While Boris is in Davos, we turn our attention to a brewing revert-war (there’s a new phrase to me) over Mr. Andrew Gilligan’s wikipedia entry.  In the blue corner, a suspiciously familar-sounding contributor calling himself ‘Sandler151′ is simultaneously making pro-Gilligan edits to this one page and refusing to allow any inference or allegation or reference to the sockpuppet saga of last year into the text.

In the red corner is an anonymous contributor from IP address (served by Sky broadband, which anyone who knows me will know I have very good personal reasons for avoiding).

The war is currently in abeyance owing to the intervention of some higher species of Wiki being, but we can retrieve the text wanted published relatively easily.  Here it is:

In November 2008, Guardian journalist Dave Hill reported on allegations that Andrew Gilligan had engaged in Sockpuppeting – creating a series of fake online identities to praise and defend his own viewpoints and stories featured in his columns[3][4]. Gilligan denied these allegations, claiming that one of the online identities was his “partner”, but refused to expand on this further.

Seems fairly neutral, I’d only question whether it was that interesting.  As for the all-important timeline, it looks like this (btw. I’m assuming Wikipedia uses UTC time throughout, which makes the timestamps equivalent to British time for the winter – GMT+0.  If that’s not the case let me know):

  • 05:19 4/5/2008 – first edit by Sandler151 in 2008
  • 01:15 15/9/2008 – second and last edit by Sandler151 in 2008, removing an unflattering reference to Gilligan’s ‘fetish’ with Special Forces and adding a record of his ‘Journalist Of The Year’ award.
  • 18/9/08 – kennite starts a posting run at CiF, mainly on buses.  Previous to this run he’d only posted twice in five months.
  • 27/10/08 – Gilligan’s inadvertent revelation of sockpuppeting in article attacking Boris Watch and Val Shawcross.
  • 30/10/08 – Adam Bienkov publishes his sockpuppeting evidence.  kennite goes silent.
  • 23:22 Tuesday 20/1/2009 – first edit of Gilligan’s wikipedia page in 2009, by (also Sky broadband, so possibly the same user with a previous IP)
  • 02:29 Wednesday 21/1/2009 – first edit of 2009 by Sandler151 *anywhere* on wikipedia, reverting the entire edit from three hours previously.  Hypothesis: Sandler151 has a watch on changes to that page?  Is that possible?
  • 21/1/2009 – Announcement that Evening Standard has been sold to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, leading to the departure of Veronica Wadley as editor and a consequent weakening in the position of Andrew Gilligan
  • 21/1/2009 to 30/1/2009 – repeated addition/deletion of the same section (six cycles), all the deletions coming from Sandler151, despite his relative inaction for months previously.  Something about the Gilligan/kennite saga evidently piqued him, or he had a sudden urgent interest in presenting A. Gilligan in a good light.
  • 28/1/2009 – Val Shawcross asks incisive bendy replacement cost questions of Boris in Mayor’s Question Time, along precisely the same lines Boriswatch has been investigating recently.  [For full disclosure, and for reasons that will become clear later, I met Val for the first time at Pro London on the 24th and had a chat.  She knew the figures already, since she referred to them in the transport seminar before I’d met her.]

Things came to a head last Friday evening.  Events unfolded as follows:

  • 21:30 Friday 30/1/2009 – first edit by to re-add story
  • 22:57 Friday 30/1/2009 – deleted by Sandler151
  • 23:08 Friday 30/1/2009 – re-added by D-Notice
  • 23:31 Friday 30/1/2009 – deleted by Sandler151
  • 23:39 Friday 30/1/2009 – second edit by to re-add story
  • 00:04 Saturday 31/1/2009 – deleted finally by Sandler151, after which the grown-ups intervened and locked it.

Meanwhile, that Saturday evening, things on the Talk page were heating up, with Sandler151 displaying a certain degree of obsession:

00:25, 31 January 2009 – “Revert-warrior says Gilligan attacked him on 27/10/08. By looking at who Gilligan attacked on that date, we discover that is Tom Barry of the Boris Watch blog. And the “strong evidence” he cites in the discussion above is, in fact, his own blog! Both Boris Watch – and the other one cited as “strong evidence” for this unsubstantiated and repeatedly-denied claim – are fiercely hostile to Gilligan and regularly attack him in intemperate terms. Further evidence that Wikipedia is being exploited by some blogger’s private vendetta” – Sandler151

00:38, 31 January 2009 – “You’re completely wrong. That was a quote from the 4th reference (read it), which I did not write. I am not Tom Barry, and I have never met or spoke to him. I enjoy reading his blog.” –

00:42, 31 January 2009 – “The only other person Gilligan attacked on 27 October 2008 was Val Shawcross, the chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee. Don’t tell me you’re her, What a great story! And how fantastically sad!” – Sandler151

00:46, 31 January 2009 – “Sandler, I am not her, no.  I have no connection to this debate at all, other than having read the relevant information on the Guardian and on blogs.  Sam – Sandler has changed the article back to the original. Can we have some independent adjudication, as it seems we are not going to agree.  In my view, the Guardian is a reputable source. I think the controversy over sockpuppeting is highly relevant to Andrew Gilligan’s biography. I think the Associated Newspaper IP address of sockpuppeting comment + searches for Andrew Gilligan + Gilligan’s denial that the alleged sockpuppet comment is “his partner” give strong grounds for some doubt over whether he is telling the truth.  I’ll go with your judgement and desist from further change to what you decide” –

