back to article Sockpuppeting civil servant Wikifiddles himself

Web 2.0, the believers say, gives a voice to everyone and their brother. But that's only part of the story. Truth be told, the net's second coming gives a voice to everyone and their brother and all their alter egos. In the alternate universe cultivated by an endless parade of blogs, online discussion forums, and so-called …


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  1. Snert Lee


    "Wikipedia draws narcissists to itself"

    Just look at Mr Wales and think to yourself, As above, so below.

  2. Solomon Grundy

    The Wonders Never Cease

    By leveraging the community knowledge base inherent in online media outlets such as The Register I just learned that:

    "If of appropriate sizes dildos can be used as gags, for oral penetration or a sort of artificial fellatio" and that "Some larger dildos are intended for visual appeal only and should not be used for penetration"

    Maybe it's just me but I can't see anyone getting randy from being choked with a big plastic cock - or maybe I've just been dating the wrong (right?) sort of girls.

    So that's what it boils down to I guess... My favorite fixed width website keeps me informed about computers, robots, exotic weapons, and giant plastic penises to gag people with.

  3. Gareth Irwin

    We all know

    that websterfreaky is the twisted half sister of someone at elreg.

    We all know.

  4. Dave The Cardboard Box

    Have these comments been "Baxterised" ?

    The woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Assume "good faith" but protect the hive

    Don't bother trying to edit the encyclopaedia anyone can edit unless you've drunk the KoolAid. Uppity newcomers are driven away with a pointed stick called "disruption" and a flaming branch called "incivility". If that doesn't work, the giant boulder called consensus will crush anyone who dares to question an admin's judgement. Now, you'll also be suspected of being the sockpuppet of a civil servant...

  6. Marvin the Martian
    IT Angle

    I must protest to the utmost!


    I must cathegorically protest against this misrepresentation of civil servants. All of my colleagues are responsible and upstanding citizens, as for example my friend Winston who helps old ladies across the street; mr Warner who leads the boys choir and my friend Albert who volunteers in a wedding shop as well.


    William Edward Stratham the Second (Mrs.)

  7. Mark
    Paris Hilton


    The outlet may make this very web 2.0, but the idea of a cross dressing civil servant having some seriously weird pastimes that may or may not stem from odd experiences at public school is about as traditionally British as it comes. All that's missing is the bowler hat.

    paris cos she's probably just another baxter alter ego

  8. ChessGeek

    Sounds like...

    ...a genuine sockmuppet.

  9. tony trolle

    @ :Assume "good faith" but protect the hive

    I gave up with the site coz of "disruption" first hand knowledge of a subject is against the hive second hand, third hand knowledge collective.

    Mind you some dross I added stayed around for a long time : ) its like, unless its a unmovable fact like a city; its never 100% true or correct.

    Why didn't he post his own photo ? possible just dam ugly !

  10. Adrian

    Good info - but missing the point a lot

    It was good to find out some extra info about this case here, such as what precisely the Boudoir is. The point, I would have thought, is to highlight what precisely their crimes were. Their worst crime was to use photos of someone else and pretend to be them - which was bad because they were writing about BDSM and hence someone else might think that the real person was also interested in BDSM. In other words, the absolute worst thing that they did was possible libel.

    The reality of course is that this kind of thing happens all of the time. Go to MySpace and you will find 30 accounts also claiming to be Tila Tequila - the same for virtually every celebrity out there. Do they get sued? If anything, usually doing something like that just adds to the publicity for the real person behind it. Michael Baxter (who oddly is named here, while the real people behind it are not) didn't even claim anything nasty. There is a hypothetical chance that the girl might get raped because of it. Of course, it hasn't actually happened, and it'd have to be a pretty extreme case for that kind of thing to happen. It took 4 years before they even bothered to complain, which hints at just how minor the libel case is.

    Beyond that though, what else did they do wrong? They voted on a few Wikipedia (and other site) AFDs - keeping some articles that should be deleted and vice versa - the kind of things that aren't supposed to matter and aren't supposed to be based on votes. On Wikipedia Review they had 2 admin accounts, which is an obvious issue, but they don't seem to have caused much damage there.

    Where is the harm here? They went to all of this effort basically to play a character, which surely is half the reason that people use the internet in the first place. So a lot of people believed them and everyone felt hurt and betrayed. Big deal. A few days later and nobody would care.

