The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and Wikipedia

A month ago, Mark Donfried from the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) — an organization dedicated to promoting open dialogue — sent me this letter threatening me with legal action because of contributions I’ve made to Wikipedia. Yesterday, he sent me this followup threat.

According to the letters, Donfried has threatened me with legal action because I participated in a discussion on Wikipedia that resulted in his organization’s article being deleted. It is not anything I wrote in any Wikipedia article that made Donfried so upset — although Donfried is also unhappy about at least one off-hand comment I made during the deletion discussion on a now-deleted Wikipedia process page. Donfried is unhappy that my actions, in small part, have resulted in his organization not having an article in Wikipedia. He is able to threaten me personally because — unlike many people — I edit Wikipedia using my real, full, name.

Donfried’s letter is the latest step in a saga that has been ongoing since last June. It has been a frustrating learning experience for me that has made me worried about Wikipedia, its processes, and its future.

In Wikipedia, debates can be won by stamina. If you care more and argue longer, you will tend to get your way. The result, very often, is that individuals and organizations with a very strong interest in having Wikipedia say a particular thing tend to win out over other editors who just want the encyclopedia to be solid, neutral, and reliable. These less-committed editors simply have less at stake and their attention is more distributed.

The ICD is a non-profit organization based in Berlin. According to its own website, a large part of the organization’s activities are based around arranging conferences. Its goals — peace, cultural interchange, human rights — are admirable and close to my heart. Its advisors and affiliates are impressive.

I had never heard of the ICD before their founder, Mark Donfried, emailed me in April 2012 asking me to give a keynote address at their conference on “The 2012 International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy & Human Rights.” I replied, interested, but puzzled because my own research seems very far afield of both “cultural diplomacy” (which I had never heard of) and human rights. I replied saying:

What would you like me to talk about — I ask because I don’t consider myself an expert in (or even particularly knowledgeable about) cultural diplomacy. Did someone else refer you to me?

Donfried replied with a long message — seemingly copy and pasted — thanking me for considering attending and asking me for details of my talk. I replied again repeating text from my previous email and asking why he was interested in me. Donfried suggested a phone call to talk about details. But by this point, I had looked around the web for information about the ICD and had decided to decline the invitation.

Among things I found was a blog post by my friend James Grimmelmann that suggests that, at least in his case, the ICD had a history of sending unsolicited email and an apparently inability to take folks off their email lists even after repeated requests.

I also read the Wikipedia article about the ICD. Although the Wikipedia article was long and detailed, it sent off some internal Wikipedian-alarm-bells for me. The page read, to me, like an advertisement or something written by the organization being described; it simply did not read — to me — like an encyclopedia article written by a neutral third-party.

I looked through the history of the article and found that the article had been created by a user called Icd_berlin who had made no other substantive edits to the encyclopedia. Upon further examination, I found that almost all other significant content contributions were from a series of anonymous editors with IP addresses associated with Berlin. I also found that a couple edits had removed criticism when it had been added to the article. The criticism was removed by an anonymous editor from Berlin.

Criticisms on the article included links to a website called “Inside the ICD” which was a website that mostly consisted of comments by anonymous people claiming to be former interns of the ICD complaining about the working conditions at the organization. There were also many very positive descriptions of work at the ICD. A wide array of pseudonymous users on the site accused the negative commenters of being liars and detractors and the positive commenters of being ICD insiders.

I also found that there had been evidence on Wikipedia — also removed without discussion by an anonymous IP from Berlin — of an effort launched by the youth wing of ver.di — one of the largest trade unions in Germany to “campaign for good internships at the ICD.” Although details of the original campaign have been removed from ver.di’s website, the campaigned ended after coming to an agreement with the ICD that made explicit a set of expectations and created an Intern Council.

Although the article about ICD on Wikipedia had many citations, many were to the ICD’s own website. Most of the rest were to articles that only tangentially mentioned the ICD. Many were about people with ICD connections but did not mention the ICD at all.

As Wikipedia editor, I was worried that Wikipedia’s policies on conflict of interest, advertising, neutrality, and notability were not being served by the article in its state. But as someone with no real experience or knowledge of the ICD, I wasn’t sure what to do. I posted a request for help on Wikipedia asking for others to get involved and offer their opinions.

It turns out, there were several editors who had tried to improve the article in the past and had been met by pro-ICD editors reverting their changes. Eventually, those editors lost patience or simply moved on to other topics.

By raising the issue again, I kicked off a round of discussion about the article. At the termination of that discussion, the article was proposed for deletion under Wikipedia’s Articles for Deletion policy. A new Wikipedia editor began working enthusiastically to keep the article by adding links and by arguing that the article should stay. The new user edited the Wikipedia article about me to accuse me of slander and defamation although they removed that claim after I tried to explain that I was only trying to help. I spent quite a bit of time trying to rewrite and improve the article during the deletion discussion and I went — link by link — through the many dozens of citations.

During the deletion discussion, Mark Donfried contacted me over email and explained that his representatives had told him that I was working against the ICD in Wikipedia. He suggested that we meet. We had a tentative plan to meet in Berlin on an afternoon last July but, in the end, I was too busy trying to submit my thesis proposal and neither of us followed up to confirm a particular time within the time window we had set. I have still never met him.

My feeling, toward the end of the deletion discussion on Wikipedia, was mostly exasperation. Somewhat reluctantly, I voted to delete the article saying:

Delete – This AFD is a complete mess for all the reasons that the article itself is. Basically: there are a small number of people who seem to have a very strong interest in the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy having an article in Wikipedia and, from what I can tell, very little else. Hessin fahem, like all the major contributors to the page, joined Wikipedia in order to participate in this issue.

This article has serious problems. I have posted a detailed list of my problems on the article talk page: primary sources, conflict of interest for nearly all substantive contributions and reading like an advert are the biggest issues. My efforts to list these problems were reverted without discussion by an anonymous editor from Berlin.

I have seen no evidence that the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy satisfies WP:ORG but I agree that it is possible that it does. I strongly agree with Arxiloxos that articles should always be fixed, and not deleted, if they are fixable. But I also know that Wikipedia does not deserve this article, that I don’t know to fix it, and that despite my efforts to address these issues (and I’ll keep trying), the old patterns of editing have continued and the article is only getting worse.

This ICD seems almost entirely based around a model that involves organizing conferences and then calling and emailing to recruit speakers and attendees. A large number of people will visit this Wikipedia article to find out more about the organization before deciding to pay for a conference or to join to do an internship. What Wikipedia shows to them reads like an advert, links almost exclusively to of pages on the organizations’ websites and seems very likely to have been written by the organization itself. We are doing an enormous disservice to our readers by keeping this page in its current form.

