The toughest two weeks of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’s career just became a whole lot worse, with a former chief scientist at one of the world’s biggest technology companies claiming Wales traded Wiki edits for donations.
Jeff Merkey, a former computer scientist at Novell, claims Wales told him in 2006 that in exchange for a substantial donation from Merkey, he would edit his uncomplimentary Wikipedia entry to make it more favourable.
Merkey made a $US5000 ($5455) donation in 2006 and the edit history for his Wikipedia entry showed that, around the same time, Wales personally made changes to the entry after wiping it out completely and ordering editors to start over.
Merkey’s claims were published in a statement on a Wikipedia mailing list. On the same mailing list, Wales called the allegation “nonsense”.
The claim is the most damning yet against Wales, who was last week accused by a former Wikipedia executive of improperly using the non-profit organisation’s funds for his own lavish recreation.
Earlier, an ex-girlfriend, Rachel Marsden, leaked instant messaging transcripts that purported to show Wales using his influence to improperly make changes to Marsden’s Wikipedia entry so he could continue “f—ing [her] brains out”.
On the Wikipedia mailing list, Wales said he would “never offer, nor accept any offer, whereby a donation would buy someone special editorial treatment in the encyclopedia”.
When he erased Merkey’s Wikipedia entry in May 2006, Wales told Wikipedia users he did so “because of the unpleasantness of it” and asked them to “be extra careful here to be courteous and assume good faith”.
A Wikipedia user, “Aim Here”, quickly questioned Wales’s reasoning: “Have you been making secret dealings behind everyone’s back? So much for Wikipedia’s openness.”
Following his decision to erase Merkey’s entry and start over, Wales placed it under his “special protection”. Protected entries can only be edited by Wikipedia administrators.
Wales’s edits to the page related to various lawsuits Merkey had been embroiled in.
Merkey was sued by Novell after his departure from the company for alleged misappropriation of trade secrets.
In 2005, he filed a harassment lawsuit against various people and organisations including the geek news website Slashdot. Then in 2006 he filed suit against Natural Selection Foods and Delta Air Lines, claiming his son became ill from eating spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The Sydney Morning Herald