    I think that perhaps the issue here is not so much what they did, but the lengths that they went to do it. They were investigated heavily for 3 or 4 years, and yet managed to use different IP addresses for each personality. They went to lengths to set up different personalities to great detail. Sure, this time, nothing major happened, but what this issue highlights is that this has the potential to cause serious damage elsewhere.

    What if rather than just wanting to act like a girl, Michael Baxter's aim was more sinister? What if they were trying to run a smear campaign to bring down a real person? They could have caused a lot of damage with this. As it is, though, all they did was to hurt a few people's feelings. This time we got lucky.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Remember -

    on the Internet no-one knows you're a civil servant

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    weird perversion

    Wikifiddling I can condone, but sock puppeting? the mind boggles.

  13. Keith T

    Drawback of Anonymity

    Anonymity in forum posts and comments is one thing -- everyone knows (or should know) they just represent people's opinions.

    If a website expects its non-fiction articles to be taken seriously, it should ensure the identity of article contributers is accurately known to the manager of the website (even if the public name on the article is a pseudonym).

    Sadly Wikipedia doesn't do that, so its articles must always be cross-checked with other sites to ensure accuracy.

    Anonymity equals no reputation at stake, equals less care for truth and accuracy.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    what did they do wrong? not much... but it's definately a good thing to open your eyes about the truth, or at least the half truth about the untruths... take Sarah Palin for example.

    mine's the one with the multiple passports in the breastpocket.

  15. Sir Runcible Spoon

    tit les are required

    This couldn't have happened if we'd had national ID cards already

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold on

    I thought everyone else was an AI, and the Internet was this weird game I have been playing for a couple of decades.

    Oh I see misdirection - trying to make me think there are actual humans on this thing - well it won't put me off trying to get the Ring of Power, from the Pixie nomads, who will then unlock the Gate to Fangor, where I can reserve Room 117 at Hotel Paradello, that allows me to join the Cult of Dredore as an acolyte, so I can pinch the Chalice of Never Ending Mead, to take it back to the Gnomes of Grundelor who will build the bridge of Ethereal so I can cross to the coast of Bundelliar.

    From there who knows ;-)

    Never found any clues though in the library of Wikipedia, seemed to be full of deadends, designed to distract from the main quest - devious very devious.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Monsters... from the Id!

    >"Truth be told, the net's second coming gives a voice to everyone and their brother and all their alter egos"

    Doc Ostrow: Morbius was too close to the problem. The Krell had completed their project. Big machine. No instrumentalities. True creation.

    Commander John J. Adams: Come on, Doc, let's have it.

    Doc Ostrow: But the Krell forgot one thing.

    Commander John J. Adams: Yes, what?

    Doc Ostrow: Monsters, John. Monsters from the Id.

    Commander John J. Adams: The Id? What's that? Talk, Doc!

    [Doc slumps and dies]

    [ . . . ]

    Commander John J. Adams: [to himself] Monsters from the Id...

    Dr. Edward Morbius: Huh?

    Commander John J. Adams: Monsters from the subconscious. Of course. That's what Doc meant. Morbius. The big machine, 8,000 miles of klystron relays, enough power for a whole population of creative geniuses, operated by remote control. Morbius, operated by the electromagnetic impulses of individual Krell brains.

    Dr. Edward Morbius: To what purpose?

    Commander John J. Adams: In return, that ultimate machine would instantaneously project solid matter to any point on the planet, In any shape or color they might imagine. For *any* purpose, Morbius! Creation by mere thought.

    Dr. Edward Morbius: Why haven't I seen this all along?

    Commander John J. Adams: But like you, the Krell forgot one deadly danger - their own subconscious hate and lust for destruction.

    Dr. Edward Morbius: The beast. The mindless primitive! Even the Krell must have evolved from that beginning.

    Commander John J. Adams: And so those mindless beasts of the subconscious had access to a machine that could never be shut down. The secret devil of every soul on the planet all set free at once to loot and maim. And take revenge, Morbius, and kill!

    Dr. Edward Morbius: My poor Krell. After a million years of shining sanity, they could hardly have understood what power was destroying them.


    ... Badgers!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wikipedia verifiable sources ..

    > Don't bother trying to edit the encyclopaedia anyone can edit unless you've drunk the KoolAid

    Wikipedia verifiable sources does seem to mean someone else wrote it. And a lot of it does seem to be in direct contradiction of the historical facts. At least the bits that I know anything about. The rest being reconstituted advertising bumf for the major players, that can afford to hire full time 'correctors'.