If somebody wants to make a serious effort to improve the article, I will help and will happily reconsider my !vote. But after quite a bit of time trying to raise interest and to get this fixed, I’m skeptical this can be addressed and my decision reflects this fact. —mako 05:18, 12 June 2012 (UTC)

I concluded that although the organization might be notable according to Wikipedia’s policies and although the Wikipedia article about it might be fixable, the pattern of editing gave me no faith that it could be fixed until something changed.

When the article was deleted, things became quiet. Several months later a new article was created — again, by an anonymous user with no other edit history. Although people tend to look closely at previously deleted new pages, this page was created under a different name: “The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy” and was not noticed.

Deleted Wikipedia articles are only supposed to be recreated after they go through a process called deletion review. Because the article was recreated out of this process, I nominated it for what is called speedy deletion under a policy specifically dealing with recreated articles. It was deleted again. Once again, things were quiet.

In January, it seems, the “Inside the ICD website” was threatened with a lawsuit by the ICD and the maintainers of the site took it down with the following message:

Apparently, the ICD is considering filing a lawsuit against this blog and it will now be taken down. We completely forgot about this blog. Let’s hope no one is being sued. Farewell.

On February 25, the Wikipedia article on ICD was recreated — once again out of process and by a user with almost no previous edit history. The next day, I received an email from Mark Donfried. In the message, Donfried said:

Please note that the ICD is completely in favor of fostering open dialogue and discussions, even critical ones, however some of your activities are raising serious questions about the motives behind your actions and some even seem to be motives of sabotage, since they resulted in ICD not having any Wikipedia page at all.

We are deeply concerned regarding these actions of yours, which are causing us considerable damages. As the person who initiated these actions with Wikipedia and member of the board of Wikipedia [1], we would therefore request your answer regarding our questions below within the next 10 days (by March 6th). If we do not receive your response we will unfortunately have to consider taking further legal actions with these regards against you and other anonymous editors.

I responded to Donfried to say that I did not think it was prudent to speak with him while he was threatening me. Meanwhile, other Wikipedia editors nominated the ICD article for deletion once again and unanimously decided to delete it. And although I did not participate in the discussion, Donfried emailed again with more threats of legal action hours after the ICD article was deleted:

[A]s the case of the ICD and its presentation on the Wikipedia has seriously worsened in recent days, we see no alternative but to forward this case (including all relevant visible and anonymous contributors) to our legal representatives in both USA and Europe/Germany as well as to the authorities and other corresponded organizations in order to find a remedy to this case.

Donfried has made it very clear that his organization really wants a Wikipedia article and that they believe they are being damaged without one. But the fact that he wants one doesn’t mean that Wikipedia’s policies mean he should have one. Anonymous editors in Berlin and in unknown locations have made it clear that they really want a Wikipedia article about the ICD that does not include criticism. Not only do Wikipedia’s policies and principles not guarantee them this, Wikipedia might be hurt as a project when this happens.

The ICD claims to want to foster open dialogue and criticism. I think they sound like a pretty nice group working toward issues I care about personally. I wish them success.

But there seems to be a disconnect between their goals and the actions of both their leader and proponents. Because I used my real name and was skeptical about the organization on discussion pages on Wikipedia, I was tracked down and threatened. Donfried insinuated that I was motivated to “sabotage” his organization and threatened legal action if I do not answer his questions. The timing of his first letter — the day after the ICD page was recreated — means that I was unwilling to act on my commitment to Wikipedia and its policies.

I have no problem with the ICD and I deeply regret being dragged into this whole mess simply because I wanted to improve Wikipedia. That said, Donfried’s threat has scared me off from attempts to improve the ICD articles. I suspect I will not edit ICD pages in Wikipedia in the future.

The saddest part for me is that I recognize that what is in effect bullying is working. There are currently Wikipedia articles about the ICD in many languages. For several years, ICD has had an article on English Wikipedia. For almost all of that period, that article has consisted entirely of universally positive text, without criticism, and has been written almost entirely by anonymous editors who have only contributed to articles related to the ICD.

In terms of the ICD and its article on Wikipedia, I still have hope. I encourage Donfried and his “representatives” to create accounts on Wikipedia with their full names — just like I have. I encourage them to engage in open dialogue in public on the wiki. I encourage them go through deletion review, make any conflicts of interest they have unambiguously clear, and to work with demonstrably non-conflicted editors on Wikipedia to establish notability under Wikipedia’s policies. The result still can be an awesome, neutral, article about their organization. I have offered both advice on how to do this and help in that process in the past. I have faith this can happen and I will be thrilled when it does.

But the general case still worries me deeply. If I can be scared off by threats like these, anybody can. After all, I have friends at the Wikimedia Foundation, a position at Harvard Law School, and am close friends with many of the world’s greatest lawyer-experts on both wikis and cyberlaw. And even I am intimidated into not improving the encyclopedia.

I am concerned by what I believe is the more common case — where those with skin in the game will fight harder and longer than a random Wikipedian. The fact that it’s usually not me on the end of the threat gives me lots of reasons to worry about Wikipedia at a time when its importance and readership continues to grow as its editor-base remains stagnant.

[1] It’s a minor mistake but worth pointing out that I am not on the “board of Wikipedia”; I am on its advisory board which carries no power or responsbility within the organization. Sometimes, the foundation asks for my advice and I happily give it.

82 Replies to “The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and Wikipedia”

  1. It’s worth pointing out, in case you haven’t already seen it, that Wikipedia has specific policies in place to deal with legal threats, notably WP:LEGAL. At this point, if they aren’t already, you should probably make sure the Wikimedia folks know about this incident.

  2. This is terrible; thanks for laying it out on your blog. Posting what has happened is important.

    Two bigger things: I, too, have wondered what happens to the people who “aren’t me” — aren’t, in other words, connected and secure in Wikimedia — when bad things happen, like random harassment. You don’t want to tackle ICD again; I tend to shy away from controversial articles in general. And if that’s true for the two of us, then what about people who aren’t friends with the lawyers?

    And, though it’s counter to received wisdom, I’ve always felt like using my real name offered some measure of protection to harassment. It runs like this: I already tell you where I work and make it clear Wikimedia’s on my c.v.: so what are you going to do, out me to my employer? I’ve got no secrets to find.
    But this is the other side of that, I guess; someone with an ax to grind seizing on the only person he can easily track down. How stupid and awful.

  3. I can’t figure out who these people are. They use a lot of “feel good” euphemisms. They smell like yet another radical leftist pseudo-intellectual cult. Yikes!

    1. I have no problem with their politics or language. As I say in the article, I support their mission. What I don’t support is their approach to skepticism on the Internet and their way of working with Wikipedia editors.

    2. Radical leftist? That’s a laugh. Judging by its roster of speakers, it’s a NGO staffed with mix of neoliberal, neoconservative policy wonks.