00:51, 31 January 2009 – “You must be one or the other, I think you’re Tom Barry, who barely lets a day pass without penning some sort of attack on Gilligan. And on the IP address – we know Gilligan works from home. Is it, perhaps, possible that Gilligan’s partner uses his internet connection from time to time?” – Sandler151

00:58, 31 January 2009 – “You are completely wrong. I am not one or the other. And I have never spoken to any of them, or had any contact, or met any of the people in this debate. I read the Standard. I live in London. I read the Guardian, and various London political blogs.  Some of the relevant comments were from Associated Press’s IP address. Are you suggesting Gilligan lives in his office? And that his partner ghost-writes his comments sometimes?  And I note that the only articles you have only posted on since May 2008 (when your account was created) are about Andrew Gilligan. Surely you’re not Andrew Gilligan, editing his biog in the 3rd person. Would destroy the argument you use somewhat.” –

01:16 31 January 2009 – “Exactly the same thing seems to be true of you, The only articles you seem to have commented on are about Gilligan. Are *you* Andrew Gilligan? I think not – I think you must be Tom Barry, gratuitously indulging in the very same practice – concealing your identity and vested interest online – which you are so happy to condemn Gilligan for. The only difference is that while there’s no clear evidence against Gilligan, there is, thanks to your slip earlier in this discussion thread, very clear evidence indeed against you. To repeat – the only two people Gilligan attacked on 27/10/08 are Tom Barry and Val Shawcross: you must be one or the other; and whichever you are, you’re not telling the truth. And on Gilligan’s IP thing – have you never heard of remote logins?” – Sandler151

01:23, 31 January 2009 – “We’ll leave it there (and I am not Tom Barry or anyone connected to any of this debate, for the last time. I QUOTED what Tom Barry said in the 4th reference, and did not say that he was attacking me personally).  I think it’s fairly clear who you are” –

01:34, 31 January 2009 – “No, Tom, you didn’t quote yourself – there are no quotation marks round that part of the sentence. You have been well and truly found out, I fear. You might also care in future to remember the cautions at the top of this page about making “controversial” and “potentially libellous” claims on Wikipedia about living people on the basis of material that is “poorly sourced.”” – Sandler151

01:42, 31 January 2009 – “Andrew, I forgot to put the quotation marks in. You picked up on it. I corrected it.  Look at the original comment. The bit where I say, READ THE 4TH REFERENCE and SEE BELOW.  If you read article the 4th reference referred to https://www.boriswatch.co.uk/2008/11/13/mr-gilligan-i-presume/, you will see it was quite clearly a quote.  Interesting that you mention “Tom Barry” without apparently having read the article I put as a reference, and his name having been mentioned once in things a referred to. I never mentioned that person once.  And I am not him anyway.” –

01:44, 31 January 2009 – “Goodnight, Tom/Val. Sweet dreams” – Sandler151

I’d be interested if any readers *don’t* think, on the basis of that exchange and previous form, that Sandler151/kennite/Ross281/Andrew Ross are all one and all the same.  We see the usual tell-tales; cryptic usernames; accusing the rest of the world of your own failings, the late-nights, the obsession with Val Shawcross and Boris Watch (it’s not like we’ve been particularly interested in Gilligan for a few months, we’re just waiting for him to get the sack, to be honest), the unpleasant trying-to-be-amusing-and-failing condescension, the tabloid trick of steadily turning assumption into inviolable truth; at the start could be anyone, by the end he’s ‘Tom’ and nothing will shake Sandler151 from that belief.

In case you hadn’t worked it out, no, I haven’t been editing Gilligan’s wikipedia entry, nor anyone elses.  I’ve never actually felt tempted to start editing there, and I don’t consider myself sufficiently divorced from proceedings to be an impartial reporter of the sockpuppeting.

Returning to last Friday, since the missus had a friend round and wanted a girls night in I went out about 6pm on Friday.  While battle was being joined over the sockpuppeting edits, therefore, I was off hooning around town with some Irishmen in a friend’s Rolls-Royce visiting various pubs and a Greek restaurant before picking his girlfriend up at Euston before ending with a couple in the Golden Eagle, Marylebone Lane, all with copious witnesses.  I also have Oyster logs from the buses I took plus a cash withdrawal and subsequent adding of a tenner onto my Oyster at my usual ticket outlet, since the card empties rather sooner than it used to and I didn’t want to be caught short.  Finally, I can assure ‘Sandler151′ that when I staggered in at something past eleven I wasn’t in a fit state to edit wikipedia entries.  I was in on Saturday night, however, but frankly I needed an early night and wasn’t aware of the row until yesterday when it popped up here and on Tory Troll.

In other words, I was out and away from the internet from 6pm until after closing time, not forgetting the time it takes to get back from the West End.  In fact, I stayed away from the internet until checking the football scores on Saturday evening.

So, I’m not but Sandler151 is, to my mind, firmly connected to Andrew Gilligan and his sockpuppeting antics.

It’s also worth reading Wikipedia’s policy on sockpuppeting, which is also as good a primer as you’ll get on the subject.

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