much an individual action.

Update: Wikipedia administrator who accused Grant Shapps of editing pages of Tory rivals is Liberal Democrat activist says Torygraph. As does C4. There’s an archive of the archive of the twitter profile; the original has, oddly, been taken down; no hint of guilt there! Note that the Torygraph gets the quote from the twitter profile fractionally wrong.

Update: Grant Shapps Wikipedia edits: the key questions is potentially interesting, and reads as though its written with inside-wiki knowledge, but its riddled with errors, some of them serious. For example The internal investigation found, using an internal tool to compare the network/IP address of the accounts, that Contribsx and Hackneymarsh were “likely” the same IP addresses. That’s totally wrong. As it clearly says at the SPI (that C4 link to) Hackneymarsh was long stale by the time the SPI was filed; no checks against its IP were done. Note that the wiki page has now been “courtesy blanked” but the history is still there; or try this archive. Note further that Chase-Me claimed I ran a Checkuser, and it yielded a ‘likely’ result. That is a lie; Hackneymarsh is stale.


My best guess is that the block on User:Contribsx is spurious on the grounds given: there’s no obvious socking; the evidence looks to be far below the standards that would usually be expected. However, assuming the account really is run by GS or a minion, which appears at least plausible, User:Contribsx is unlikely to appeal the block and so will probably stay blocked.

User:Contribsx blocked by User:Chase me ladies, I’m the Cavalry

User:Contribsx was blocked at 2015-04-21T15:13:41 by Chase-Me; see the block notice. The block notice uses a standard template for sock-blocks, saying This account has been blocked indefinitely as a sock puppet that was created to violate Wikipedia policy. Note that multiple accounts are allowed, but using them for illegitimate reasons is not… This, on the face of it, is distinctly dubious and not at all the same thing as the Graun’s accusation that Wikipedia has blocked a user account on suspicions that it is being used by the Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, “or someone acting on his behalf” to edit his own page along with the entries of Tory rivals and political opponents. Editing a page about yourself is permitted, if discouraged (I have edited William Connolley in the past; I stopped not because anyone told me to, but because a combination of the COI rules and general stupidity make even reading the thing painful; I no longer watch the page). Its certainly not grounds for a sock-block.

Other people have noticed this, and asked Chase-Me about the grounds for the block: see his talk page. Note there the classic block-n-run: I’m currently off work with the flu – and I didn’t expect the sort of reaction that’s happening – so please bear with me if I don’t reply as quickly as you would like. This is a transparent tactic for when you don’t want to answer questions about something dodgy that you’ve done. Its so transparent that I’d either call it an admission of guilt, or a deliberate “fuck off”, but I’m not sure which.

Chase-Me was asked for his evidence that the account was a sock, and responded Sure – see [2] and [3], and dozens of similar edits..

The first of those is from April 2013, and so is the second. However, Contribsx first edit was in August 2013, so those two anon edits are not evidence of socking at all. I can’t tell if Chase-Me is bullshitting, lying, or just incompetent; but it certainly doesn’t look good. Someone points out that CM’s evidence is crap; CM has no reply, other than to switch to… Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Hackneymarsh. See below.


This is all sufficiently dodgy that its gone rather rapidly up to Arbcomm: see The LOL-note for those familiar with WP:BLP and its many failings is the convoluted and entirely pointless way that case avoids mentioning GS’s name. That’s already got 4 “accepts” in very little time, so will be going ahead, possibly (in complete reversal of arbcomm’s norms) urgently.

Update: the comment at arbcomm is worth reproducing:

Members of the Arbitration Committee are aware of the core issues here. On 21 April 2015 at 1513 hours UTC, Chase me Ladies, I’m the Cavalry (ChaseMe for short) blocked Contribsx (talk · contribs) for abusing multiple accounts.[2] Immediately before that, he had initiated a sockpuppet investigation (SPI) at Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Hackneymarsh in which he alleged that Contribsx was a sock of Hackneymarsh; in that SPI, he states that he was contacted by reporters from the UK newspaper The Guardian. His original statement also implied that the account was managed by or managed at the direction of a specific living person who is the subject of one of the articles edited by Contribsx and also edited several years previously by Hackneymarsh; however, as it was pointed out to him off-wiki that such a statement was a BLP violation (absent direct proof that the living person was directing or responsible for the edits of Contribsx) ChaseMe modified his statement. After he had completed the SPI and the block, he noted that, because the subject of the key article in question is a British politician involved in the current election, there would likely be some media attention. He then added a link to the news report in The Guardian at 1524 hours UTC.[3] The Guardian news story was published at 15.55 hours BST, or 1455 hours UTC[4], and includes nearly direct quotes from ChaseMe’s unmodified SPI statement, and also states that the Contribsx account was blocked by Wikipedia “administrators” – despite the fact that the account was not blocked until 18 minutes after the Guardian article was published. The allegation that the living person was abusively editing Wikipedia using the Contribsx account has now been widely reported through most major news outlets throughout the United Kingdom.

