The Essjay controversy involved a prominent Wikipedia participant and employee Wikia employee, known by the username Essjay, [1] [2] [3] who later identified himself as Ryan Jordan . Jordan held trusted volunteer positions as ” administrator “, “bureaucrat”, and ” arbitrator “.

On July 24, 2006, Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt started a thread titled “Who is Essjay?” (Later retitled “Who is Essjay ?, Probably he’s Ryan Jordan” after the Jordan’s self-disclosure) on the website Wikipedia Review . [4] The ensuing discussion about the contradictions in claims Essjay made about his academic qualifications and professional experiences on his Wikipedia user page. Jordan Claimed That he Held doctoral degrees in theology and canon law and Worked as a tenured professor at a private university. Five days later, The New Yorker published an interview with Essjay which repeated some of the claims. [5] Wikipedia Author: Dean of the New Yorker, The New Yorker . In January 2007, Daniel Brandt contacted the author of the article in The New Yorker about the discrepancies in Jordan’s biography and the exploitation of his supposed qualifications as leverage in internal disputes over Wikipedia content.

The controversy that ensues on its falsification of a persona and qualifications, the impact of this deception on perceptions of Wikipedia (and its policies and credibility), and the quality of decisions made in his promotion, support, and employment. [6] [7] [8]

Reactions to the disclosure were diverse, encompassing commentary and articles in the electronic, print, and broadcast media; [9] the Wikipedia community researched Essjay’s article edits to check for errors and debates to improve the project’s handling of personal identification. In his editorial activities Jordan spent less time editing vandalism and resolving editorial disputes. [10]

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales [11] initially supported Essjay’s use of a persona , saying, “I look at it as a pseudonym and I do not really have a problem with it.” [12] Later, Wales withdrew his support and asked for Essjay’s resignation from his positions with Wikipedia and Wikia. [10] [12] Wales stated that he withdrew his support when he learned “that Essjay used his false credentials in content disputes” on Wikipedia. [13]


  • February 8, 2005: Essjay account registered.
  • 2005-2006: Essjay states on his / her Wikipedia user page that he teaches graduate theology , with doctorates in theology and canon law . [14]
  • July 26, 2006: “Who is Essjay?” Thread started on watchdog site Wikipedia Review , [4] the ensuing discussion brings to light the contradictions.
  • July 31, 2006: The New Yorker publishes an article on Wikipedia, written by Stacy Schiff, which features an interview with Essjay.
  • January 2007: Essjay is hired by Wikia .
  • (Ryan Jordan), age, and previous employment history from age 19, and his positions in various Wikimedia Foundation projects. These details differ sharply from previous assertions on Essjay’s Wikipedia about this article about his academic and professional credentials.
  • January 11, 2007: A member of the messageboard Wikipedia Review posts a post linking to the user wiki page; [4] the ensuing debate Brings to light the contradictions and Daniel Brandt quick to contact The New Yorker .
  • Late January 2007: As a result of the discussions on Wikipedia Review , Daniel Brandt contacts the author of the article in The New Yorker about the discrepancies in Jordan’s biography. [6]
  • February 2, 2007: Another Wikipedia editor challenges Essjay on his talk talk about the discrepancy and he answers with an explanation. [15]
  • February 23, 2007: Jimmy Wales announces the appointment of Essjay to the Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee . The Arbitration Committee of the United States of America. [16]
  • February 26, 2007: The New Yorker publishes the correction for its July 31 issue, which appears in its The Mail section of its print version. It is picked up by online sources within the next day. [17] [18]
  • March 3, 2007: Wales asks Jordan to resign his “positions of trust.” Jordan promptly retires from Wikipedia altogether and later resigns from his position at Wikia. [10]
  • March 5, 2007: Story covered by The New York Times .
  • March 6, 2007: Jordan’s hometown newspaper publishes an article casting doubts about his January 2007 claims on his Wikia userpage that he had worked for the United States Trustee Program and had been in Kentucky paralegal . [19]
  • March 7, 2007: Story covered in an Associated Press article. [20]
  • March 8, 2007: Story appears in a two-minute segment on World News with Charles Gibson . [9]
  • March 12, 2007: The New Yorker publishes a formal apology by Wales in its March 19 The Mail section. [21]

The New Yorker interview

Stacy Schiff , a Pulitzer Prize -winning journalist writing for The New Yorker , Interviewed Essjay as a source for an item about Wikipedia ( “Know It All”; July 31, 2006) after-He Was recommended to her by a member of the Wikimedia Foundation . According to the New Yorker , Essjay “was willing to describe his work as a Wikipedia administrator but would not be able to confirm his biography. [5]

