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Sockpuppeting British politico resigns from Wikisupremecourt

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More than two years after the notorious Essjay Scandal, Wikipedia's ruling body still has a weakness for sockpuppetry.

A Labour councillor for London's City of Westminster resigned from Wikipedia's supreme court at the weekend, after admitting he gained election to the site's ruling body using a false name.

David Boothroyd - councillor for Westminster's Westbourne ward - was elected to Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee in December 2007 under the name Sam Blacketer and has edited the overly-egalitarian online encyclopedia under at least three other names.

After his identity was questioned on a Wikiobsessed shadow site known as Wikipedia Review, Boothroyd stepped down from Wikipedia's ruling body, pointing out that he had publicly announced an intention to resign earlier this year.

The eighth most popular site on the web, Wikipedia bills itself as the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit." Editing from multiple accounts is officially verboten on the grounds that it would allow editors to promote self-serving content on what is ostensibly a "neutral" source of information. But so often, such sockpuppeting is facilitated by the site's steadfast devotion to anonymous editing and a belief that administrators should "assume good faith."

When standing for election to the Arbitration Committee - known in Orwellian fashion as the ArbCom - Boothroyd's platform included the notion that "editors should be encouraged to register accounts, and then ideally to stick to one account."

On a private email list used by the Arbitration Committee, Boothroyd acknowledged his real identity and admitted to using a second Wikipedia account under the names Fys and Dbiv. He has also used a third account under his own name.

We contacted Boothroyd via email and the web, but he has yet to respond to our questions.

Elected by the Wikipedia community at large, the Arbitration Committee resolves site disputes and serves as the final word on site policy. In the wake of Boothroyd's resignation, the community is discussing whether it should review the 18 months of Wikicourtcases in which Boothroyd cast a vote.

According to Boothroyd's Wikipedia biography - which has been purged from the site - he also works as the head of research at Indigo Public Affairs, "a company specialising in urban regeneration schemes and lobbying for planning consent." He's the author of Politico's Guide to The History of British Political Parties, published in 2001. And he maintains a site that details United Kingdom Election Results.

Prior to serving on the Westminster City Council, he worked for two Labour MPs: John Battle, MP for Leeds West, and Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham.

Under the name Sam Blacketer, Labour solider David Boothroyd edited one particular article more than any other: the article on Conservative Party leader David Cameron. On May 15, Boothroyd changed the photo on the David Cameron entry, preferring one "not carrying saintly overtones." ®

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