  4. BOOOO ICD! How ridiculous and awful.
    There should be a way to aggressively countersue and shame organizations who use such intimidation tactics.
    After all, the Wiki[pm]edia projects have access to a very loud bullhorn. In most circumstances, those are the last organizations in the world someone who is reputation-sensitive would want to intimidate.

  5. Have you considered raising funds to countersue? I don’t know whether Kickstarter would allow raising funds for this purpose but even if they don’t, I would surely be happy to contribute to such a fund. I think just a view of how much money has been raised to countersue would be enough to have ICD back off. Of course, that still means that you’re the one faced with a court battle. I value Wikipedia and pitch in a little bit every year during their fund raising. This is an important part of that.

  6. Thank you, very enlightening, properly cited, thoroughly written (just like a detective) :D
    I’m sharing.

  7. Wow. Their cultural diplomacy consists of coming into a community they don’t really understand, then threatening legal action against contributors. I’d hate to see how they’d promote cultural diplomacy in, oh, Israel and Palestine…

    Fail, as the kids say.

  8. Whilst I am appalled at the behavior, of course, I’m wondering why it was that you backed down after the mere threat of a lawsuit by someone whom you have reported to wikimedia legal and especially since you are well aware of this kind of behavior (being aware of all internet traditions)? Mind you, I’m really not slagging on you here: I haven’t had the time to really be a wikipedia editor, although it would definitely have been a great thing for me to be.

    Still…. you do realize that unless someone takes this one (with the help of wikilegal and EFF? Maybe?) that ICD will never change and may continue to increase such behavior — or, more specifically, Mr. Donfried, who apparently doesn’t think cultural diplomacy extends to “not calling in lawyers when you’re unhappy”?

    Yes, again, I’m pushing you here when I’m not the one on the hot-seat in this case. But I promise I’m pushing, not yelling, accusing, or criticizing. Really.

    1. Those are all good points, Ralph. Part of the reason I’m speaking out by writing this post is because I don’t want to simply be intimidated into silence and I’m hoping to raise the issues with the larger community. I’ll think about what you’ve said — and similar comments from other — and I’ll consider getting involved if this comes up again in the future. I’m also still committed to improving Wikipedia in the future. My choice was really just about shifting my energy.

      1. Which is, as you note for both you and the other wikipedia editors NOT from Berlin, the choosing point that the ICD (and others) need to get editors to in order to get their way. And yet, that is of course a normal choice that we make in life all the time, so there’s nothing wrong about it at all. Great little article. Thanks.

        1. I, too, am somewhat wondering why you gave in. Sure, I can understand the depressing stress that comes from endless fight. But giving in to bullies means they are going to hurt someone else next. They never stop on their own, they have to be stopped.

          As a Wikipedian, I’ve been threatened both anonymously and nymously, although not with serious legal action, just your ordinary bricks and stones and telephones. (That said, I wouldn’t be very sure ICD would actually have sued anyone: the burden of proof lies upon them, and they’re on a very weak ground.) The closest case I can draw parallel with was with our local IRS: they decided to exclude our Wikimedia chapter from the tax exemption list, we sought it was unfounded, and their decision influenced many NPOs, so we sued them. On the very same day, we sent out a press release, and I personally brought the issue on national media. Most people would think an NPO is much weaker than a state institution, so it’s a natural instinct to comply. But even if that would be the case, you can always hit where it hurts: the public image. Wikipedia is popular, and if you bring out the facts, very few people really dare to have an open fight.

          In our case, IRS gave up on the very same morning we were going to the first meeting in court. I suspect ICD might have done the same, if they even would have got that far. For an institution that relies on public donations and speakers’ good will, public fight to silence a Wikipedian volunteer is a suicide, even if you win.

          But yes, no one can make these decision for someone else.

  9. it sounds like wikipedia policies provided a reasonable outcome in the case of ICD. but I really think the policies are often misapplied. especially notability.

    here’s an example: I’m part of an academic research consortium named Sharcnet. we put in a basic wikipedia page a long time ago – definitely not advertising, no hard sell. our thinking is simply that wikipedia is an obvious place to look for information about resources, so let’s make it easy for people to find us. not long afterward, wikipedia editors kicked the page – and we didn’t try to contest it, since by their own rules, vast parts of the online world are simply not eligible for notice by wikipedia. I was tempted recently to re-create the page – or better yet, create one for Compute/Calcule Canada, which is even more obviously significant.

    but why bother? wikipedia doesn’t matter anymore, since everyone uses google first. sure, it’s nice when google shows a solid, reputable article in wikipedia, and I contribute minor edits when I notice the need. but fundamentally, wikipedia isn’t as *encyclopedic* as it could be, apparently by internal consensus. it’s sad, in a way.

    I understand that wikipedia editors don’t want to be *used* by someone (as ICD may have). but there’s a huge gulf between that and providing genuinely informative encyclopedia – a service to people looking for web edification.

    1. Wikipedia editors tend to frown upon people with clear conflict of interest creating articles. I would suggest that you go and follow the instruction on this page on how to request an article. If you provide some good reliable sources and references when you make the request and maybe even some sample text, perhaps other editors will be happy to oblige. It doesn’t always work as well as that, but I think you should try first.

    2. They (some Wiki editor) kicked my band’s article out as well, even though we toured for years like crazy and had (great) album reviews in the most major german papers. Wikipedia is not a neutral entity, at least in germany. You have to know somebody who knows somebody, then you will get included.

      Exception: if you have anything technical, computer stuff to promote/write about, as they will gladly have an article on the most ridiculously irrelevant piece of code. They will also describe iPod models in all their glories etc.

      1. Hi Luc! I am not a delete-crazy Wikipedia editor. If you read the article (I know it’s long) you will see that even though I voted to delete in this particular case, I did so reluctantly and only after working for weeks to try to improve the article. If you send me an email to tell me what your band is and send me a link to the previous deletion discussion, I’m happy to take a look. If it looks like it’s been deleted incorrectly, I’m happy to try to put some references together and get it recreated in a way that will stick.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience. It made me think a lot.
    The end of the story can be not so positive, but It’s clear you fought hard to improve the situation. It’s so important to see someone fighting for a better “world”, that makes other people willing to fight too.
    Even if a battle is lost, the war can still be win :)

  11. Show me a law that guarantees any entity, person, or organization a free advertising webpage on Wikipedia, and I’ll take their threats seriously.
    Otherwise, it’s hot air. They have no right to anything on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a privately owned, non-profit organization, and the website is managed by its community of users, who have no obligation to advertise for the ICD or anyone else. It’s an academic project, not Craig’s List.

