Wikipedia Graphic

Wikipedians in Disrepute: “Vzaak / Manul”

According to the website Wikipedia, We Have a Problem, behavioral data suggests that “Vzaak”, who in 2015 changed his Wikipedia account name to “Manul”, may be skeptic-activist Tim Farley or working within a network directed by Tim Farley and Jerry Coyne.

Evidence indicates that Manul’s Wikipedia account began as a single purpose account (SPA) for the sole purpose of editing Rupert Sheldrake’s biography on Wikipedia, slanting it toward dogmatic-skeptic party-line toward Sheldrake’s research.

Single purpose accounts are considered evidence of agenda-based editing and are generally frowned upon. They do not have credibility on Wikipedia and can be banned or blocked more easily than the accounts of other editors. Manul himself has attempted aggressively to block or ban other single purpose accounts. Manul’s single purpose account has never been challenged by Wikipedia’s administrators, however.

One of Manul’s first edits to Rupert Sheldrake’s biography was to remove the word “biologist” and replace it with the word “pseudoscientist”. He made this change without seeking a consensus among editors for a lead sentence edit, usually a Wikipedia requirement.

Manul’s first 200 edits on Wikipedia were made solely to Sheldrake’s biography; with him sheriffing the article his editing continued, in similar disproportionate amount, for almost a full year. Over time Manul has participated less in editing the page and contributing to its associated Talk Page but he continues to pay close attention to it, collating data to use against dissenting editors.

To date Manul since has made well over 2500 edits on Wikipedia. A clear majority of the edits changed articles toward the interests of dogmatic skeptic activism, changing articles such as Sheldrake’s that are the typical targets of scientific reactionaries or making positive edits to other skeptics’ pages, such as Susan Blackmore’s page and James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge page.

Manul’s Wikipedia editing initiated the systematic effort among skeptical editors to purge scientific viewpoints with which they disagree from Wikipedia. Manul, along with “Barney the Barney Barney”, casts aspersions on other editors if they express a viewpoint that does not agree with the dogmatic skeptic party line. They have also forced less biased, more even-handed editors into administrative arbitration in an attempt to have them blocked or banned from Wikipedia altogether.

Though Manul has been careful to avoid openly abusing non-dogmatic-skeptic editors on articles’ Talk Pages, he has been known to reveal the personal names of those editors who frustrate him, or to abuse them in Arbitration Enforcement or on the editors’ Talk Pages.

Manul has played a prominent role in the harassment of several Wikipedia editors, presenting, for instance, massive amounts of invented data in arbitration to the arbitration administrator to make it appear that the amount of evidence against the editors he has challenged is overwhelming.

Manul has received public praise from skeptic activists for working on the Sheldrake article: from Jerry Coyne in a New Republic article; from Tim Farley, developer of the so-called Skeptical Software Tools used to promote the dogmatic-skeptic point of view; and from Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) (also see “Gerbic, Susan”).

Manul crafted a response to being the main editor of GSoW’s Talk Page supporting the story that GSoW had not edited the article and that Manul is just a dedicated Wikipedian following Wikipedia’s guidelines with no other intention, a response which has been passed around by skeptical activists through social media.