"Wikipedia is a massive online free encyclopedia. It's one of the most visited sites on the web, with two billion hits every month. With the stated goal of compiling the sum of all human knowledge, it's the most used reference source in the world. Yet, at any given moment, it may contain information that is completely untrue and misleading. How can this be?That seems about right. I have identified the accounts in question, plus quite a few more that the site doesn't mention, and this is probably the most skilled 'sockmaster' I have ever seen. But to understand what a 'sockmaster' is I will have to explain one of the fundamental design flaws of Wikipedia.
"The world of Wikipedia, which many assume to be a collegial community of experts collaborating to write an encyclopedia, often more closely resembles an arena in which personal conflict and gang warfare are standard operating procedures. Wikipedians are collaborating to write the world’s largest and most used encyclopedia, but their behaviors often more closely resemble those of a large group of anonymous characters playing a vast and intricate online game in which “writing an encyclopedia” merely provides the basic scenario and context within which the game is played".
Wikipedia was set up in 2001 by free culture types, who believe that knowledge should be both free and open. Free means, well, free, and I can deal with that, and open means user-generated, which is more problematic. Having anyone edit means that anyone can open an account without restriction. Indeed, the same person can open as many accounts as they like without restriction. This is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia, and is unlikely ever to change, given the politics and ideology of the people who run the site. Add to this the premise that people generally edit for selfish reasons, as I argued here, and you have two nicely toxic ingredients. If you have some passionate belief in some piece of nonsense – it doesn't matter what the nonsense is – then you want the nonsense in Wikipedia. Given that other people may oppose the nonsense, then you will want to stack the argument with as many multiple accounts or 'sockpuppets' as you can create, defending the nonsense against all comers.
This takes some skill. Using sockpuppets to stack the vote is a (theoretically) a banning offence on Wikipedia, unless you are a highly influential member of the administration. So ideally at least one of your socks is an administrator, which this guy was*. In addition, the rest of the sockpuppets should not be 'single purpose'. If they all start to edit just the one article, you will normally be caught out pretty quickly. So you edit in many different and non-overlapping subject areas, occasionally editing the subject in dispute. At crucial moments you bring the socks together, usually to gain consensus, or stack a vote, or to bypass the '3RR'** rule. This all takes time and effort, but young people with an agenda and time on their hands can manage that. The achievement of Cognition was to add significant content in various contentious areas without being caught out. I haven't yet checked to see how much of the nonsense is still there, but it is likely to be significant. The main point, as the character says, is that Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia, and the skill required to participate in it are more aligned to John le Carre, than Diderot.
And he is still editing.
* I can imagine Belette's dorsal fins flapping here. No, not with the Cognition account.
** 3RR = three revert. If you revert someone's edit more than three times, you can be blocked. So you get your socks to do some of the reverting. Of course your opponent will be using socks too. It is not uncommon to see what looks like a whole crowd of people arguing with each other, when in reality there are just two. Sometimes there is only one! Really skilled sockmasters will create good/bad hand accounts to increase the appearance of reality, often putting silly arguments in the mouths of the bad hand account in order to refute them more surely, and to make the opposition look foolish.