  12. Based on own experiences of being sued (without success) as a student, I suggest to not focus too much on legal solutions here (only as a backup plan). The case shows that the company cares about their media image very much. If they would really start or even win such a lawsuit, however, they will be destroyed by the press. Journalists are very sensitive when a company tries to fight open discussion or to hide information; the involvement of ver.di provides further starting points for a story that is interesting to a broad readership. Any article ever written on any Wikipedia about the company would have include information about this case. You are not in a position to prevent this, so this is not a threat, certainly not one you could make. It is just the situation as it is. The key point is to convey this situation to them (to the stakeholders, not to the lawyers) in a polite way. With calm reflection, they should be able to see that the only way for them to avert disaster at this stage is to withdraw immediately, in writing (which you would surely post as an update here).

    I am more worried about the general situation in such cases. How can we prevent “hardly notable” organisations, people, and projects to win most of such fights by pure stamina?

    1. Thanks for your comments, Markus. I think this is very helpful. I’m sorry that you went through something similar when you were a student! What a mess!

      And I couldn’t agree more about the desire to avoid a legal fight. I have tried to explain that I’m not interested in involving lawyers repeatedly and have tried to talk ICD down politely and calmly. I’ll continue to do that.

      I also will happily update this blog to note that they have backed off if they contact me to let me know that. I really mean what I said in the post that I respect their organization and its goals and would love there to be a good, neutral, Wikipedia article on them. I still hope we can address this like reasonable people. It’s hard to do that when threats keep being made but I’ll keep trying.

  13. Benjamin, I noticed your opinion in one paragraph here, and I would like to turn it around to portray what my experience has often seen on Wikipedia. Here goes:

    “In Wikipedia, debates can be won by stamina. If you care more and argue longer, you will tend to get your way. The result, very often, is that pseudonymous individuals and organizations with a very strong interest in having Wikipedia say a particularly harmful and not-always-substantiated thing about a subject tend to win out over one or two editors representing the subject, who just want their article in the encyclopedia to be solid, neutral, and reliable. Even though these less-committed-to-Wikipedia editors have far more at stake, their limited experience with gaming Wikipedia’s imbalanced policies and guidelines puts them at a disadvantage to the Wikipedia insiders who get a thrill out of unfairly bashing the subjects of Wikipedia articles.”

    You can tell Wikipedia’s True Believers as those who will deny that the situation as I’ve described above is common or even exists at all.

    1. I’m not very familiar with your particular case so I can’t speak to that. Regardless of how common your experience is (and that is not an attempt to deny it), it is simply not a description of this situation. Of course, Wikipedia is big enough for both to happen.

      Maybe a common lesson is that there are not enough productive paths for the subjects or representives of an article to become involved in fixing that article. I hope we can agree that conflicts of interest — in the subjects of articles or simply in stubborn editors — are a real problem for any attempt to create an neutral reference work. I’m not sure all Wikipedians would agree but I personally feel that creating a non-conflicted encyclopedia should not mean that WP simply bans the input, in any form, of the people who know most about a subject.

      1. I think it is easy to believe that someone is out to get you, and it’s perhaps easier to think that than for it to actually happen.

        One of the strengths of Wikipedia’s software is that everything is written down and reversible and so on. If someone really is just out to get you for no good reason, everything’s still there for examination.

        1. Maybe I don’t understand. Are you accusing me of making this up these threats? I have three threatening emails in inbox. Two of them are linked from the first paragraph of this post.

  14. Mako, welcome to an example of one my sayings – “It’s Always Different When It’s YOU”. I applaud your discovery that the glurge put forth by too many credulous writers (including some associated with the Berkman Center) is deeply flawed. By which I mean that the idealized view of Wikipedia editing as some sort of good-faith fantasy, is a whitewashing of a very harsh and contentious process, which can involve some very dirty and destructive tactics. I hope this unfortunate matter, as a personal experience, will make you more favorable to the extensive critiques which have been written about how such sites are not any sort of good social model.

    @Phoebe – regarding “so what are you going to do, out me to my employer” – for example, I hope your employer doesn’t have a policy where any charges must be investigated, no matter how apparently frivolous or malicious. That’s a pretty common tactic abused at the hands of by-any-means-necessary lawyers or PR flacks.

    1. Seth, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a situation similar to mine, although I certainly would believe that similar things happen. It’s certainly true that being on the receiving end makes the experience sharper.

      I can’t speak for everyone at Berkman but I think if you look at my research and writing, you will find that I am a strong believer in foregrounding “inconvenient facts” about peer production projects and I like to believe that I’m favorable to other’s critiques as well. I also see value in some of the less critical work. I’m personally interested in understanding how and why projects like Wikipedia work well and fail. I think it’s equally silly to pre-suppose that it’s all wonderful or that it’s all rotten. Like anything, there are always strengths and weaknesses.

      Indeed, the reason I’m raising the issue on my blog is to foreground what you call dirty techniques.

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. Benjamin, as an(other) example… how do you think it looks when someone like Pete Forsyth (a former Wikimedia Foundation employee who is a paid consultant in matters surrounding Wikipedia, with a business relationship with Consumer Reports as it tries to further engage Wikipedia) participates in an article deletion voting process? It would be interesting to tally… of all the “delete” votes ever cast by Mr. Forsyth, how many were for articles about one of his clients, and how many were for articles about non-clients of his? Assuming the answers are “zero” and “some number greater than zero”, respectively, is this not a fairly objectionable conflict of interest matter?

        1. I’m just thinking off the top of my head here. But I think CR is pretty far afield from the ICD stuff so I don’t see an obvious problem with this specific AfD.

          I think it would be a clear conflict is he participated in a deletion discussion about CR. I don’t think that just because someone has a conflict on some things means that he should be barred from contributing to anything else. Everyone has conflicts. I’d be happy if people make those conflicts clear and to steer clear from places where those conflicts will call into question the neutrality of the encyclopedia.

          1. “Everyone has conflicts. I’d be happy if people make those conflicts clear and to steer clear from places where those conflicts will call into question the neutrality of the encyclopedia.”


            But, then, you just canceled probably about half of all Wikipedia editing, because “pushing or advocating for a particular political, racial, religious, sexual, or scientific agenda” is a form of conflict of interest (beyond the oft-cited financial one), and in my experience it drives a large portion of the editing on Wikipedia, outside of pop culture and video gaming subjects.

          2. Gregory: You’re not going to find me arguing that there are not important concerns with the way that Wikipedia works and the ways that well intentioned rules are ignored and worked around. Outside of the specific case, raising one set of such concerns was the whole point of my post.

  15. When I saw a post about this on I thought, hmm ‘The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy’, that name sounds familiar. Then I remembered, they were the unknown organisation that was spamming me for the best part of a year. I would like to tell you about my experience with them.