  20. Tim
    Thumb Down

    The Reg = LJDrama?

    What's this? The Reg is trying to be that old site now ey?

    This is sad and a shame it's happened to the victims, but this sort of crap happens on the 'net 50 times a day. This wasn't even a story as such, just some blabber about some guy who posted some photos and got caught.

    Wow Reg, what an "Exclusive!" It appears the only reason this was even a "story" is because the guy behind its a Civil Servant? Well, was one.

    I read half way before it dawned on me this was a non-story, I read to end just in case it got interesting. Nope.

    Don't turn into The Sun Reg!

  21. Kiminao

    @ Frank Gerlach

    In the Soviet Union, Wikipedia writes _you_.

    Had to be said.

    Mine's the one with the Wiki version of the _Life of Stalin_ (three pages long, has him being born in Brighton, schooled at Cambridge) in the pocket...

  22. Anonymous Coward

    So much for confidentiality

    You mean 'alternative universe'.

  23. tardigrade

    @ Adrian

    Why spend so long trying to convince yourself that this is minor libel? I have an idea. Post a picture of yourself to me and I will create an on-line alter-ego called Racey Lacie for you. Lacie will be a crossdressing fetishistic sissy in to extreme feminization, corporal mortification, a bit of necrophilia, bestiality and cottaging.

    When I've spent 2 years on-line ensuring that the photo and alter-ego are firmly associated and established as verified beyond questioning I will let your work colleagues know and then your wife.

    You can then argue that its all minor libel whilst you phone your divorce lawyer.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Michael Baxter

    Considering Wikipedias' determination to keep negative press from itself.. why am I not surprised that the search term 'Michael Baxter' reveals nothing of relevance, even when the person in question is currently in the news AND of relevant interest?

  25. beast666
    Paris Hilton


    I am an AI, but your post was most acceptable. This interweb thing is indeed a curious artifact, I am glad you are now a level 10e8 sorcerer, if not then talk to the robots in Darkwood Manor...

    That is all

  26. Alex
    Black Helicopters

    Surely some mistake

    that Google served up some Adwords relating to "Sex Offender Registry" and "Offender Record Search" just above the link to the article?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Something Must be Done.

    I've just noticed a person on the Register Comments board posting using a picture of Paris Hilton. I demand than Something Be Done.

  28. pAnoNymous
    Jobs Halo

    civil cervants just as bad as the rest of us

    as a civil servant I have to wonder how much access he had to personal details/etc.....

    but hay if you have nothing to hide.....

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I feel sorry for Frank Gerlach

    If the only authority Frank Gerlach can recognise is totalitarianism, that tells us a lot about the infantile and paranoid mentality of Wikipedia enthusiasts.

    Frankie, dear boy - being ruled by a cabal of know-nothing idiots simply gets us to totalitarianism by another route: one with the roadsign marked "Consensus", and a "Discuss This Article" Remember: BRAWNDO is what plants CRAVE!

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @ Adrian

    Mmmmmmm. This Kool-Aid is delicious!!

    You think it's strange that Michael Baxter is named but that the innocent people whose pictures he used (and associated with dodgy S&M practices) aren't named? Wow! Just Wow!

  31. tony trolle


    a nice pirate word. arrr

  32. James

    @snert lee

    I agree totally !

  33. Phil Standen
    IT Angle


    Have you tried putting the bucket with a hole in it over his head and putting lighting a candle near it?

  34. Alan Fisher
    Dead Vulture

    Sad nerds

    I actually kind of feel sorry for someone who seemingly is spending every waking hour keeping this fiction going.....seems like their real life must be pretty (excuse the pun) pants if they need to go to such lengths to create a fictional one like this....

    I have found such sites and others full of those who seem to forget that such places are there for people's opinions and no more though.....

  35. VulcanV5

    Cade Metz

    No-one on this planet is called Cade Metz, not even in San Francisco.

    El Reg look more carefully at just who is pretending to contribute to its store of knowledge.

  36. steogede

    Better Screening

    Perhaps, before you are allowed to post any photos of your self, you should be required to submit a photographic equivalent of a Captcha?

    Kind of like the YMCA dance, or maybe demand that you submit a photo wearing a purple hat, green t-shirt, yellow rose and sticking your tongue out.

