The Use Of Wikipedia In Misrepresenting Schapelle Corby
This report examines the use of Wikipedia to smear and misrepresent Schapelle Corby and her family.
THE USE OF WIKIPEDIA TO MISREPRESENT AND SMEAR SCHAPELLE CORBY AND HER FAMILY DRAFT REPORT [PART 1] Version 1c REPORT CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION 2. WILFUL OMISSION AND CENSORSHIP 3. DIRECT MISREPRESENTATION 4. SELECTIVE BALANCE 5. ARTICLE OVERVIEW & CONCLUSIONS ~ 1. INTRODUCTION Wikipedia describes itself as a "collaboratively edited, multilingual, free Internet encyclopaedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation". Whilst it operates a number of low level mechanisms to prevent abuse, such as robot reversion of obvious vandalism, control of its content is, by its nature, flawed in a number of respects. This, given its predominant position on Google and other search engines, makes it a hugely damaging facility in certain circumstances. An unknown number of Wikipedia articles have evolved to become propagandistic, and in some cases, extremely damaging in the context of the global distribution of smears and fabrications. The article on Schapelle Corby falls into both categories. SCHAPELLE CORBY This is a topic which is Australia-centric. It is largely edited by Australians; Australians who have been subjected to the blanket media coverage discussed on The Expendable Projectâ€™s website [www.expendable.tv/p/media.html]. These individuals, therefore, have been affected in much the same way as many within the population, in terms of their opinion. They have read the same smears, fabrications and outright lies, which have been fully exposed on multiple occasions, and they have failed to identify the underlying and documented facts of the case. But it goes much further than this. As also shown on the same website, a subset of the population has become pro-active in abusing Schapelle Corby and her family. They have become hostile, to the point of zealously engaging in systemic online abuse, lacking any form of logic or rationality. [www.expendable.tv/2011/11/opinion-managementreport-4-impact.html] A study of the editing logs on Wikipedia suggests that a number of those exhibiting some of these tendencies have also been active over a prolonged period, in micromanaging this particular page. EXAMPLES OF WIKIPEDIA ABUSE The article has evolved to become a reflection of the hostile position of those who have been subjected to unremitting misrepresentation, rather than a presentation of the verified facts. It comprises few evidenced statements, but largely of regurgitated media smears, items produced without any substantiation at all or any supporting evidence whatsoever. Regrettably, this manifests itself throughout the page. The following sections document just some of the examples from the article as it stands at present. 2. WILFUL OMISSION AND CENSORSHIP It is accepted that Wikipedia cannot cover all the detailed aspects of a case like this one. However, major elements, and highly significant events, should certainly be included. Unfortunately, judicious editing has ensured that a significant number of central issues have been omitted. In practical terms, they have been censored out, given that, when specifically added, they have subsequently been deleted. Instead, large sections of the page are devoted to events which are only indirectly relevant, but which invariably amount to hostile commentary on family members. Examples of critical facts which have been omitted are many, with the following serving only as a couple of illustrative selections. a) Luggage Weight The weight of Schapelle Corbyâ€™s luggage is covered as follows: Whilst this is correct, what has been omitted is of vital importance. 65kg is 5kg overweight, yet no excess baggage charge was levied. In other words, according to Qantas, her bags were 5kg heavier on the system than they were when she checked them in. It is glaringly obvious how important this point is, in the context of the case. Yet it is not stated, and efforts to add this sort of information have been repeatedly reversed. Another important aspect which is omitted is that neither Qantas, nor the Australian government, informed Schapelle Corby or the Bali court. Despite its importance to Schapelle Corby as vital primary evidence, it was withheld. None of this information is disputed by any party, yet it is absent from the article, despite its obvious central nature. b) Baggage Screening In September 2011, an exchange of correspondence between Customs Minister Christopher Ellison, and AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, was published online. This showed that the boogie-board bag was the only one not scanned at Sydney International Airport. The Prime Minister was also made aware of this information. Again, whilst this has not been reported by the media, it is not disputed, as the actual correspondence can be viewed directly by the public: [www.expendable.tv/2011/09/transit-report-24-missing-records.html] But again, none of the parties aware of this information informed Schapelle Corby or the Bali court. It was even withheld from Schapelle Corbyâ€™s lawyer when he asked directly about scanning, just four days after it was discovered [ref as above]. Yet there is no reference to this clearly central information in the Wikipedia article, and efforts to add it have been reversed. These are just two examples from many, but they do demonstrate how information, which supports the proposition of innocence, has not only been ignored, but has been proactively removed, even when it is quite clearly of central importance to the accuracy of the article. Over a lengthy period, reference to facts revealed by a whole series of newly FOI released government documentation has been blocked from addition. Much of this is fundamental to any semblance of accurate representation of events. 3. DIRECT MISREPRESENTATION This occurs throughout the article. A number of techniques are used. These include the omission of critical details, the judicious choice of words, wholly misleading inclusions, and clearly hostile innuendo. The following represent just a handful of the many examples: a) DNA Testing (Marijuana) The article currently states the following: What this suggests is simply not true. A dismissed lawyer, who was clearly hostile, made a series of retrospective allegations. These were directly explained by Mercedes Corby in the very same news article referenced, an explanation which is simply ignored in the Wikipedia article. But further, the actual formal request for testing, by Schapelle Corby herself, has since come to light: [www.expendable.tv/2011/09/evasion-report-11-introduction.html] This too is simply ignored in the article, despite it being direct and indisputable evidence, and it being the only documentation relating to the request itself. However, it is even more misleading than this. Whilst the article refers to Alexander Downerâ€™s claim that the Indonesian Police rejected the request, documents from within his own department state the exact opposite: [www.expendable.tv/2011/09/exhibit-dfat-duplicity-marijuana.html] Again, this clear contradiction is ignored by the Wikipedia article, which refers only to Downer, falsely presenting his position as one that is unquestioned. The published documentation clearly shows that the Indonesian Police were receptive to testing, until personal visits by AFP personnel took place. It should also be noted that the Australian government failed to initiate a Mutual Assistance Treaty request, which would have compelled provision of a sample for testing, despite having authority to do so, and even a signed request from the subject, Schapelle Corby. Again this known information is omitted, thus creating a wholly misleading impression. b) Luggage Weight At Denpasar airport, Schapelle Corby pleaded for her bags to be weighed. She realized that if they were 4-5kg heavier than when she checked in, this would constitute vital evidence, suggesting that the marijuana had been added in transit. Her requests were rejected. In the Wikipedia article, however, this situation is described as follows: The statement of a lack of “obligation” appears to almost excuse what is clearly a serious flaw in process, in terms of objective pursuit of investigation and justice. It is an example of the careful use of language to guide opinion, yet again, to the detriment of Schapelle Corby’s position. c) Selective Media Inclusion: ACA In March 2008, Nine Network’s “A Current Affair” ran a story suggesting that Schapelle Corby was allowed to dine out in Bali with her sister. It was clearly constructed: a couple of tourists had simply seen two people who looked like Mercedes and Schapelle Corby in a restaurant. All parties denied it as ludicrous, including Schapelle Corby’s family, and the prison itself. Complaints were even made to the media watchdog, the ACMA. The Wikipedia article, however, presents it as credible and notable: Again, an impression is created which is negative for Schapelle Corby, in this case, that her suffering might be mitigated by day release for dining activity. d) New Idea: Misinformation & Innuendo A common method to dissipate sympathy for the Corby family has been to create the illusion of wealth, and to suggest totally unsubstantiated payments to family members. This approach is not unique to Schapelle Corby, and is of course, synonymous with the gutter press. Wikipedia does not present itself as the gutter press, yet the following paragraph is one of those included in the article, which uses the same sort of technique: The reference  does not state this at all, but regardless, the language used gives the game away â€œThe deal is thought to beâ€?. Thought by whom? Where is there a shred of evidence to support this? Is there a deal at all, and again where is the evidence that there