    I was in the process of establishing a youth development charity here in Ireland many years ago, but have long since stepped away from it. I kept the website for it up and the email account active. Last year I started receiving emails inviting me to submit papers for a conference they were organising. I looked at their website, was somewhat impressed, but it was way out of my field of experience so decided not to get involved with it. At the time it did not occur to me that the email was strange, I regularly get emails from other NGO’s in Ireland and I was at one stage on several mailing lists for NGO’s in Ireland. However I have since removed myself from any mailing lists I was on and now I only get the odd email from students that want to intern with me. However I should have taken note at the time that I was getting these emails into an email address which I never gave to people or posted publicly on the web. It was one of those generic info@… addresses, which are so commonly targeted by spammers. Any legitimate emails I received and mailing lists I was on always went to another address which was in fact my personal name and I was very selective as to who I gave it to and where I posted it.

    The problems began when I started getting emails from ICD on a regular basis, always about some conference they are organising. So I had enough of these emails, I looked for the unsubscribe link that I expected to find at the bottom of the email, except there was none and there wasn’t even any instructions on how you could unsubscribe from their mailing list. I thought that was quit odd, irritating and unprofessional for such a seemingly large organisation. So I contacted them by email via their website as well as replying back to the email directly and emailing this Donfried guy who’s email address was always at the bottom of these emails. I was glad at least that I could email the Director & Founder as he is described, and I was confident I would get a reply. Except that I never did and the emails kept coming.

    At this point I was getting very frustrated. I send off several emails warning them that as an organisation they were in breach of the ‘European Union Directive 2002/58 on Privacy and Electronic Communications’, otherwise known as the ‘E-Privacy Directive’. In Europe we have an opt-in policy for direct marketing, not opt-out and all organisations must provide an way for people they are marketing to, to easily remove themselves from mailing lists. I even got a friend to translate my email into German in case the person reading these emails did not have adequate English. This had not affect and I still received no reply. At this point I had gone beyond just being annoyed by these spam emails, I was determined to get to the bottom of this. So I decided to call their head office. I was expecting to speak to someone with a German accent, but instead I ended up speaking to someone with a distinctly British accent, and he informed me that the office I was calling was in Britain, so now I was very confused. Nevertheless I explained my problem and he seemed surprised and attentive. He asked me for the email address I was receiving the emails to and assured me he would have me removed from their mailing list. Again I was confident that I had finally gotten to the bottom of this, except I hadn’t because I continued to get emails from them. So I called again, spoke to the same person and this time informed him of their legal obligations under the E-Privacy Directive. He asked me for more details on all the possible email addresses I could be receiving the emails to (I have a couple of email addresses with forwards in place), he told me he would speak to the marketing department and ask them to remove my address(es), and I requested the direct contact details for their marketing department. This seemed to have worked and for a while I did not receive anymore emails from them. Then after a few months I got another, I promptly forwarded this to the person I was speaking to on the phone only for it to bounce back, it seemed his email address in the organisation was now dead.

    In the end I can’t remember if they eventually removed me from their mailing lists or if I just place their domain on the blacklist for email account so I wouldn’t receive any further emails from them. I also have email to my charities email address being forwarded in a Gmail account, so I decided to search for all emails from them and I marked them as Spam. Hoping that this might trigger a flag within Gmail to mark all emails from the ICD as spam for all Gmail users. As I understand it Google has some feature like this for managing what it filters as spam.

    So for now I am free of the ICD’s emails but probably not due to any effort on their part, probably because I just got too frustrated dealing with them. I am not at all surprised with what Benjamin is putting up with on Wikipedia. To me this organisation seems to very interested in building itself up as a serious player in the NGO sector when in fact I doubt their credibility completely now, and it sounds to me like they are merely a business organising expensive conferences. The fact that there was an ‘Inside the ICD’ blog about them is a bad sign. I didn’t realise there were other who were also getting spammed by them and found it difficult to be removed from their mailing list. I’d love to get in contact with as many other people as possible who have also be spammed by them and file a complaint about them to a the Data Protection office Germany under the E-Privacy Directive.

    Benjamin I wish you the best of luck with dealing with them and I hope you have the tenacity to see it through. By defending yourself against them legally you might end up doing us all a favour. If it helps at all I can forward you my correspondence with them.

    1. I know this blog post is as old as time itself by internet standards but since first page search results for “Institute for Cultural Diplomacy” seems to primarily consist of the organisation’s own sites and subpages now that the intern site is gone, I wanted to add my 2 cents where I could and maybe help someone out who’s trying to get off the mailing list. In case you, or anyone else, wants to do that there’s one catch: you can’t.
      If things haven’t changed since I was there as an intern (and I doubt they have) here is how the process works: there’s no centralised database of email addresses where they can go in and delete contact details of whoever doesn’t want to be contacted anymore. The system consists of several different excel files, some containing hundreds of contacts. The ones we worked with were already quite old – most email addresses bounced. These we went through and marked as “invalid”. The replies with “take me off the list” – not so much. We were pressed for time. What you need to understand is that these emails are manually mailed out by interns who go through list after list of contacts. There’s no handy software that sends it out or any real mailing list. These excel sheets are put together by the same interns, who are told to find as many contacts as possible (and told to redo it if it isn’t enough), so they trawl through the internet and pick any addresses that seem even remotely relevant – and a lot of those that aren’t. A lot of people end up in several different excel sheets. The sheets are then switched between the different programmes. There’s no centralised way of deleting your address completely from these lists since you may appear in more than one. And no one knows which list you’re on anyway. Replying to the email straight away saying “please stop sending me this” is your best chance since at least in my day that went straight back to the intern and they might care enough to do a search and “mark read” in the excel sheet they were just emailing from. Try not to be rude, as the person sitting by the computer does not think this “system” is a good idea but has no choice but to follow orders.
      Long story short – you will be better off setting up your spam filter to just block these emails. It will be quicker, more effective and more painless.

  16. From personal experience I can tell you that this kind of crap is perfectly normal. The Foundation has your back (but do contact Ken – @popehat – if only because he is some kind of awesome).

    Wikipedia is a private project. Their enforceable rights are limited to the right to fork and the right to leave. There is no enforceable right to an article.

    My personal view is that having created the article themselves, they deserve the following response: Dear ICD, you spammed Wikipedia, kindly die in a fire.

    OTRS gets shit like this all the time. Doesn’t make it any less stressful for you, of course, but they have only two hopes here: Bob Hope and No Hope. And one of them is dead.

      1. Ken Wright rocks. He is exactly the person you should be talking to right now. I probably have much thinner skin than you, but I’ve left wikipedia after nine or so years and 50k+ edits after what I consider to be personal attacks by a whitewasher, exacerbated by zero support, empathy or understanding from Admins. And so I have the same fears for wikipedia. Those with skin in the game will win, and those without will avoid the article or avoid the whole place.

  17. I’ll just note that like Stephen above, as a professional email system administrator, I blocked the whole ICD a few months back when I figured out they are just spammers and scammers.