Because the range of sanctions involved includes the removal of both checkuser and administrator permissions, the only body that can appropriately hear this matter is the Arbitration Committee. As well, because this case involves checkuser data, a living person who is a candidate in an ongoing and very contentious national election, and likely some off-wiki information including social media and emails, at least some of the evidence will need to be reviewed privately by the Arbitration Committee; however, there is a fair amount of publicly available and on-wiki information to manage this case publicly with acknowledgement that certain evidence may remain non-public. Risker (talk) 03:17, 22 April 2015 (UTC)

Note the portion I’ve bolded. If that’s true – and not some timezone confusion – then its pretty significant. I’ve added a comment on the arbcomm page with my opinion that the sock-block is spurious, and ought to be overturned, pro tem.

Update: Chase-Me speaks. Happily, the flu wasn’t as severe as he feared :-).

Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Hackneymarsh

Well, the plot thickens. Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Hackneymarsh (go into the archive) is an old SPI. User:Hackneymarsh edited almost only the GS article. And only edited in May 2010, not since. There was a Graun story from 2012 about this, which the account was told about; but that was years after the account was last used, so may not have noticed it.

Note that even if it was clearly established that the same person – even if it was GS – was running Contribsx and Hackneymarsh, there would still be no real policy violation – nothing to justify a block. The SPI was closed as stale; as someone said in 2012: There’s nothing of interest here. The information is stale and the use of the named accounts is serial not simultaneous.

Grant Shapps denies Wikipedia claims

Says Aunty, as noted above. As I noted above, the Grauns claims are distinctly garbled, so it would be possible to Jesuitically deny them, which not talking about the substance. However, he’s not doing that. He says:

Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps has denied claims he repeatedly edited entries about himself and other MPs on Wikipedia.
Mr Shapps told the BBC the allegations – reported by the Guardian – were “categorically false and defamatory”.

Is he telling the truth? I can’t tell. Note, however, that the GS wiki article has a section for “Wikipedia editing” that says Shapps’s Wikipedia article has repeatedly been edited from his office, both to correct errors and to remove embarrassing information.[50][51][52] I haven’t checked those refs, but it wouldn’t still be there if they weren’t reasonable.

[Update: I should qualify that. Indeed, I have. The evidence is not solid at all.]

He’s been asked directly if he’s GS and hasn’t yet replied. That was just before 8 pm last night; not long ago, but certainly long enough to have replied if he’d wanted to.

Its worth pulling out another error, this time by the Beeb:

Creating a fake online identity to mislead other people – known as “sock-puppetry” – is banned.

This isn’t really right. Classic sock puppetry – on wikipedia – is creating a second or multiple accounts, and editing as though those two accounts were not connected (simply having two accounts isn’t banned either. I’m also user:WMC). So, for example: you make an edit as user A, someone else removes it, and instead of re-adding it under user A you re-add it as user B. That’s definitely banned. “Creating a fake online identity” is not a well defined statement – many wiki users are anonymous. Some have names – like Chase-Me – that clearly say they aren’t real names. But some have what look like “real names” that aren’t their own real name. That’s kinda misleading, but not a problem. Creating an account under the name of a real person – attempting to be User:Bill_Clinton if you’re not him – would get your account blocked (or renamed). “Creating a fake online identity to mislead other people” isn’t well defined either. In this case the account – User:Contribsx – isn’t obviously misleading. Its clearly a non-real-name. And it clearly states on its user page I am a keen reader of British politics. I’ve read most contemporary and historic British political biographies at some point over the past 30 to 50 years. My interest stretches from current day to the approximate birth of democratic British politics. However, most of my time is spent on 20th and 21st Century figures. It doesn’t say that he’s GS, but it would not be at all odd for a political figure to remain undeclared. OTOH, editing a page without declaring a COI is bad; and he’s clearly talked as though he was not GS (e.g. here) so if he is, he’s being deceptive.

