Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2021-02-28/Disinformation report

A "billionaire battle" on Wikipedia: Sex, lies, and video: Edits of the rich and famous.

Several billionaires – or more likely their paid representatives – appear to have edited Wikipedia according to an article in The Wall Street Journal[1] and in an investigation published in The Signpost. Two alleged sex offenders, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, also appear to have edited Wikipedia.

Do these types of editors interact on Wikipedia? Do they have edit disputes with one another? The Signpost investigates these questions in the case of a "billionaire battle"[2] between hedge fund manager, Louis Bacon, whose net worth was $1.5 billion in 2020 according to Forbes, and Peter Nygard, a fashion executive who has been indicted on nine charges in New York, which include sex trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering.

Nygard never quite made it into the list of billionaires on Forbes, but his net worth was estimated at $750 million in 2014.[3][4] Today he is being held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for extradition to the United States. He has been unable to raise bail and remains in jail.[5]

Nygard's lawyer has denied all the charges against him. The Signpost reminds our readers that he should be considered innocent until any charges are proven in a court of law. We also remind you that the identities of Wikipedia editors can never be completely proven – even if they seem to have identified themselves. They may be spoofing or "Joe jobbing" in order to embarrass other people.

The rise and fall of Peter Nygard

Peter Nygard 2016.jpg
Peter Nygard in 2016

Nygard emigrated with his parents from Finland to Canada when he was ten years old and entered the clothing business after graduating from university. He bought into a small firm in Winnipeg and then bought out his partners. His group of companies, headed by Nygard International, grew to 165 retail outlets in the US and Canada[6] and also sold through Dillard's and Walmart in the US.

VP-BPZ - Peter Nygård (7231957822).jpg
Nygard's private Boeing 727

He owned a home in California and in 1987 bought property in an exclusive gated community, Lyford Cay in the Bahamas. He built an immense Mayan-themed complex on the six acres of prime beach-front property which was later featured on the television show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.[2]

Just over a year ago he might have still thought that he was living his dream life, as he flew to his various businesses and homes in a private Boeing 727 jet with an entourage of young women and under-age girls. The only fly in the ointment seemed to be a feud[2] with his neighbor in the Bahamas, billionaire Louis Bacon.

An argument over a shared driveway is reported to have started the feud, which grew into a legal dispute about Nygard's use of dredging to expand his land along the coast. Other accusations followed. Nygard accused Bacon of blasting out Nygard's parties with industrial-grade loudspeakers. Nygard accused Bacon of insider trading, arson, and even murder. He organized a demonstration against Bacon’s supposed membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Bacon, in turn, accused Nygard of planning his murder.[2][4]

How do the very rich deal with disinformation being spread about them? One method is to file a lawsuit. According to The New York Times, the two filed 25 lawsuits against each other in five jurisdictions.[4] Bacon also took legal action in the UK against the Wikimedia Foundation to force the WMF to help identify Wikipedia editors who he believed were defaming him. He won a UK court order, but could not get it enforced in the US. The WMF likely does not have the identifying information in any case.[7]

On February 13, 2020, Nygard was sued by 10 "Jane Does" in civil court in New York, alleging rape. The lawsuit was widely viewed as the work of Bacon.[4] Several dozen more accusers have since claimed that Nygard raped them. The rapes allegedly occurred from 1979 through 2020. Another alleged rape, reported in the Winnipeg Free Press, was said to have taken place around 1960 when Nygard and the unnamed woman were in high school.[8] Several plaintiffs say they were minors when the alleged rapes occurred.

On February 25, 2020, the FBI raided Nygard's Times Square offices in Manhattan. Nygard resigned the same day from his own companies,[8] most of which soon filed for bankruptcy. By May they were being sold off in pieces to satisfy a mere $25-million debt. US federal prosecutors, on December 15 unsealed a nine count indictment against Nygard in the Southern District of New York,[12][13] including allegations of sex trafficking, multiple cases of coerced sex with underage girls, coerced participation in orgies, racketeering, and money laundering. He was arrested in Winnipeg and held for extradition to the US. He has been unable to get bail and remains in jail. At age 79, his lawyers claim that he is broke, sick and dying.[14]

Four accusers have been interviewed and shown in documentaries on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. They describe forcible rape that appears to have been planned beforehand. They speak at length and their identities are not hidden. The CBC also shows video from Nygard's personal videographer, who says that he has about 1,000 hours of video of Nygard.

Disinformation on Wikipedia

One pro-Nygard editor, User:NYGARD International, only edited the Peter Nygard article and only on October 30, 2007, making eights edits before they were quickly blocked for promotional editing. One of their edits completely rewrote the article with 3,116 words of promotional material starting

Most people talk about Peter J. Nygård, Chairman of NYGÅRD(International), in terms of his classic rags-to-riches story – the Finnish immigrants' son, who stitched up an empire out of women's clothing and is now the quintessential self-made man. This story overlooks another side of Peter Nygård – a hard driven, demanding and subjective man who has created a standard of excellence for the Canadian Women's Fashion Industry, whose label is the #1 recognized label in the Canadian marketplace, and whose signature is recognized in fashion centres across the globe.`

While promotional edits are common on Wikipedia, few, if any, are so open, so non-encyclopedic, and so poorly written. The real disinformation about the Nygard/Bacon feud though began three years later after the CBC broadcast a documentary about Nygard's alleged harassment of his employees. Nygard responded in the courts by filing a criminal libel suit. He apparently responded on Wikipedia by attacking Bacon through several sockpuppet accounts and trying to delete every mention of the CBC documentary.