  18. Benjamin, just stop using your real name and assume a pseudonym like other editors at Wiki. Please carry-on your efforts…it’s necessary. I appreciate your actions toward a transparent, balanced, and honest entry in Wiki.

  19. P.S. – There is a previous comment regarding Google’s encyclopedia as technically a more valid source of information. I prefer multiple sources of information, including Wiki. I try my best to AVOID all Google products, as the company has its own ethical concerns in my opinion, regarding tracking and utilization of user information.

  20. Kudos, truly.

    Thank you for writing this, standing up for yourself, being a decent human being and editing Wikipedia.

    Thank you, comrade. Stay strong.

  21. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had this trouble. One irony is that this story has been picked up by Boing Boing, and it will likely spread, and under WP’s rules coverage in the press established notability. So the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy may well survive the next AFD round based on the fact that they threatened you and that made the press.

    1. I just googled “Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.” Google tried to autocomplete it to “…wikipedia”, “…wiki”, or “…spam”. When I decline the autocompletes, this blog post is the second result. So it does appear the Streisand Effect is kicking in.

  22. It feels very ironic to me that a group promoting an exchange of ideas to change the world for the better is so interested in whitewashing their reputation and avoiding criticism that they implement sockpuppetry and legal threats.

  23. “Worried about the future” – Let it be a challenge!
    thanks for that detailed post and I perfectly agree with You, Mako. We need to define more tightly our rules for editing when conflict of interest lures behind our shoulder. But I also would still like to welcome all these new editors that due to the increased impact of Wikipedia feel a strong urge to participate. As a Wikimedia curator for cultural partnerships in Germany I am engaged in getting people involved to contribute to the Wikimedia projects especially in fields where they do have a professional interest. So I am working on the etch. My work is based on the hope that we will be able to gain new editors with a broader diversity respecting our project. They would do so in order to maintain the Wikipedia as a vivid and sparkling community project, reliable and a neutral source for information. Addressing those active in cultural institutions means training them to respect the Wikipedia rules to their own benefit. I am happy for Your blog post because it shows the limitations of our still working system. Let’s work together on settings that makes it easier to identify and counterstrike those contributions that are harmful for our common goal but will help to foster the well intended edits. Do we need professional defenders that take over, when the volunteer is exhausted trying to make that editor to understand, that Wikipedia is not that field for content marketing he likes it to be? Would automatic alarm bells do? Ringing whenever an article has more edits by one-topic editors than is esteemed normal? Would Wikidata be able to identify the related articles in the other languages showing the same pattern? How much control will the project cope with? There is a wave of professional editors coming up as the importance of Wikipedia keeps increasing. We shall prepare ourselves. I will enjoy the discussion with You as much as with others inside the movement. Best regards

  24. I have been following the Wikipedia deletion discussion very closely and am in fact surprised that you are the least intimidated. Of course, other people’s aggression is always unpleasant, but the ICD has NOTHING on you or any other editors. Yes, one or two editors have expressed their contempt for the organisation, but the discussion has always been redirected into something that was fair and objective – mind you, by those wanting to delete the article.
    To take legal action against you or any other editor would be highly damaging to Mark Donfried himself – it would probably be the first and only time the ICD really made headlines, on a topic that they should be experts in – because where is the sense of cultural diplomacy in this case? Surely not with the ICD.

  25. Well, I am sure ICD is not the first nor the last organization wanting to control “their” public face on Wikipedia. A Singaporean organization seems to: . This Foundation is known to have deployed legal threats against people who criticize them. Their claim is that people who chastise them using their trademarked name, violate the trademark ! Interesting, perhaps the Wikipedia page is self-written so that it does not violate thus. See this:

    What is needed is a framework against such SLAPPs. The threat can perhaps be safely ignored but needs to be documented and preserved.

  26. And the moral is: NEVER use your real name on the internet, despite the major push from facebook, google, and the rest. I don’t need my friends, family, and major corporations to know everything I post. I’m quite happy to be known as TheFlamingSword6969 or whatever.

    1. Sad but true. I hope this goes well for you, Benjamin Mako Hill. I´ll spread your story among my friends.

  27. Mr Hill,
    thank you so much for this info. A friend of mine was invited to speak at an upcoming conference in June, in exactly the same way as you describe : invitation without knowing how that organisation got his contact data.
    He’s from a country were mixing with the wrong crowd can have serious personal implications, whether from the occupying forces or the opposing side, so he asked my advice on whether I know this organisation and wheher I think he should accept this invitation. I never heard of them, I distrust ‘lofty’ titles with little or no substance like ‘cultural diplomacy’, which sound more like supermarket PR than serious work, and the list of other guest speakers and supporters is far from inspiring confidence and motivating cooperation, so eventually I googled in the hope to find some external info about them, and found you.
    My friend will have to decide for himself, but I have sent him a link to your text. I do not want him to get mixed up in something he might one day regret.

    1. Cultural diplomacy is definitely a real thing and refers to something concrete. Think pandas.

      Outside of the ICD’s founder and lawyers threatening me and this Wikipedia stuff, I don’t have any direct experience with the organization. That said, I don’t think anything about my personal experience suggests that someone in a dangerous or occupied country would be at any particular risk by attending or speaking at an ICD conference.

  28. I am at an ICD conference at the moment and shocked by what I am hearing. The founder MD is a fast talking American who really only talks about himself and has no credibility. He seems to have got together a disparate bunch of third rate speakers who are re-cycling old papers that have precious little to do with cultural diplomacy. One today was so concerned that what he was imparting was so incendiary that he asked for it to be off the record. It was a litany of prejudices and tedious platitudes.

    All that does seem to happen is that MD talks forever between speakers – endlessly talks about his degree from Columbia New York, his Phd in France, his experiences working in Berlin and how he had thought of everything any speaker was saying beforehand. He started the conference with some truly High School show and tell presentation about jazz and the cold war. Cringe-makingly bad and not factually correct. According to MD one cannot see Bollywood films in Berlin – wrong there was a huge festival in 2008 and I believe they are shown here quite regularly. He then is incredibly eager to get his picture taken with everyone and has some poor minion irritating everyone because she is taking 50 photos of every speaker and as both of them are on the phone or computer during every talk one wonders what they can possibly be gaining from this farce of a conference. Most of the other delegates are pretty angry and feel that they have been had by this curious organisation. We want to know who funds them and how they have achieved NGO status. Will this posting be commented on tomorrow? Will report back…..

    1. Anon, and anyone else reading: I’d prefer that this blog post not become a place for people annoyed with the ICD for any reason to share their opinions and experiences. I’d appreciate if folks try to keep the comments on topic with the post (i.e., about the relationship to the ICD and Wikipedia). Thanks!