During the interview, Jordan told The New Yorker and had previously stated on his Wikipedia that he held a doctorate degree in theology and canon law and worked as a tenured professor at a private university. [14] It was later discovered that he was 24 years old, and had dropped out of community college with no qualifications. [19] The New Yorker published a correction in February 2007, which brought the issue to broader public attention. [5]

The article said that Essjay spent some 14 hours or more a day on Wikipedia but was careful to keep his online life a secret from his colleagues and friends. It portrayed Essjay as often as possible to his laptop to class Wikipedians while giving a quiz. He asserted that he needed anonymity to avoid cyberstalking . [5]

Jordan, as Essjay, asks for an email to a college professor using his invented persona’s credentials, vouching for Wikipedia’s accuracy. In the message he wrote in part, “I am an administrator of the online encyclopedia project Wikipedia. I am also a tenured professor of theology. Background and credentials. ” [8] [22]

Identity revealed

When Essjay was hired by Wikia in January 2007, he changed his name to “Ryan Jordan”. [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] Wikipedia editors questioned Essjay on his Wikipedia about Wikipedia about Wikipedia Wikipedia has an article on: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [15] [28] Essjay posted a detailed explanation in response to the first inquiry, stating that:

Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia Commons is a Wikipedia article on the Wikipedia article “Stalkers, Stalkers, and Stalkers”. I will be back to you and I will be back to you again. I will be back to you soon. I consider unimportant details: Age, location, occupation, etc. [15]

Schiff by “… doing a good job playing the part.” [8] [29]

Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt then wrote a letter [30] reporting the identity discrepancy to Stacy Schiff and The New Yorker . [6] In late February 2007, the magazine updated its article with a correction indicating that “Essjay now says that his real name is Ryan Jordan, that he is twenty-four and holds no advanced degrees, and that he has never taught.” [5]

On March 3, 2007, Andrew Lih , Assistant Professor and Director of Technology Journalism and of the Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong , [31] Said On His Blog That a portion of Essjay’s comments on the incident were entered “the dangerous domain Of defamation and libel “against Stacy Schiff. Lij stated that on Essjay’s Wikipedia talk page, Essjay had written, “Further, she [Schiff] made many offers to compensate me for my time, and my answer was that she Foundation instead. ” Lih noted: [32]

This is an accusation of the highest degree to make a journalist. Paying a source for a story is an absolute no-no in the normal practice of print journalism. And it struck me how incredible it was he would accuse Stacy Schiff, a Pulitzer Prize winning author writing for The New Yorker , of this crime. We have a serious breach of ethics with Ms. Schiff or another dubious statement claim from Essjay. [32]

Lij wrote that he contacted Schiff for how much she had offered to pay Essjay for her time and quoted her return email. In it, Schiff stated that Essjay’s assertion was “complete nonsense”. [32]


Wikipedia community

Speaking personally about Jordan, Wales said, “Mr. Ryan [ sic ] was a friend, and still is a friend. Will make him go in peace to build an honorable life and reputation. ” [33]

Essjay had a meeting with a statement on his Wikipedia page, in part reading:

… I * am * sorry if anyone in the Wikipedia community has been hurt by my decision to use disinformation to protect myself. I’m not sorry that I protected myself; I believed, and continued to believe, that I was right to protect myself, in light of the problems encountered on the Internet in these trying times. I have spoken to all of my close friends here about this, and have heard that they understand my position, and they support me. Jimbo and many others in Wikipedia’s hierarchy have made their support known as well … [34]

Reaction from the Wikipedia community to the Essjay / Jordan identity discrepancy was sharp, voluminous, and mixed. While most editors denounced at least some of his actions, responses ranged from full support to accusing Jordan of fraud. [35]

As the controversy unfolded, the Wikipedia community began a review of Essjay’s previous edits and some felt he had relied upon his fictional professorship to influence editorial consideration of edits he made. “Michael Snow, a Wikipedia administrator and founder of the Wikipedia community newspaper, the Signpost . “Those will get looked at again.” [35] For instance, Essjay had recommended sources such as Catholicism for Dummies , [36] a book granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur by the Roman Catholic Church . [37] Essjay defended his use of the book by telling fellow Wikipedia editors in a disagreement over the editing of the article Imprimatur: “This is a text I often require for my students, and I would hang my own Ph.D. [Sic] credibility. ” [35] [38] In another case (a discussion of the liturgical use of the psalms ), he cited personal experience from the Abbey of Gethsemane , where I was a monk. [39]

