Storage Informer
Storage Informer

Jimmy Wales cooperated with the New York Times to delete info on kidnapped reporter.

by on Jun.29, 2009, under Storage

Jimmy Wales cooperated with the New York Times to delete info on kidnapped reporter.

For seven months, The New York Times managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban.

But that was pretty straightforward compared with keeping it off Wikipedia.Times executives believed that publicity would raise Mr. RohdeBut Wikipedia, which operates under the philosophy that anyone can be an editor, and that all information should be public, is a vastly different world.A dozen times, user-editors posted word of the kidnapping on WikipediaEven so, details of his capture cropped up time and again, however briefly, showing how difficult it is to keep anything off the Internet The sanitizing was a team effort, led by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, along with Wikipedia administrators and people at The Times. In an interview, Mr. Wales said that WikipediaMr. Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan on Nov. 10, along with his interpreter and their driver. Two days after the kidnapping, a Wikipedia user altered the entry on Mr. Rohde to emphasize his work that could be seen as sympathetic to Muslims, like his reporting on GuantPulitzer Prize for his Bosnia coverage in 1996, when he worked for The Christian Science Monitor.The Wikipedia editor in that case was Michael Moss, an investigative reporter at The Times and friend of Mr. Rohde who has written extensively about groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Like many Wikipedia editors, he adopted a user name that hid his true identity.With his editorsThe Wikipedia page history shows that the next day, Nov. 13, someone without a user name edited the entry on Mr. Rohde for the first time to include the kidnapping. Mr. Moss deleted the addition, and the same unidentified user promptly restored it, adding a note protesting the removal. The unnamed editor cited an Afghan news agency report. In the first few days, at least two small news agencies and a handful of blogs reported the kidnapping.Around that time, Catherine J. Mathis, the chief spokeswoman for the New York Times Company, called Mr. Wales and asked for his help. Knowing that his own actions on Wikipedia draw attention, Mr. Wales turned to an administrator, one of several who would eventually become involved in monitoring and controlling the page.On Nov. 13, news of the kidnapping was posted and deleted four times within four hours, before an administrator blocked any more changes for three days.On Nov. 16, it was blocked again, for two weeks.On Feb. 10 and 11, two users added the kidnapping information several times to Mr. RohdeAn administrator put a rare indefinite block on the page, then changed that to a temporary freeze. One of the would-be editors posted a note saying: Most of the attempts to add the information, including the first and the last, came from three similar Internet protocol addresses that correspond to an Internet service provider in Florida, and Wikipedia administrators guessed that they were all the same user.Last Saturday, after Mr. Rohde and the translator, Tahir Ludin, escaped from a Taliban compound in Pakistan, Ms. Mathis e-mailed Mr. Wales before making a public announcement, and Mr. Wales, himself, unfroze the page.When the news broke Saturday, the user from Florida reposted the information, with a note to administrators that said: Joseph M. Reagle, an adjunct professor of communications at New York University who studies Wikipedia, said he was not sure whether its role in suppressing news about Mr. Rohde would prompt an outcry among longtime editors, because in the Rohde case, lives were at stake.


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