    2. I attended many many icd conferences while a graduate student and your comment could not be anymore off base in its characterization of the icd and Mark Donfried. Mark Donfried actually spoke little during the conferences I attended, leaving the floor almost entirely to the speakers. Your clearly a strange person. While I question the approach Benjamin took on this whole matter its encouraging to see that he is smart enough and decent enough to discourage people from taking his post off topic and turning it into a complaint department.

      1. Robert, you are also dragging this blog off-topic. I’ve seen where this ends on other blogs and forums so let me short circuit the whole thing and give you and everybody else a preview:

        People, almost always anonymous like the commenter above, claim to be interns or conference attendees and say that the ICD puts on bad internships or conferences. Other anonymous people, like yourself, claim that the ICD is actually really wonderful and that something must be off with the critics. Eventually, the sides accuse each other of being liars and detractors (if they criticize the ICD) and insiders, sockpuppets, or astroturf (if they defend it).

        In my post above, I detail exactly this dynamic on the “Inside the ICD” blog which claimed to have been taken down after legal threats from the ICD. For that matter, I detail a very similar dynamic in Wikipedia with me playing the role of the person being called a sabatuer by anonymous ICD supporters and eventually by Donfried himself!

        Let me be completely honest here. I have a full-time job as a professor researching and teaching technology, communication, and peer production. I do not care very much about cultural diplomacy, one way or another. I don’t care very much about the ICD. I got involved in what I thought was a small attempt to improve Wikipedia and I resent how much time I’ve been forced to spend on this as a result. I resent being dragged back into this to keep order in these comments.

        Like the ICD, I want to support open dialog. As a result, I care a lot about keeping open comments on my blog. So, I’ll say it again: This blog post is not the place to attack, or to defend, the ICD in general.

        If you have something on-topic to say about Wikipedia and the ICD or about my experience, I’d love to hear!

  29. I am pleased to apply for a scholarship if there is any in order to enable me earn my Master Degree in Diplomacy. Right now, I am a student of Diplomacy at the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    1. This webpage is definitely not related to the ICD and I don’t have any way of getting your message to them. I think that is very clear from the text but perhaps you didn’t read it carefully.

  30. Stumbling over your blog, I got interested in this subject and payed that institute a visit while on a short business trip to Berlin, being able to listen to a few lectures there. As much as I agree with you being annoyed about the legal threats, and as much as I agree, that anything in that direction is not the way to deal with that matter, I nevertheless don´t understand why anyone could come to the conclusion that this undertaking is “not worthy to be dealt with” in Wikipedia. I have seen lots of articles (and I use Wikipedia a lot for research purposes) that definitely where not worthy to be mentioned – especially compared to the institute´s sincere undertaking to bring people of all backgrounds, religions, social statuses together – and it seems, they are quite successful at it. After all when I paid this short visit, some highly acclaimed calibers of the political establishment appeared there (former prime minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, former Vice Chancellor of Austria Dr.Erhard Busek, fomer President of Rumania, the congenial counterpart of legendary Tschech President Waclav Havel after the opening of the iron curtain, Emil Constantinescu etc. etc.).
    Don´t get me wrong, I have no affiliation with that institute whatsoever , kind of tripped over that dispute via a Google search over the terms of “culture and politics” and got interested.
    Somewhere I read that supposedly the background and funding of the institute might be hidden – so it is the case with many NGO´s (do you know who exactly who is behind “attac”?) Of course not and I don´t care – just because of that, why should “attac” be mentioned in Wikipedia and not that Institute? There is no logical reason, unless personal ones – which, not being an expert with Wikipedia, I still think, should be of no significance to the subjekt. Rather difficult to follow decisions like these have also in Germany done harm to this wonderful project of Wikipedia. There is always a “smell of censorship” in the air. With over 26000 followers on facebook and a rather impressive website, I think, despite the also unworthy legal threats, it would make sense to somehow come to terms with them.
    A neutral article by someone who maybe had a chance to take part in one of the international seminars, makes sense. If he didn´t like it, it still should´t hinder anyone to include it in Wikipedia (not everybody likes Greenpeace, Attac, the NGO´s for god knows who, either – and one always finds some hair in the soup). Besides that, supposedly, they are officially accepted as an NGO organization.
    I hope this rather long remark wasn´t too time consuming for you, but I needed to share this with your statement – I will, having an entirely different life as a busy author, not get into any more details or respond any further. Your understanding is appreciated.
    Best regards from Hamburg, Robert.

    1. My personal blog is not the place to argue that the ICD should have an article in Wikipedia. Wikipedia provides several places to have that argument.

      Your sense of smell aside, I never got the sense that any Wikipedia editor wanted to censor the ICD. It remains the case that if demonstrably non-conflicted editors could establish notability through reliable published sources and write a high quality article from a neutral point of view, Wikipedia would welcome it.

      Of course, because the ICD’s founder and its lawyers threatened Wikipedia editors in the past, and because of the long history of editing problems with the article, authors of a new ICD article will probably not get the benefit of the doubt in this process. But it’s still completely achievable.

      Normally, I would offer to help anybody wanting to navigate a process like this in Wikipedia. That said, given my previous experiences with Donfried and the way he reacted to my previous good faith efforts, I hope you’ll understand that I’d rather not get involved.

      1. Hill,
        Thanks for raising this issue. As a former attendee of ICD conference, the issues raised here have given me a better appreciation of the institute.
        From you I have learnt that strength is not measured by one’s readiness to fight every battle. That’s cultural diplomacy in action, which we were told was about winning hearts andnminds. You are a great gentleman. And from ICD I have learnt that where ever there is a honeycomb, there will also be honeybees. By this I mean that while I am enjoying the honey, MD is contending with honeybees or critical reviews about ICD.
        May God bless all of you in the knowledge industry with wisdom..

    2. I am amused, that whilst reading about this Saga of the ICD and Wikipedia, I keep coming across long screeds of text under multiple names. Upon analysis all have the same forensic linguistic fingerprints, and linguistic structures pointing to Eastern-European language groups.

      Grandiosity, Pomposity and Supposed supporting facts (26000 followers on facebook) also feature widely, repeatedly and with indiscriminate incomprehension or reality and basic academic or Wiki standards.

      Rat Foetidum – to use the Dog Latin.

      Cyber Stalking is a known issue when it comes to certain character types and loss of personal image linked to narcissism. The finger prints of that are also widely distributed and visible.

  31. Hi Benjamin

    This got flagged up to me on one of searches. I’m one of your fellow editors on ICD, and the Dumb Schmuck who nominated ICD for deletion. Odd how things change from simple procedural actions!

    The ICD were a nightmare – After months of research, work, editing, being reverted, dealing with more silly IP (Berlin) edits and finally along with others agreeing it was such a mess and farce that deletion was the only reasonable management for the page and the Abusive editors linked to ICD, I nominated and wish I had left well alone and not bothered. It was a mess of a page and the behaviour of ICD sockpuppets and drones was abusive beyond belief.