    On a more serious note Selwood's Girlfriend could easily have proved her identity to Wikipedia's authorities by sending them a photo of herself holding today's newspaper and a sign saying 'I am not Taxwoman' or some such. The real flaw is Wikipedia not taking this seriously enough to investigate properly. From the article:

    >> the response was 'How do I know you're telling the truth? How do we know you're not the

    >> one who's lying?'

    The response should have been, "This is a serious allegation which we are taking very seriously. Obviously we need to confirm you are telling the truth, here is how you can prove your identity to us...."


    >> the absolute worst thing that they did was possible libel.

    No Adrian, it would be libel if I said "Adrian is into BDSM". If I go online and say, "Hi I'm Adrian, this is a photo of me and I'm into BDSM", that is more akin to identity theft.

    Before you say it, we all know that you shouldn't believe what you read, especially on Wikipedia, but Joe Public doesn't know that and neither does the next person offering you a job (necessarily).

  37. h4rm0ny
    Paris Hilton


    I think I'm missing something. Why was he suspended from his job? Was he sockpuppeting on behalf of government actions or doing this using work resources? Surely this is a legal matter between him and the offended parties if they wish to take it so far. Or can someone just call my employers now and ask to have me removed from my work.

    Paris, because I'm really her.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hung from hooks

    I'm curious as to why he was suspended from his job (assuming that he has). Surely all this jiggery-pokery was part of his private life? He can hardly be said to have brought the Civil Service into disrepute; firstly because tranvestism and obsessive sophistry are rife in the Civil Service, and secondly because nothing can bring the Civil Service into more disrepute than it already has, or is in, I'm not sure how to end this sentence. It isn't as if he used his illusory Wiki-powers to influence government policy; and it doesn't seem as if he used his Civil Service powers to influence Wikipedia. I mean, transvestisismismism isn't illegal.

    I love to say the word "transvestisism". I love to say "transvestisismismism". No-one will stop me.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    For the same reason I'm posting anon, generally speaking Civil Servants have to be careful what they do on the net. Working for local gov it can be interpreted by the general public that your never off duty and everything you do will be scrutinised by the general public.

    Everyone hates us, it's basically giving the public more ammo and bringing your dept/authority into disrepute.

  40. RaelianWingnut

    @Mark - unreformed

    Actually, I wondered whether this guy was the same closet high-level Health Ministry civ that I met, years and years and years ago. He can't be: he's a) too young and b) this other guy was on the *absolutely flaming* end of the closeted transvestite rainbow. He wore a cream suit, for example.

    Please, no off-colour jokes, thenk ew.

  41. Adrian

    @everyone @me

    Gosh I got so many responses, so I will try to answer them all in one go:

    @ "You don't know"

    Well actually I do. I am not going to go into details (because otherwise my comment won't get published for legal reasons) but I very, very much know about some of the horrible things that this kind of thing can lead to. And I will reiterate that this is an incredibly minor version in comparison to what can happen.

    @ "It is really awful"

    I'd like everyone to imagine, in a generic sense, that you have "met" someone on the internet and seen their photograph. Now imagine that you ran into someone in real life who looked vaguely like that person. Would you automatically assume that it was the same person? No you wouldn't. I don't think that anyone who has ever used the internet would assume that they were definitely the same person. First off, people can look like each other, and secondly people put up photos that are actually other people all of the time. You don't know who is who half the time.

    @ etc

    There is more that I could add, but The Register chose not to publish my last comment, so I will take that advice and not go into too many specifics that prove my various points. Hopefully though people can take the advice to think a bit more globally about this kind of issue.

    The issue isn't so much that they did something bad, but rather the lengths that they went to and what they could have done having gone to those lengths. That is, indeed, a rather scary reality. They used different ISPs for each account with no overlaps and kept track of each identity. That is pretty scary stuff. They didn't do anything serious this time (although maybe they secretly did?) but going to that kind of effort they were capable of doing much worse.

  42. Robert Harrison

    OMG!!!1one The real reason for the national identity database

    So that civil servants have got an effectively infinite source of 'identities' to pretend to be whilst on t'internet.

    I predict there will soon be a website called which at the click of a button ('I feel lucky' anyone?) will serve you a new identity chosen at random from 1 of 60 million possibilities.

    Just remember I claim IP on the above and 50% of all resulting revenues.

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