Bacon indicated that he wanted to start defamation proceedings against some Wikipedia editors by obtaining court orders from the high court in London to force three website owners – the WMF, WordPress, and The Denver Post – to disclose the identities of contributors who Bacon believed defamed him, according to The Guardian.[7] The WMF could not be forced to provide the information without the intervention of a US court, and likely did not ever possess the required information. The Guardian reported the online names of the accused defamers as "gotbacon" and "TCasey82".

"Gotbacon" is not a registered Wikipedia username, but likely refers to the WordPress blog gotbacon which published between December 2010 and May 2011. It republished anti-Bacon material from little known websites, commented on Bacon and complained that the Wikipedia article on Louis Bacon was whitewashed. It was cited as a reference in 2011 by User:Crinock in the Louis Bacon article. Crinock was indefinitely blocked as a sockpuppet of RK Drollinger in the same year. Another blocked sock of RK Drollinger, User:Rosi.anastasova, made five of their nine edits to the Louis Bacon article, deleting material reported in the 2010 CBC documentary.

User:TCasev82 was a single-purpose account (SPA) who made all 33 of their edits between May 2010 to February 2011 to the Louis Bacon article. They included anti-Bacon material and inserted an external link to the gotbacon blog.

User:Lbninternational made all 17 of their edits on November 15, 2011 to the Louis Bacon article before they were warned for a biography of living persons policy violation: "Please stop trying to blackball Louis Bacon". They were then reported to WP:ANI where Louis Bacon's legal action against the WMF was discussed. Lbninternational has not edited since that time. One of their edits read "Although Lpuis Bacon [sic] is reportedly the 655th richest person in the world, there have been some bizarre stories linked to him such as this one in Business Insider" while linking to a story on an alleged murder.

Did Louis Bacon or his representatives respond to these edits on Wikipedia? Complaints sent to Wikipedia via the Volunteer Response Team ticket request system (better known as OTRS) are essentially private and The Signpost does not have access to them, but it appears that Bacon complained about these and other edits through OTRS in 2011 and again in 2019. These requests appear to have been handled by administrators and experienced volunteer editors according to policy, mostly in favor of Bacon's position. In 2011 there were fewer reliable sources reporting on Nygard and regular Wikipedia editors took longer to decide matters, but most results favored Bacon.

In 2018 and 2019 User:Candor777 made a total of nine edits to the Nygard and Bacon articles, all of which favored Nygard. They edit warred to remove documented accusations against Nygard. They were warned about our rules on conflict of interest and paid editing. Their edits were reverted and they stopped editing.

Conclusion

Two very rich men, one a billionaire, the other accused of multiple forcible rapes and multiple rapes of minors, may have battled on the pages of Wikipedia leading to a court ordering the WMF to identify our editors for inclusion in a defamation suit. This possibility should appall all Wikipedia readers and all Wikipedia editors. But did it happen that way?

Peter Nygard and Louis Bacon did conduct an off-wiki "billionaire battle" campaign of accusations and lawsuits against each other for a decade. Did the battle spill over onto Wikipedia? Bacon seemed to think so, having sought the court order to identify Wikipedia editors, and apparently complaining twice through OTRS about false information in Wikipedia articles. The Signpost, however, was unable to identify any article edits made by Bacon or his representatives.

Since the identities of Wikipedia editors can not be completely proven by their editing histories, The Signpost can only say that there is a strong likelihood that Nygard or his representatives edited Wikipedia. User:NYGARD International was quickly blocked for their promotional editing to the Peter Nygard article. Gotbacon, a WordPress blog that attacked Bacon and complained that the Bacon article was whitewashed, connected several apparent Nygard editors, including User:TCasey82 and User:Crinock, both single-purpose accounts linked to the blog. Crinock was blocked for sockpuppeting connecting them to another sockpuppet account User:Rosi.anastasova, who also edited the article. Just before he stopped editing in 2011, SPA User:Lbninternational was warned by an administrator to "stop trying to blackball Louis Bacon". Eight years later, SPA User:Candor777 quit editing after they were warned about their editing.

Yes, it appears that Nygard or his representatives were continuing his off-wiki feud on Wikipedia.

References

  1. ^ Levy, Rachel (13 December 2019). "How the 1% Scrubs Its Image Online". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Konigsberg, Eric (6 December 2015). "The Billionaire Battle in the Bahamas". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  3. ^ Canadian Business, Canada’s Richest People 2015: The Top 100 Richest Canadians
  4. ^ a b c d Barker, Kim; Porter, Catherine; Ashford, Grace (22 February 2020). "How a Neighbors' Feud in Paradise Launched an International Rape Case". New York Times. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  5. ^ Pritchaed, Dean (19 January 2021). "Jail a 'death sentence,' Nygard lawyer argues". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  6. ^ Barghout, Caroline (1 June 2020). "Nygard liquidation sale dates pending while court rules on unpaid rent". CBC. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b Halliday, Josh (9 May 2011). "US billionaire wins high court order over Wikipedia 'defamation'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  8. ^ a b Thorpe, Ryan (26 December 2020). "Nygard in custody, empire shattered". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  9. ^ "Peter Nygard: The Secret Videos". CBC. 28 January 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  10. ^ "Former employee says Peter Nygard raped her on a business trip". CBC. 12 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Breaking Their Silence: These women say Peter Nygard raped them". CBC. 19 June 2020.
  12. ^ Canadian Fashion Executive Peter J. Nygard Charged With Sex Trafficking And Racketeering Offenses,December 15, 2020, Department of Justice
  13. ^ U.S. Department of Justice (15 December 2020). "United States of America v. Peter Nygard – sealed indictment". Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  14. ^ Pritchard, Dean (19 January 2021). "Jail a 'death sentence,' Nygard lawyer argues". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 21 February 2021.