is one? It is a technique used to scurrilously sell something which has no supporting evidence, or which is entirely false. Equally, Stephen Moriarty was not appointed to represent the Corby family at all. He has denied that to be the case, as have the Corby family. It is another random allegation without any substantiation whatsoever, by an unknown editor. Yet the hostile impression it is intended to create is very clear. This is an example of smear journalism, yet is presented as fact by Wikipedia. e) Dr Jonathan Phillips Dr Phillips is not an average psychiatrist. As former President of the Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, he is possibly the most eminent and highly respected in the field. He flew to Bali to examine and diagnose Schapelle Corby, with a magazine covering his flight, as the Corby family were short of funds. His harrowing report was subsequently submitted to both the Indonesian and Australian governments. The Wikipedia article, however, presents this situation as follows: This important development was airbrushed, with no reference to his name or eminent position, and no reference to the point of the exercise in sending a diagnosis of her deteriorating condition to the authorities in two nations. Instead, this paragraph seeks to present the situation in the context of finance, with all sorts of squalid innuendo. It is almost defamatory of Dr Phillips. f) PowderGate This affair is presented by the Wikipedia article as follows: However, a key fact is selectively omitted, this being that the Australian government were informed this was a hoax BEFORE the headlines circulated around the world; headlines which had a hugely damaging effect upon public support for Schapelle Corby. This information was revealed by a Freedom of Information request: [www.expendable.tv/2011/10/powdergate-report-3-misinformation.html]. It was also reported by the Australian media. Note the AFP email to Justice & Customs Minister Ellison. Its omission clearly changes the balance of impression created by this segment. g) Robin Tampoe Mr Tampoe was dismissed as Schapelle Corbyâ€™s lawyer, perhaps for obvious reasons. His parting, however, was far more acrimonious than one might expect, given his position. He reacted bitterly, with abuse, and a series of damaging public allegations. He was eventually struck off as a lawyer for his conduct. However, the Wikipedia article reports them, conveniently omitting any reference to the actual context. And, presumably to make sure they are not missed, it even repeats them: In truth, Tampoe’s allegations are countered entirely by overwhelming contemporary evidence. This stems not only from ex-AFP officers such as Ray Cooper, and Gary LeeRogers, but by case after case before the courts, by Qantas standing down a substantial number of corrupt baggage handlers for involvement in drug syndication, and by a variety of reports, such as those produced by Allan Kessing and Kim Beazley. Countless references are available to confirm this, including the following: [http://www.expendable.tv/2011/09/transit-report-25-culture-of-cover-up.html] [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B73MUMuExuT2Y2VmOTZhZjktMWZjMS00YzAxLTh mOTMtOTIxZDZmNDJiMzBi/edit#] [http://www.expendable.tv/2011/09/transit-report-34-drug-syndication-at.html] To omit this background, which actually frames the Schapelle Corby case as a whole, is serious enough in itself. To repeatedly present Tampoe’s clearly ludicrous comments as credible, yet still fail to refer to it, is absolutely blatant misrepresentation. Again, there is little scope for doubt here that this was intentional manipulation of the Wikipedia article. All of the above aspects were referred to across many media articles. They have all been documented and reported widely multiple times in Australia. Yet, when edited into the Wikipedia article, they have subsequently been removed. h) Queens Counsel Schapelle Corby’s appeal was directly undermined when one of two QC’s, who had been pressed upon the Corby family by the Australian government, made a number of damaging allegations to the media, regarding bribery. The QC in question, Mark Trowell, was later disciplined by a tribunal for this, where he stated, on record, that he was working for the government and not for Schapelle Corby. This extremely serious situation, however, is airbrushed over as follows: Again, references for this are openly available, including the outcome of the tribunal itself: [https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B73MUMuExuT2ZWU1MzhmNWEtYWQ3Yi00 N2JiLWJlNTYtNjMyNDhhYWJiMGNh/edit?pli=1#] Yet again, the stilted presentation, which omitted the most serious aspects of the situation, can hardly be considered to have been an oversight. i) Autobiography The segment covering the seizure of Schapelle Corby’s book royalties under “proceeds of crime” legislation is similarly airbrushed. Serious, noteworthy, and