Jimmy Wales proposed a credible verification system on Wikipedia following the Essjay controversy, but the proposal was rejected. Wales was “reported to be considering all persons who adjudicate on factual disputes.” [40] “I do not think this incident exposes any inherent weakness in Wikipedia, but it does exhibit a weakness that we will be working to address”, Wales added. [33] He insisted that Wikipedia editors would still be able to remain anonymous if they wished. “We always prefer to give a positive incentive rather than absolute prohibition, so that people can contribute without a lot of hassle”, Wales commented. However, he also warned that “It’s always inappropriate to try to win an argument by flashing your credentials, Was not supportive of his credential proposal, saying, “I think what matters is the quality of the content, which we can improve by enforcing policies such as ‘quote your source,’ not the quality of credentials shown by an editor. A formal proposal that users claiming to have academic qualifications would have to provide evidence before citing them in content disputes was eventually rejected by the Wikipedia community, [41] like all previous such proposals. Was not supportive of his credential proposal, saying, “I think what matters is the quality of the content, which we can improve by enforcing policies such as ‘quote your source,’ not the quality of credentials shown by an editor. A formal proposal that users claiming to have academic qualifications would have to provide evidence before citing them in content disputes was eventually rejected by the Wikipedia community, [41] like all previous such proposals.

As a follow-up to his initial comments to The New Yorker , Wales wrote this apology to the magazine, which appeared in its March 19, 2007 issue:

I am writing to apologize to the New Yorker and Stacy Schiff, and to give some follow-up about Ryan Jordan (Editors’ Note, March 5). When I last spoke to the New Yorker about the fact that a prominent Wikipedia community member had had about his credentials, I misjudged the issue. It was not OK for Mr. Jordan, or Essjay, to lie to a reporter, even to protect his identity. [21]

Wales expressed his regret that Essjay had “made a series of very bad judgments.” He also commented that he hoped Wikipedia would improve the result of the controversy. [21]

Wikipedia critics

Journalist and Wikipedia critic Andrew Orlowski

Andrew Orlowski , a frequent Wikipedia writer and writer for the Register -a British technology news and opinion website-criticized Jimmy Wales for hiring Essjay at the venture-capital -funded Wikipedia Arbitration Committee after Essjay had apparently admitted his The claimed academic and professional credentials were false. Orlowski added that Essjay’s actions betrayed a dangerous community mindset within Wikipedia. [42]

Others to comment Negatively included ZDNet writer Mitch Ratcliffe, Who Asked “why lying about one’s background qualified a person to work for a company like Wikia, qui proposed to help communities to record accurate information” and Asked for additional details “such as When He fired Jordan and the reasons for the firing, as well as Jordan in public statements. ” [12]

Larry Sanger , co-founder of Wikipedia who left the project in 2002, called Essjay’s response “a defiant non-apology” [43] and elsewhere character Essjay’s actions as “identity fraud”. [42]

Other comments:

  • BusinessWeek commented on proposals for credential verification: “Sadly, not everyone who posts to Wikipedia is concerned with the Ten Commandments. Fake IDs, fake money, fake e-mails, fake URLs, fake IP addresses, and fake votes … “However, the article argued that Wikipedia could not become a” net police “of reliability on the Internet. [44]
  • Steve Maich (journalist, Maclean’s ) stated that the controversy could damage Wikipedia’s future as a media business operation, observing that Wikipedia’s model was supposedly built upon trust and credibility. [45]
  • Cassandra Jardine , a Daily Telegraph contributor, opined that Essjay was “hooked on ‘Wiki crack’-devotees’ jargon for the thrill of seeing your efforts debated.” She has done a lot of work, but she has not been able to do anything about it. This democratic medium is that college drop-outs might as authoritative as professors. ” [46]
  • Andrew Keen (author, Cult of the Amateur ), the controversy as an example of ignoring expert guidance in the “dictatorship of idiots.” [47]
  • Alex Beam (columnist, The Boston Globe ) criticized the Essjay as “the crowdsourcing ” and the “wisdom of crowds” stating also that the crowd accepts authority unquestioningly: “Who would you rather have write your encyclopedia entries? Bertrand Russell , TH Huxley , and Benedetto Croce , Who wrote for the Britannica ? Or … Essjay? ” [48]


The Essjay Controversy, a number of academic studies of the credibility of Wikipedia. On March 2, 2007, a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education commented “the incident is clearly damaging to Wikipedia’s credibility-especially with professors who will now notice that one of the most visible sites has been turned out to be fraud.” [49] Ross Brann, a professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca , stated that Wikipedia lacks a process of scholarly review, saying, “They could make up your life if they wanted to.” Brann also said that Wikipedia has no place in the University, And he believed the Essjay incident would do nothing to change the unfavorable opinion that academics would hold on the online encyclopedia. [50]