    ICD seemed to believe they had a right to a line veto and could anything they wished to the Wiki page, and no other editor may question it.

    You used your real name, which oddly seems to have given you protection. As I used a “nom de plume”, for privacy reasons, I was not so lucky and was attacked from multiple directions simultaneously – some within Wakiland exploiting matters in most abusive ways. Their psychology was fascinating, the abuse was not.

    The Hounding I took from ICD accounts and from Wakipedia Sysop was such that I no longer edit Wakipedia. That I was attacked on multiple fronts, accused of racism, sexism and worse convinced me that Wakipedia is a highly dysfunctional technocracy, riddled with systemic bias and subjected to constant game playing by the Sysop Cadre who are all too often internalised interest groups that can game the system all the more.

    Due to my day job, and direct access to the Police, I ran the conduct of certain some Wakipedians past officers dealing with Criminal Harassment in UK law. They were clear, as was I, that whilst ICD was badly behaved and histrionic, the behavior of those within Wakipedia Sysop Cadre went into illegal activity, and they knew it too. Some even supported them. The people doing this were not linked to ICD in any way but were able to exploit it.

    (Note to ICD – you can try and use this as a way to get your own way, but you will fail – all reasoning for deletion, including analysis of the links and incorrect claims made are on record and show “Snow” when it came to deletion – TWICE).

    Wakipedia is so built upon arrogance that there is no safety net within Wakiland for whistle blowing and abuse prevention. It’s a major reason for editor withdrawal and the collapse of Wiki Quality. You mentioned endurance as a factor, and that leads to the name Fatigopedia . The constant abuse of WP:Civil to require the opportunity to fatigue is not a strength in Wakiland, it opens it up to abuse by those who don’t see a rule for maintaining civility – they see it as a tool to control and abuse others . Jimbo has done a shit job in building in safety systems against certain worst types of human conduct – and now the people who have to vote in those protections are the Lions.

    That the Sysop Cadre were happy to exploit the misconduct of folks linked to ICD to attack me showed just how machiavellian and unhealthy the Sysop Cadre have become. Snakes in suits and Corporate Psychopaths comes to mind. That is not me being nasty, it’s a relevant reference for folks to look up.

    Dr. Paul Babiak; Dr. Robert D. Hare (13 October 2009). Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-185445-3.

    That I was targeted by Sysop for abuse and blocked eternally is evidence of the dysfunction and protectionism that has destroyed Wakipedia and driven quality editors away. Who needs the angst for no pay? The Woozle Effect Riddles Wakipedia to the point where 50% of content is irrelevant and should not be referenced.

    I’ve spoken to a number of Ex-editors and all cited misconduct by Sysop (from constant criticism to wikihounding to off wiki stalking) as a major factor in leaving, coupled with no safety net, no whistle blowing processes and no safety if you said they were being abusive. Waki Land has just too many ennobled sociopaths empowered to abuse at will for people to risk the results. Why would anyone want to swim in a Pool of Piranha dressed in a wetsuit made from bacon?

    I’m now happily editing free of charge on multiple wikis globally, in multiple languages, dealing in Human Rights, Equality, Diversity and Institutional failures by such minor groups as The United Nations. I still laugh at the loony Sysop who blocked an academic from Mongolia who was providing names and references in Mongolian Cyrillic so that Wiki English could address the Systemic Bias issues and show some respect.

    I occasionally pass by Wakiland to see what is happening, but it is a shambles and massively dysfunctional. “Was Nice knowin ya’ll, and thanks for the fish!”. I’ve been asked to assist in correcting waki content on some of the most egregiously controlled pages, and I have seen well intentioned good people abused for political ends by control freaks.

    The work I was doing building a full portal for Amnesty International and their Media Awards still lies unfinished, out of date and ignored. So much for accurate content maintained over time. Some have come and added a comma, but missed the rest.

    If anyone should be asking questions about Wakipedia Content and damage to reputation Amnesty have one hell of a case. The derelict pages should be removed so that Wakipdia doesn’t look bad.

    As to ICD, they had no notability, and for some odd reason they did not even want to mention the only academic paper about them found in any library on the planet.
    Jasmina Srna (2009). ICD – Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences.

    It’s listed on Google Books but there is no content visible – and without sight it can’t be used as WP:V.

    Odd that ICD didn’t want to cite it themselves, which left me sniffing very large Red Herrings. Maybe Mr Donfried was never handed a copy – and it’s in English! Personally I saw no reason to ask for a copy, or bug the poor librarians in the only Library on the planet to hold a copy. I’m sure they have more notable things to do.

    All other ICD References added to Wikipedia were circular, coming from and leading back to ICD Publications and their own website – it was all a case of creating web presence by shell game. The claims that ICD was associated with or linked to or affiliated with governments, European Political Institutions and more …… they all proved false. There was zero credible media coverage, zero press releases announcing alliances, and just the works of Mr Dronfried and his website saying there were any links with any notable groups. But then again, connection does not breed notability in Wiki – it’s independent sources that count, and there still aren’t any! I’ve looked again in multiple languages, and the silence does not bode well for ICD, indicating little to no support from a World population of 7 billion!

    As others have observed, the streisand effect is in play, so I wonder if there should not be a new page or a resurrected ICD page which can be linked to the Wiki entry for “Schadenfreude”. I remain intrigued by the claims from ICD that they are now linked formally to The University Of Bucharest and the supposed qualifications implied to be obtained. “PhD in Cultural Diplomacy & International Relations|” sounds grand, but means nothing if not one person is supposedly being educated under yet another grand sounding banner!

    Interestingly, under the European Legal Directives for “Right To Be Forgotten”, it seems that many have been seeking disconnection for ICD at Google level and for their names and identities to not be used by ICD via google to promote a veneer of credibility, with the result that all the positive seeming connections are vanishing, and only the brown floaters are left. The Unintended Consequences and “Schadenfreude” of International Data Law.

    It’s not clear exactly who has been demanding that Google remove content, but it seems that someone may have been shooting themselves in the foot with a Howitzer.

    Wikipedia used to have some amazing people, but now so many have left and a mediocrity is left in charge – soulless and lacking insight but able to control at will and with impunity and unlimited damage.

    Any way – cheers – and keep up your none cynical world view as long as possible. But I do advise that you prepare for the worst!

  32. Wow. What a cluster****.

    On the upside, I don’t currently see any sign of an ICD article on Wikipedia. Interestingly, though, a search for “Institute for Cultural Diplomacy” brings up several *individuals* whose notability I might question, had I the time.

  33. An organization that can pay an ex-presidente (Spain) that eventually sould leave his very well payed position in Spain (when he has nothing to do at all) to preside this “fondation”… that’s a not clear business, for sure.

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