disturbing facts regarding this legal action are simply ignored. An example of this is the fact that Schapelle Corby was not represented in court (she wasn’t even informed of the case). Another is that Australian law was extended to seize revenue from outside Australia, passing to another foreign state. [www.expendable.tv/2011/10/political-seizure-report-2-secret.html] These are perhaps the most noteworthy aspects of this action, yet they have been omitted. She also remains the only Australian to have book royalties seized under this legislation; another notable fact which has been omitted. As stated earlier, the above merely represent examples, and are a limited subset of the actual number of gross abuses of Wikipedia that have been identified. 4. SELECTIVE BALANCE Choice of aspect inclusion, and how much detail is provided for each, can have a direct influence upon how the public view a topic. This technique is employed throughout this Wikipedia article, to the detriment of Schapelle Corby’s position. The most striking example is that of Jodie Power. Jodie Power was paid by a television network, and made a series of allegations which were proved to be outright lies, in a court of defamation. However, instead of stating the outcome unambiguously and clearly, the article almost replays the lies themselves. At length, it repeats the false allegations, and practically states their false, proven, nature as a matter of inconvenience at the foot of the section. The same sort of approach is employed with respect to Schapelle Corby’s family, even her indirect family. No effort is made to represent mitigation or balance whatsoever. For example, the unrelated actions of Schapelle Corby’s brother were motivated because he was told there was evidence to show his sister’s innocence at a specific property. This sort of explanation is completely omitted. The most obvious abuse of this type, however, is the amount of space devoted to what amounts to mud throwing at family members, clearly implying guilt by association. It consumes a completely disproportionate percentage of the article itself, presumably at the expense of the many aspects which are omitted (examples above), which support Schapelle Corby’s claims of innocence. The impression this creates is clear. 5. ARTICLE OVERVIEW & CONCLUSIONS The above are merely random examples. Censorship and misrepresentation is actually demonstrable throughout the article. Almost every paragraph is skewed in some way, and invariably, against Schapelle Corbyâ€™s position. Media items are automatically presented as factual, even where the author has a track record of smear reporting, where the item reports no verified facts, or where the author has an entrenched or self interest position. An example of the latter is Eamonn Duff, who derives revenue from the sale of a book which is hostile to the Corby family, which contains a series of proven fabrications, and for which defamation actions have been commenced. These references remain in situ, yet references to released government documentation and correspondence, are immediately and routinely deleted. Websites which host the cache of Freedom of Information data, including central ministerial correspondence, are simply dismissed, often abusively. To all intents and purposes, the article is controlled by those who have familiarized themselves with the appropriate editing protocols, who have established themselves over a lengthy period, and who have a rigid personal position on the case. This manifests itself through tenacious protection of the status quo, which is demonstrably hostile to Schapelle Corbyâ€™s position. The number engaged in this is not large, and it is suggested that the IP addresses of some involved may be revealing. The net result however, is that the article is wholly inappropriate. It in no way presents the facts of this case, but rather, is crafted to support a position. Whilst some of the editing techniques used are illustrated above, a detailed study of the editing logs and patterns for this page also reveal some telling information. This will be documented at a later stage. WIKIPEDIA REACTION When a draft of this report was brought to the attention of administrators, the reaction was immediately defensive. None of the issues were discussed individually, let alone addressed, and the report itself was subjected to instant and outright hostility. The suggestion of a full investigation, and re-construction of the article, using properly sourced data, was simply rejected. There was no interest whatsoever in confronting the abuses and resolving the serious matters identified. Despite its grievously flawed and wholly subjective nature, the article remained unchanged. THE IMPACT The damage inflicted to the interests of Schapelle Corby, through the long term and continued presentation of this article, is impossible to assess. However, it is likely to be substantial. END OF REPORT [PART 1]