Nicola Pratt, a lecturer in international relations at the University of East Anglia in England, stated, “The ethos of Wikipedia is that anyone can contribute, regardless of status … Are professors or not-and the fact the student [Essjay] was exposed shows it works. ” [51] In 2009, a series of essays were published by the National Council of Teachers of English . [52]

See also

  • Internet portal
  • Reliability of Wikipedia
  • Victim playing

Notes and references


  1. Jump up^ Staff, TIME (January 14, 2016). “These Are Wikipedia’s Top 15 Moments” . Time . Retrieved July 2, 2017 .
  2. Jump up^ Beam, Alex (March 12, 2007). “Tricky truths behind Wikipedia”. The Boston Globe . Retrieved July 2, 2017 .
  3. Jump up^ “Essjay user page” . Wikipedia . 2005. Archived from the original on July 22, 2005 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ Jump up to:c “Who is Essjay ?, Probably he’s Ryan Jordan”
  5. ^ Jump up to:e Schiff, Stacy. “Know it all: Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?” , The New Yorker , July 31, 2006.
  6. ^ Jump up to:c Ian King, ” ‘ A Wiki web they’ve woven ‘ ” . Archived from the original on March 2, 2007 . Retrieved March 2, 2007 .
  7. Jump up^ Cohen, Noam. “After False Claim, Wikipedia to Check Degrees”,The New York Times, March 12, 2007.
  8. ^ Jump up to:c Finkelstein, Seth. “Read me first” , The Guardian , March 8, 2007.
  9. ^ Jump up to:b Harris, Dan (March 6, 2007). “Wikipedia Editor Revealed as Fake” (video) . ABC News . Retrieved March 8, 2007 .
  10. ^ Jump up to:c Noam Cohen (March 6, 2007). “Wikipedia ire turns against ex-editor” . International Herald Tribune . Archived from the original on March 8, 2007 . Retrieved September 30, 2014 .
  11. Jump up^ Peter Meyers (September 20, 2001). “Fact-Driven? Collegial? This Site Wants You” . The New York Times . Retrieved November 5, 2007 .
  12. ^ Jump up to:c Ratcliffe, Mitch (March 5, 2007), Wikipedia: Why does Essjay need to “protect himself”? Archived March 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine ., Retrieved March 7, 2007.
  13. Jump up^ Jimmy Wales (March 3, 2007). “EssJay situation” . WikiEN-1 . Retrieved October 1, 2007 .
  14. ^ Jump up to:b A public viewable version of this claim as dated 2006 is “Archived copy of Essjay’s Wikipedia user page” . The Internet Archive. Archived from the original on January 11, 2006 . Retrieved October 18, 2007 . .
  15. ^ Jump up to:c “Profiles do not mesh …” . Essjay Wikipedia talk page. February 2, 2007 . Retrieved July 26, 2007 .
  16. Jump up^ Jimmy Wales (October 17, 2007). “ArbCom” . WikiEN-1 . Retrieved October 23, 2007 .
  17. Jump up^ Nicholas Carr (February 27, 2007). “Essjay disrobed” . Rough Type . Retrieved July 26, 2007 .
  18. Jump up^ Jeff Bercovici (February 28, 2007). “Ode to Wikipedia Riddled with Errors” . Radar . Retrieved July 26, 2007 .
  19. ^ Jump up to:b Wolfson, Andrew (March 6, 2007). “Wikipedia editor who posed as Professor is Ky. Dropout – Man resigns post after controversy” . Louisville Courier-Journal . Archived from the original on October 11, 2007 . Retrieved September 30, 2014 .
  20. ^ Jump up to:b Bergstein, Brian (March 7, 2007). “After flap over phony professor, Wikipedia wants some writers to share real names” . Associated Press.
  21. ^ Jump up to:c Wales, Jimmy (March 19, 2007). “Making amends” . The New Yorker . p. 24.
  22. Jump up^ “User: Essjay / Letter” . WebCite. Archived from the originalon March 2, 2007 . Retrieved November 17, 2007 . [ Better source needed ]
  23. Jump up^ Williams, Martyn (March 9, 2007). “Wikipedia Founder Addresses User Credentials” . PC World. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007 . Retrieved March 9, 2007 .
  24. Jump up^ Zaharov-Reutt, Alex (March 6, 2007). “Wikipedia: did one of its admins lie?” . ITWire . Archived from the original on March 4, 2007 . Retrieved March 6, 2007 .
