Feeds

'Lord of the Universe' disciple exits Wikipedia

Scientologists entrench

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

The human comedy that is Wikipedia just lost one of its more intriguing players.

Late December saw the departure of uber-administrator Jossi Fresco, a longtime member of a worldwide religious movement that Time Magazine lists among the mega-cults of the 1970s, the heyday of the mega-cult.

Fresco retired after another contributor - known only as "Durova" - publicly questioned his Wikibehavior. Durova launched an ad hoc investigation into Fresco's on-site habits in response to a February article from The Register.

With a post to Wikipedia, Fresco said he retired "because he could."

Fresco is a student of Prem Rawat - formerly Guru Maharaj Ji - the India-born spiritual leader who styled himself as the "Perfect Master" and fostered a worldwide religious movement encouraging followers to call him "Lord of the Universe." Fresco has acknowledged that he works for an organization "related" to Prem Rawat, and according to an ex-Rawat-follower and former friend, he served on the guru's personal staff, building his first website.

Wikipedia fancies itself a "neutral" encyclopedia. But for years, Jossi Fresco maintained strict control over the site's Prem Rawat article and countless related articles. When our initial story appeared, the Wikipedia Prem Rawat article did not include the word cult.

Jossi Fresco

Jossie Fresco, in an image from his Wikipedia page1

Fresco did not respond to recent requests for comment. But last year, during multiple email exchanges, he denied any conflict of interest. He argued that his contributions to Wikipedia's Rawat-related articles did not violate the site guidelines, which allow conflicts of interest if editors disclose their affiliations and continue to edit "neutrally."

That said, Fresco played a significant role in shaping those guidelines. Shortly after Wikipedia's conflict of interest guidelines were drafted in October 2006, for instance, he removed a section that forbade guru followers from editing articles about their masters.

In the wake of our February article, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales called Fresco "a great Wikipedian." Fresco has contributed more edits to Wikipedia than all but 80 other people. And he was particularly influential when it came to editing site guidelines and policies.

"Jossi ranks among the top three editors by contributions to three out of the four key content policies," a senior admin told us in February. "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."

The latest Wikievidence against Fresco was posted after he attempted to intervene in a Wikicourt trial involving the Church of Scientology. According to site administrators, several pro-Scientology accounts have been editing the site using Scientology-owned computers.

One of these pro-Scientology editors - who once used the handle "COFS" - has admitted as much. And he vows to continue editing Scientology articles from Scientology computers. "I am not going to leave voluntarily and I will continue to use a) my own computer, b) public computers, c) my wireless laptop, d) computers in the Church of Scientology and any station I please," this editor wrote.

And so the human comedy continues. ®

Footnote

(1) Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Fast And Furious 6 cammer thrown in slammer for nearly three years
Man jailed for dodgy cinema recording of Hollywood movie
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?