Wikipedia:Sock puppetry offers its nutshell view:

This page in a nutshell: The general rule is one editor, one account. Do not use multiple accounts to mislead, deceive, vandalize or disrupt; to create the illusion of greater support for a position; to stir up controversy; or to circumvent a block, ban, or sanction. Do not ask your friends to create accounts to support you. Do not revive old unused accounts and use them as different users, or use another person’s account. Do not log out just to vandalize as an IP address editor.

There you go.

User contributions

You can look at Special:Contributions/Contribs. He isn’t prolific:

2015-04-05T14:39:25 (diff | hist) .. (+276)‎ .. Karl Turner (politician) ‎ (Update)
2015-04-05T14:27:28 (diff | hist) .. (+215)‎ .. Grant Shapps ‎ (→‎Political career: Expenses section recovered)
2015-04-05T14:24:13 (diff | hist) .. (+343)‎ .. User talk:Contribsx ‎ (→‎Grant Schapps)
2015-04-05T14:21:52 (diff | hist) .. (+352)‎ .. User talk:Contribsx ‎ (→‎Notability of Les Jones (politician))
2015-03-29T14:15:29 (diff | hist) .. (-3,362)‎ .. Grant Shapps ‎ (Edits following recent heavy anon amends of page)
2015-03-29T13:41:19 (diff | hist) .. (+5)‎ .. Afzal Amin ‎ (→‎Political career: new candidate selected to fight Dudley North seat)
2015-03-29T13:39:27 (diff | hist) .. (+1)‎ .. Afzal Amin ‎ (→‎Political career: new candidate selected to fight Dudley North seat)
2015-03-29T13:23:01 (diff | hist) .. (+231)‎ .. Afzal Amin ‎ (→‎Political career: new candidate selected to fight Dudley North seat)
2015-03-29T13:14:45 (diff | hist) .. (+327)‎ .. Afzal Amin ‎ (Split out political career and added selection as Parliamentary candidate details)
2015-03-29T13:06:05 (diff | hist) .. (+344)‎ .. Francis Maude ‎ (→‎Efficiency and Reform: more neutral presentation of facts with some additional information added)
2015-02-22T14:43:58 (diff | hist) .. (-1,694)‎ .. Grant Shapps ‎ (Removed anon ip changes)
2015-02-08T18:12:35 (diff | hist) .. (+130)‎ .. Francis Maude ‎

And he had only 19 contributions in 2014. Note that he’s not very talkative – there are very few edits to talk space. This is suspicious – it looks like he’d rather avoid getting into discussions. Though he does; just rarely.

But what about the edits?

So far, I haven’t even looked at the quality of the edits the accounts made. Lets try, a bit. Going backwards:

* Karl Turner (politician) – adds “Turner admitted breaking House of Commons rules by sending out invitations to a £45-a-head Labour Party fundraising event from parliamentary email” but its clearly sourced. Gets revered, but I’ve just restored it, as there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it.
* Grant Shapps – restores a section saying “In the expenses scandal The Telegraph classified Shapps as an “expenses saint””. Its well sourced, and still in the article.
* an evasive reply on his talk page to someone asking about edits to the GS article.
* reply on his talk page about notability of “Les Jones (politician)”.
* Grant Shapps – removes some stuff that GS wouldn’t want to see – “Despite repeated denials, Shapps has conceded that he continued operating as Michael Green for at least a year after becoming an MP and also had a second job at this time… Shapps’s [[Wikipedia]] article has repeatedly been edited from his office…”. That removal was unjustified (and has since been effectively reverted) but doesn’t come close to grounds for a block.

I didn’t bother go back any further. Its fairly clear that Contribsx is (a) polite, (b) interested in politics and GS in particular and (c) distinctly inclined to edit in favour of GS, but not to an unreasonable extent.

Footnote: banned?

The Graun is clearly playing a game of “see how many ignorant errors can I make about wiki”. Nick Clegg mocks Grant Shapps over Wikipedia affair saying Wikipedia has banned Contribsx and said any evidence of future attempts to cover the user’s tracks would be investigated immediately. Firstly, Contribsx isn’t banned, he’s blocked. They aren’t the same thing (hint: the words are different). The difference is in the implied timespan and purpose: blocks are temporary, bans are quasi-permanent. Second, “Wikipedia” hasn’t done this, an individual admin has. And third, its hard to know what “any evidence of future attempts to cover the user’s tracks would be investigated immediately” is supposed to mean.

