Essjay controversy

Article

January 20, 2022

The Essjay controversy is a controversy regarding a Wikipedia editor with the username Essjay on the English Wikipedia (who later revealed himself to be Ryan Jordan). On Wikipedia, he mistakenly identified himself as a theology professor with a Ph.D. at a university. He was active from 2005 to 2008, and was a trusted user by the community, including being an administrator and a member of the arbitration committee. In July 2006, The New Yorker published an article about "Essjay", and mentioned that he was a professor of theology at the university. The New Yorker later admitted that they did not know Essjay's real name. This controversy also involved Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales who initially defended Jordan, but eventually asked him to resign in March 2007.

Beginnings

On July 26, 2006, Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt started a thread on the discussion site Wikipedia Review (not affiliated with Wikimedia) entitled "Who is Essjay?" (later titled "Who is Essjay?, Probably he's Ryan Jordan" after Essjay revealed himself to be Jordan). Essjay has stated on the Wikipedia user page that he teaches graduate theology at a private university, and holds doctorates in theology and canon law. Subsequent discussions in this forum raised questions and contradictions in Essjay's claims about his academic qualifications and professional experience. Five days later, The New Yorker published an interview with Essjay that made several false claims on its user page. Controversy that subsequently arose over the fabrication of his persona and qualifications, the impact these lies had on Wikipedia's perception (and its policies and credibility), and the quality of decisions made in promotion, support, and operation of Wikipedia.

Disclosure

When Essjay got an offer to work at Wikia in January 2007, he changed his Wikia profile and "explained who he really was", identifying himself as Ryan Jordan. Another Wikipedia editor later questioned on Essjay's Wikipedia talk page about the differences between his new Wikia profile and the identity he previously claimed.

Community reaction

Speaking privately about Jordan, Jimmy Wales said, "Brother [sic] Ryan was a friend, and still a friend. He is a young man, and he has made a sincere personal apology, which I have accepted. I hope the world will let him. go in peace to build a respectable life and reputation." Essjay responded at the time with a statement on his Wikipedia page: ...I apologize if anyone in the Wikipedia community has been harmed by my decision to use disinformation to protect myself. I don't regret protecting myself; I believed, and continue to believe, that I was right to protect myself, given the problems faced on the Internet in these difficult times. I have spoken to all of my close friends here about this, and have heard clearly that they understand my position, and they support me. Jimbo and many others on Wikipedia supported me too... Reactions from within the Wikipedia community to the Essjay/Jordan identity differences have been mixed. Most of the editors criticized some of his actions, but some also supported him not to report him for alleged fraud. As the controversy heated up, the Wikipedia community began reviewing Essjay's previous edits and some felt he relied on his fictional professorship to influence editorial judgment on the edits he made. for. Michael Snow, administrator and founder of The Signpost (Wikipedia community magazine), commented: "People have reviewed the edits

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