Wikipedia ruled by 'Lord of the Universe'
When is a cult not a cult?
Criticism of Prem Rawat
According to Wikipedia's "user contribution" tool, Fresco's first 2400 edits - spread over more than a year from April 2004 to August 2005 - were almost entirely devoted to Prem Rawat- or cult-related articles. The edit histories of Momento and Rumiton look much the same.
At one point, Wikipedia's Prem Rawat article - which was actually created by Mike Finch - was a rather lengthy biography. But then Fresco took hold of it. Working in tandem with others, he soon created a separate article called "Criticism of Prem Rawat," moved all Rawat criticisms to this new article, and eventually had it deleted.
"All critical material was moved to an article of its own: 'Criticism of Prem Rawat," says a senior admin. "Jossi created that, with the intent that it wouldn't over-burden the main article. But then that article was merged back into the main article and basically deleted. All that critical material was pretty much all deleted, so the current article bears very little resemblance to the article of two years ago. It's shorter, and it's all positive."
Fresco can shape content in such ways because he has plenty of editors working alongside him - and he has plenty of time for on-site politics. Judging from the last nine months, roughly 35 per cent of Fresco's edits are made during standard California business hours.
"Jossi ranks among the top three editors by contributions to three out of the four key content policies," says a senior admin, referencing stats available from a Wikipedia contribution analysis tool. "What makes this remarkable is that two of those policies have been in existence since Wikipedia was founded, long before he got involved, so he's made enough recent edits to catch up." Fresco's influence is particularly conspicuous when it comes to the policies concerning conflict of interest and biographies of living persons.
John Brauns, ex-premie
In helping to shape the biographies of living person policy, Fresco has worked to ensure that editors can immediately remove negative material about a living person if it's "unsourced" or "poorly sourced". With other articles, material often remains in place while sources are validated. This is certainly a good thing for Wikipedia as a whole. It prevents libel and defamation.
But Fresco has also worked to ensure that self-published material is fair game with biographies of living persons - as long as it's "not unduly self-serving". So, if an article discusses a living person, it can include positive information from a blog or web site published by that person. But critical information isn't allowed unless it comes from an independent "reputable" source.
Meanwhile, Fresco uses this policy to control the content on Prem Rawat-related Wikipedia articles - he says as much in his Wikipedia disclosure - and though other well-known mainstream sources refer to Rawat's religious movement as a cult, such information is largely absent from Wikipedia.
Because Rawat has done his best to avoid the press since the mid-80s, published criticism of the guru is now scant. But as John Brauns and others and still others point out, it isn't hard to find mainstream publications that provide information about Rawat and his movement you won't find on Wikipedia. This includes several academic studies as well as articles from such publications as The New York Times and The Washington Post. And the list goes on.
Next page: A Conflict of Conflict of Interest