11 thoughts on “Wikipedia: Grant Shapps”

  1. I’m not smart enough to do Wikipedia, I just watch.

    But I’d think that

    “I haven’t checked those refs, but it wouldn’t still be there if they weren’t reasonable.”

    means roughly the same thing as

    “any evidence of future attempts to cover the user’s tracks would be investigated immediately”

    I mean other than the verb tenses which point in different directions along the timeline, both seem to express a general sense of confidence that what’s there is right, was right, or will be made right soon enough ….

    [No, they mean something completely different. All I was doing was expressing my confidence that the refs to him editing his own wiki page in the past were good; otherwise, they would not have been allowed to persist in the article. The otehr stuff is hard for me to parse -W]


    P.S., I wish to express my admiration for the three checkboxes at the bottom of the page nowadays. The first and third offer a fine distinction — a difficult choice to make:

    1) Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
    3) Notify me of followup comments via E-Mail

    I’ll have to think on that before I choose.


  2. Naughty William, re-adding a smear on the grounds that Contribsx had cited a reliable source: given their track record on climate, what made you think that the Daily Mail was reliable?

    [Ha ha you lose; that was the *Hull* mail, not the Daily Fail. Check the edit history – someone else removed it, making your mistake, and then re-added it when they realised -W]

    Could land you before the beak….
    suppose a plea of innocent unawareness would work.

    [That’s just KT pushing himself into the limelight. If anyone has a case, its Shapps -W]

    In somewhat improved coverage, the Graun has interviewed Chase me ladies, I’m the Cavalry, giving rather more detail for Wikiwonks. Apparently the duck test had a lot to do with it.

    [I’m not at all happy with that; see Chase-Me’s talk page where I try to get a straight answer out of him. He’s still, well, to be frank: he’s still lying. Or incompetent. Or something. But he’s not telling the truth -W]


  3. The road to Hull is paved with good intentions. Never was any good at sock-spotting, and bow to your superior forensic skills on this. The grounds for blocking the account may be adequate, but my inexpert feeling is that revealing the real-life name of the alleged sockmaster would need very strong evidence.

    [I can’t see that the grounds for the block are adequate. The sock stuff is entirely spurious; the account wouldn’t be blockable even if it were know to be GS -W]

    For what it’s worth, but don’t think that’s got the ArbCom involvement right.

    [Yeah, that’s all a bit meh; doesn’t go into IP; gets admins in the plural not singular; etc -W]

    In further convolutions,

    [I think Bishonen must be an acquired taste that I never have -W]


  4. William,

    One of the major tests of sockpuppetry is determining the intent to deceive – to make a series of edits, under different identities, for the same end without disclosing the relationship, especially where there is evident bias and the removal of legitimate (referenced) material to that end, fits the bill. One of the regular methods of determining that one person is editing one or more articles over a number of accounts is to review stylistic traits, spelling, grammar, and other “forensic” evidence. When there appears to be a connection, further review of patterns of editing activity may indicate that all (or most) edit within the same time zones and at similar times of the day (or other periods). When these are put together and found to be in conjunction with the same edit in two or more cases across the account, there is a good argument that this is the same person operating these accounts, and they are doing so under different identities in an effort to avoid scrutiny. The admin says he made those tests, and found the case proven.

    I also reviewed the case. Per Wikipedia:Duck test, the collective noun for a group of flat beaked water fowl was established, and had I still been active and possessing the flags I would have blocked. I would have been more circumspect in commenting upon drawing the conclusion that they may have been one named individual – although I may have acknowledged a third parties allegations. Whatever, the block is sound in my opinion.

    [Thanks for that; and welcome. I still find it unpersuasive, however. I’ll get onto that in a moment.

    First, if you feel able, I’d really like you opinion on the various things that Chase-Me has said; re technical evidence, and his assertion (see his talk page) that GS has admitted to it. To me, all that seems completely spurious: it reads like ad hoc justifications for a conclusion that has been reached by other means. That has coloured my opinion.

    As to DUCK and different identities: people up to now have been pretty vague about what they mean by that. Hackneymarsh, for example, edited for one month in 2010 – it seems entirely plausible that its a forgotten account. See my comments on Black Kite’s talk page -W]


  5. GS apparently discussed with The God King the “corporate position of Wikipedia”, and apparently “the Wikipedia administrator that had banned the account should have instead raised it with their bosses.”

    Am suitably astounded by these things I didn’t know about the ‘pedia.

    [Well, that’s a probably excusable confusion. If you re-interpret it as “should not have imposed the block due to COI and should have consulted colleagues” then it makes sense -W]


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