After we exposed how Koch Industries-related Wikipedia pages had been "whitewashed" over a multi-year period, a Wikipedia administrator blocked our "agent's" account indefinitely. Below the fold, this article will take you behind the scenes of the scandal--illustrating the key "red flags" that drew our attention to the Koch Industries page, describing how our "agent's" attempts to fix the page were rebuffed, and presenting a summary of the evidence against key figures who seem to have been systematically objecting to the prominent inclusion of well-sourced but unflattering information.
Red Flags in the Koch Industries Article as of 8/26/2015
It should be immediately apparent that the Koch Industries article is clearly different from articles on other large, controversial companies like Bank Of America, JP Morgan Chase, Walmart, and Monsanto in two key respects: it is both much shorter and lacking a criticism or controversies section.
The first detail that caught our eye was the description of the landmark wrongful death case Smalley v. Koch Industries, which was filed in response to a fatal pipeline explosion. According to the Wikipedia page:
An investigation conducted by the NTSB found that the pipe section which failed had not been shown to have excessive corrosion in a 1995 inspection. Regulations at the time did not provide criteria for "adequate cathodic protection." Koch also stated that the bacteria-induced corrosion acted quicker than had ever previously been recorded in the industry. The explosion was the only event of its kind in the company’s history. In 1999, a Texas jury found that negligence had led to the rupture of the Koch pipeline and awarded the victims' families $296 million.
That description of the case is both biased and intentionally misleading.
It seems designed to mislead the reader into the (mistaken) impression that the NTSB investigation's conclusions were not unfavorable to the company, presents an unsourced "statement" from Koch Industries to make its defense, and leaves the "negligence" verdict as an afterthought. Here's what actually happened
to various published
and reputable sources
An investigation conducted by the NTSB concluded that "the probable cause of this accident was the failure of Koch to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion." One of the victim's families filed a civil wrongful death suit against Koch Industries and, in 1999, a jury found Koch Industries guilty of negligence and malice. The jury’s $296 million judgment, in Smalley v. Koch Industries, is the largest-ever compensatory damages verdict in a US corporate wrongful death case, and was substantially higher than the $100 million sought by the plantiff. The case was ultimately settled for an undisclosed sum.
In addition to that "red flag", certain notable details seemed to be missing. No mention was made of Rolling Stone's report
that Koch Industries had pleaded guilty to five felonies, including Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
--a detail that the company didn't even dispute in its lengthy published response
to that article. In addition, no mention was made of the US Senate investigation into alleged oil theft by Koch Oil
, which culminated in a civil False Claims Act settlement
. That was part of a dramatic, more than decade-long, struggle
in the company's history that pitted current Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch against his own brother, Bill Koch.
Wikipedia Editors' Response
To say our "agent's" attempts to edit the Koch Industries article were met with criticism and hostility would be an understatement. The one user who tried to offer him specific, constructive, feedback was almost immediately issued a topic ban, at the request of some of the other involved editors, preventing him from continuing to help. The full transcript of the Koch Industries "talk" page shows repeated references to our "agent's" initial attempt at a username and accusations that he is biased (without addressing the verifiable, objective, facts our "agent" presented as part of his "truth blitz").
Our "agent" was almost immediately slapped with a "username ban" for the name "Kochtruth" by one user, which was followed up by a "sockpuppet investigation" initiated at the request of another. When our "agent" cleared both hurdles, he was accused by one editor of association with a Koch-related conspiracy theory site, and by another of a violation of the site's rules that would have resulted in the account being blocked.
Following the rule violation accusation, and a three day wait since any of the editors were willing to productively engage with our "agent", our "agent" decided to investigate the editors who seemed so eager to circumvent continued discussions or excessively delay them.
The Key Players
While looking at edits and talk page history, on Koch-related pages, it quickly became clear that two specific editors seemed determined to systematically object to or block the prominent display of unflattering information on Koch-related articles for years. Our "agent's" request for arbitration, submitted to Wikipedia, expressed his concern that:
Over a multi-year period, beginning at least in 2012, [these two editors] have systematically objected to and/or blocked the prominent display of negative facts (no matter how notable, well-sourced, or relevant) on articles relevant to Koch Industries and its affiliates...it appears [Editor #1]'s only contributions involve either (1) adding or arguing for the addition of positive information, (2) objecting to or removing negative information, (3) arguing against a prominent "criticism" section similar to what other large controversial companies have, or (4) diverting or arguing for the diversion of negative information to the less well-SEOed "Political activities of the Koch brothers"...[Editor #2]'s edit and talk page history is similar...[and his] talk page participation is also seemingly always aligned with Koch Industries, irrespective of the strength of the citations or the materiality of the negative information that is submitted.
Since our "agent" was blocked, we have continued to scour talk pages for articles related to Koch Industries and has yet to find counterbalancing examples where either of these two editors has been in favor of the prominent display of unflattering information on any of the primary Koch-related pages. Our "agent" researched talk pages (including the "archives") and edits related to: Koch Industries
, Charles Koch
, David H. Koch
, Americans for Prosperity
, John Birch Society
, Koch family
, and Political Activities of the Koch Brothers
. When either of these two editors participated, their activities seemed always to align with Koch Industries
: (1) arguing for the removal or diversion of unflattering information from the main pages (that rank prominently in search engines) for Koch Industries, Charles Koch, David H. Koch, or Americans for Prosperity, (2) removing or arguing for the removal of critical references (such as Jane Mayer's groundbreaking investigative reporting
), (3) ensuring that the less well-SEOed "Koch family" and "Political activities of the Koch brothers" continue to exist to house negative information that cannot be disqualified from inclusion.
In addition to the suspicion aroused by two specific editors' multi-year edit and talk histories, there appears to be a semi-organized cabal that has a history of aggressively working together to gang up on vocal Koch critics. Some of the same core players who came out to level accusations against our "agent", when he filed an initial request for administrator intervention, have been active participants in other related spats. In another such dispute (with the editor who was initially helpful to our "agent"), a few of these users were also called out by outside observers (emphasis ours):
There is very clear evidence of wikihounding by multiple editors on these articles. These editors have been stonewalling material they disagree with even when it's reliably sourced and stated by multiple sources.
there is a very easy to trace history showing the complaining "me too" group of users [redacted editors] act in concert to gang up on content in many articles. They all appear to be adept technicians at maintaining a certain [point of view] in all the articles they are involved in...I consider that troika with a little help form a few others that can easily be identified from the history of a large group of articles (and probably their own editing histories) to be acting almost as Bill Cosby's lawyers trying to keep information under wraps. So they have come here again ganging up and forum shopping to plead their obviously non-neutral case to anyone who they might ensnare in helping their effort. I would discount any of the complaints of this group on a wholesale basis. Wikipedia is about reporting sourced facts. [The editor who was helpful to our "agent"] generally is doing a good job of providing facts and sources. Those facts and sources do not necessarily agree with the [agenda]; the [point of view] this group is pushing. So they are using every trick in the book to go after their opposition.
In short, there appears to be a semi-organized effort to "whitewash" Koch-related articles
, including articles that relate only to Koch Industries and its executives and are unrelated to the controversial political organizations that they fund.