It took Jimmy Wales only a matter of minutes to install the software that would become Wikipedia. But it took years for another of Jimmy Wales’ creations, Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, to finally ban a middle-aged creep who had been caught years ago prowling for pre-teen girls on another of Wales’ websites, Wikia.com. The Wikipedia editor in question went by the same “Katydidit” name on both the for-profit Wikia site and on the non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia. But even though he had been caught in a child predation sting on a Wikia domain dedicated to the iCarly show in July 2011, Katydidit continued to have free rein over Wikipedia for another three years and many thousands of edits before he was finally blocked this month by the Arbitration Committee, a panel founded in 2003 by Wales to resolve difficult disputes on Wikipedia.
Katydidit, a man in his late 40s (though some report that he is in his early 60s), apparently knew that a site dedicated to a teen-oriented show like iCarly would count many young girls among its users. He began to engage intimately with several girls on the wiki, and he was told to stop. But he just took his conversations to private messages and e-mail, and the complaints to the volunteer administrators of the site continued. Meanwhile, Wikia staff apparently did nothing about the problem, but they busily maintained the advertising on the site so that Jimmy Wales’ pockets could be further lined with increasing shares of Wikia stock.
Finally, an iCarly Wiki administrator had had enough of the complaints, and he set out to prove that Katydidit was up to no good. So, the admin worked with another user (“The Sam Puckett” or SwaggyRoxas or @MeLlamoSammo on Twitter) to assume a fake persona of a 12-year-old girl (“CreddieTandre”), and sure enough, Katydidit was chatting it up with “her” in no time. It’s no great comfort that a volunteer administrator had to undertake this investigation, rather than the Wikia employees, and there’s little assurance that the admin, “Eric the Grape” who self-describes his occupation as “Professional douchebag”, undertook all the appropriate protections that a law enforcement operation would have.
Hide your daughters
If your daughter is a fan of the iCarly show, if she does a Google search for iCarly, the 12th result will be the Wikia wiki where Katydidit engaged in increasingly perverted conversations with someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl. Katydidit’s topics of private messages ranged from the girl’s hymen, to the “urge to rub” herself, right down to the trademark “we keep each other’s secrets and tell nobody else”. Again, this was all taking place on a Wikia site chat function, made possible by current iCarly wiki advertisers like AXA Insurance, Visit Williamsburg, and Citi bank.
It wasn’t the first time that Wikia management were slow to act when child protection issues were being mishandled. Back in January 2008, your Examiner reporter had issue with Jimmy Wales and then-CEO of Wikia, Gil Penchina, regarding a “Spanking Art” wiki they were hosting. This wiki glorified the graphic illustration of children being beaten to the point of tears, juxtaposed with photo galleries of real Boy Scouts and real prepubescent girls. When Wales was informed of how inappropriate this wiki was, he stalled for four days, deleting just one photo out of dozens that were offensive or that invaded the privacy of underage subjects. Only when his advertisers were threatened by a boycott ultimatum did he and Penchina finally act to shut down the site. Even afterward, Wales complained that it would have been better if one “made a complaint through the proper channels”, and not prepared to inform advertisers that they were financially supporting a child abuse site. Penchina complained that shutting down the site on a Friday nearly ruined his weekend of watching football.
Wikipedia promoted to kids, but not safe for kids
The Katydidit situation on Wikipedia is yet another unfortunate example of how the Wikimedia Foundation’s educational outreach programs enthusiastically try to get more and more kids to use and engage in Wikipedia, even as proper child protection controls are not only not in place, but concern about it is largely ignored. If you have a 10- or 11-year-old daughter who may be starting to use Wikipedia, how does it make you feel that a pervert like Katydidit was happily welcomed to edit Wikipedia for years and engage with other users? What does it say that only weeks ago, he was touching up the Wikipedia article about Miss Indiana USA with her weight and dress size or stalking the work shift hours of a local weather girl?
You, reader, have a choice here. We can complain to the Wikimedia Foundation, that they need to enact a child protection policy as soon as possible, to obstruct future Katydidit types. Or, we can “keep each other’s secrets and tell nobody else”, just like Katydidit would prefer.