  25. Jump up^ Goldman, Russell (March 6, 2007). “Wikisource: A Prominent Editor at the Popular Online Encyclopedia Is a Fraud” . ABC News . Retrieved March 6, 2007 .
  26. Jump up^ Elsworth, Catherine (March 8, 2007). “Wikipedia ‘expert’ admits: I made it up” . The Age . Retrieved March 16, 2007 .
  27. Jump up^ “Fake professor in Wikipedia storm” . BBC News . March 6, 2007 . Retrieved March 16, 2007 .
  28. Jump up^ Wikipedia: Wikipedia Signpost / 2007-03-05 / Essjay
  29. Jump up^ Finkelstein, Seth (March 8, 2007). “Read me first” . Technology . The Guardian . Retrieved August 1, 2007 .
  30. Jump up^ Brandt, Daniel (January 20, 2007). “(Untitled letter to Stacy Schiff)” . The Wikipedia Review . Retrieved January 10, 2012 .
  31. Jump up^ “Andrew Lih” . Hong Kong University. Archived from the original on June 13, 2004 . Retrieved November 5, 2007 .
  32. ^ Jump up to:c Andrew Lih (November 5, 2007). “Essjay’s Third Transgression” . Retrieved October 1, 2007 .
  33. ^ Jump up to:b Doran, James (March 6, 2007). “Wikipedia chief promises changes after ‘expert’ exposed as fraud” . Tech & Web . London: The Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2007 . Retrieved March 18, 2007 .
  34. Jump up^ Keen, Andrew (March 7, 2007). “Laughter and forgetting on Wikipedia” . ZDNet . Archived from the original on August 21, 2012 . Retrieved March 13, 2007 .
  35. ^ Jump up to:c Cohen, Noam (March 5, 2007). “A Contributor to Wikipedia Has His Fictional Side” . Technology . The New York Times . Retrieved March 6, 2007 .
  36. Jump up^ Trigilio, John; Brighenti, Kenneth (April 28, 2003). Catholicism for Dummies . Indianapolis, IN : Wiley Publishing . ISBN  0-7645-5391-7 .
  37. Jump up^ ” Catholicism for Dummies ” . Archived from the original on May 30, 2004 . Retrieved July 25, 2007 .
  38. Jump up^ “Talk: Imprimatur” . Wikipedia. April 12, 2005 . Retrieved August 28, 2007 .
  39. Jump up^ “Talk: Psalms” . Wikipedia. May 25, 2005 . Retrieved December 11, 2009 .
  40. Jump up^ Staff (March 7, 2007). “Wikipedia’s ‘bogus’ editor ousted” . Freelance UK.
  41. Jump up^ WP: CRED
  42. ^ Jump up to:b Orlowski, Andrew (March 2, 2007). “Bogus Wikipedia Prof. was injured then promoted” . Music and Media . The Register. Archived from the original on 2007-03-04 . Retrieved March 18,2007 .
  43. Jump up^ Orlowski, Andrew (March 6, 2007). “Farewell, Wikipedia?” . Music and Media . The Register. Archived from the original on 2007-03-08 . Retrieved March 18, 2007 .
  44. Jump up^ BLOchman (March 22, 2007). “Wikipedia’s Not the Net Police”. BusinessWeek . Retrieved February 8, 2014 .
  45. Jump up^ Steve Maich (March 19, 2007). “Wikipedia’s trouble with the truth” . Maclean’s . Archived from the original on January 11, 2009 . Retrieved October 1, 2007 .
  46. Jump up^ Jardine, Cassandra (March 8, 2007). “Fount of all wisdom-and foolery” . Features. The Daily Telegraph . p. 21. Archived fromthe original on October 11, 2007 . Retrieved September 29,2007 .
  47. Jump up^ Levy, Steven (March 26, 2007). “Invasion of the web amateurs” . The Technologist. Newsweek . p. 16.
  48. Jump up^ Beam, Alex (March 12, 2007). “Tricky truths behind Wikipedia”. LivingGarts. The Boston Globe . p. E5 . Retrieved September 29,2007 .
  49. Jump up^ Read, Brock (March 2, 2007). “Essjay, the Ersatz Academic” . The Chronicle of Higher Education . Archived from the originalon March 5, 2007.
  50. Jump up^ Albanes, John (March 15, 2007). “Wikipedia Stays Popular Despite False Sources” . The Cornell Daily Sun . Retrieved March 18, 2007 .
  51. Jump up^ MacLeod, Donald (March 7, 2007). “Students marked on writing in Wikipedia” . The Guardian . Retrieved March 18, 2007 .
  52. Jump up^ Brown, James J .; Gregory S (2009). “Essjay’s Ethos: Rethinking Textual Origins and Intellectual Property” (PDF) . College Composition and Communication . 60 (1): W238-W258.

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