Here’s your correction, Wikipedia founder

By Chelsea Schilling

Former porn star Sylvia Saint wears T-shirt (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

(WARNING: This story contains information of a graphic nature that some readers may find offensive.)

The founder of Wikipedia, the online “encyclopedia” that has damaged reputations with reckless, irresponsible and defamatory charges, has demanded of WND a correction to a column which characterized him as making a “fortune” in pornography before starting the company.

In her Dec. 14 column at WND, Judith Reisman came to the defense of heavy-metal drummer Bradlee Dean, who Reisman argues, has been “slammed” by Wikipedia.

Reisman, Ph.D., an author and academic known for debunking myths about pornography and the fraudulent sex research of Alfred Kinsey, wrote:

Wikipedia’s trashing of iconoclastic, ordained preacher Bradlee Dean proves that the heavy-metal drummer and his band have been doing a great job of delivering truth to American youth. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s creator, made his original fortune as a pornography trafficker. Wales’ cult of far-leftist volunteer editor zealots labor minute-by-minute to mislead readers who think Wikipedia’s half-truths – and worse – are a legitimate “encyclopedia.”

Shortly after publication, Reisman’s statement that “Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s creator, made his original fortune as a pornography trafficker” caught the attention of none other than the Wikipedia founder himself.

In an email to WND, Wales wrote:

This is absolutely and categoricallly [sic] false. I have never made any “fortune”, as a pornography trafficker or otherwise, and I have never been a “pornography trafficker” at all.

Additionally, as I have never even heard of Bradlee Dean, your disgusting attempt to smear me is absolutely and completely irrelevant to the argument you sought to make in the first place.

I demand an immediate edit to that story to remove the lie about me.

WND Editor Joseph Farah explained to Wales that Wikipedia’s own page about Bomis – a now-defunct company founded by Wales and his partner in 1996 – states that “Bomis ran a website called Bomis Premium at until 2005, offering customers access to premium, X-rated pornographic content.”

Wikipedia also notes that launch of the popular website was supported by Bomis: “[Bomis’] primary business was the sale of advertising on the search portal, and to provide support for the free encyclopedia projects Nupedia and Wikipedia.” search website. (Screenshot from Jan. 24, 2004)

WND’s search of a Web page archives revealed Bomis Premium offered member subscription access to galleries of nude models for years.

“This is your chance to see top-notch models bare it all for the incredible price of only $2.95! ” the website declared. “Yes, Bomis Premium offers a 3 day trial for only $2.95.”

The following are screenshots of the Bomis Premium main page, with scantily clad and naked body parts redacted by WND:

Bomis Premium features "super-hot lesbian galleries" and "a sexy girl who strips down to her sneakers" in 2001
Bomis Premium offers "chance to see top-notch models bare it all."
Bomis Premium offers members access to nude galleries

However, Wales told WND the Wikipedia page “doesn’t say anything remotely like me making a ‘fortune’ from ‘pornography.'” He asked, “What do you intend to do about this libel?”

Farah responded, “Let me get this straight: You admit making money from pornography, but you feel defamed because you didn’t make enough for it to be considered a ‘fortune’?”

Wales also argued that the factual accuracy of Wikipedia’s own “Bomis” entry is irrelevant: “We are not discussing Wikipedia. If there are errors in Wikipedia, this does not relieve you of the moral and legal responsibility not to defame me, sir.  You know that.”

Farah asked, “Now Wikipedia is lying?”

“We are not talking about Wikipedia,” Wales retorted. “This is a defamatory falsehood. I have never made any ‘fortune’ as a ‘porngraphy [sic] trafficker.’ Fix it.”

The following is a photo of Wales aboard a yacht posing alongside two Bomis models who are wearing only panties and T-shirts.

Wales poses with Bomis' models who are wearing panties aboard a yacht (Photo published by Colorado Springs Independent)

The photo of Sylvia Saint at the beginning of this story bears the Wikipedia description: “Sylvia Saint, porn actress, wearing a tee-shirt (a porn site previously run by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.)” IMDB lists 219 porn titles under the “actress” profile of Sylvia Saint.

Attempting to get to the bottom of the issue, Farah asked Wales how much money he generated from Bomis.

“For a few years, I took a modest salary as programmer and CEO (averaging less than $60k per year for the life of the company),” Wales explained. “The company declined until we closed it; there was no sale and no big earnings of any kind.

“The revenue of the company was primarily advertising.  The best period of time for the company came when we were part of the NBCi network (a search engine and web portal run by NBC television), but that quickly went away when NBCi collapsed as a part of the general dot-com collapse.”

Farah asked: “Are you suggesting that Bomis was not trafficking pornography? Or that you were not involved in Bomis?”

“By any sane measure of our revenue and profits, no, we were not ‘trafficking pornography,'” Wales replied. “Like many dot-com startups of the era, we struggled with what kind of advertisers to accept and we did have ‘adult’ advertisers – as did all the other major portals at the time. 99% of our revenue was not from that, so it’s totally ludicrous to claim we were ‘trafficking pornography.'”

Wales added, “You might as well claim that the owner of a local convenience store chain (who probably made more money than I did during that era) made a fortunate a [sic] pornography trafficker if they sold Playboy behind the counter. It’s nonsense and you know it.”

The website Wired reported in 2005 that Wales has “repeatedly revised the [Wikipedia] description of a search site he called Bomis, which included a section with adult photos called ‘Bomis Babes.'” Wikipedia had described Bomis Babes as “soft-core pornography,” but Wales changed it to “adult content section” and twice removed references to pornography.

“If R-rated movies are soft porn, it was porn,” he told the magazine. “In other words, no, it was not. That description is inaccurate.”

After thoroughly researching the issue, WND has edited Reisman’s column to read: “Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s creator, originally made his living off a website that earned revenue from pornography traffickers.”

As WND has reported, Wikipedia’s own pages have contained a slew of potentially libelous and factually inaccurate statements throughout the years – including outrageous falsehoods about Farah, WND and other prominent individuals.

WND’s Farah has been characterized by Wikipedia as a “Zionist twit and Jew-loving pig,” a “known [expletive] sucker,” “closet homosexual,” “conspiracy theorist,” “white supremacist,” a “proud member of the Ku Klux Klan,” a “religious nutcase” and “a pioneer in the political uses of psychedelics.” It also falsely accused Farah of having a romantic affair with a famous conservative female commentator.

WND’s attempts to get Wikipedia to correct the entries proved futile. The website refused to make corrections after weeks of demands.

At the conclusion of the exchange between Farah and Wales, Farah told the Wikipedia founder: “You might recall that Wikipedia once claimed I had an affair … (Untrue) It claimed I was a homosexual. (Untrue) Both of these false accusations actually resulted in material and professional harm to me. So I am sure you will extend some patience while we address this issue.”

Wales replied, “I understand. We always stand ready to make corrections and ban people who misbehave.”

However, in 2009, Wikipedia pronounced Rush Limbaugh dead at least two times in one day – and the free “encyclopedia” relied on information from a spoof blog that later declared the talk radio icon had become a “vampire” who craves “virgin’s blood.” Wikipedia announced, “It has been reported that Limbaugh has died in a Hawaii hospital.”

WND also reported in December 2008 when the Wikipedia made the following claims:

  • Barack Obama “is a member of the Nudist Party.”
  • Sen. Ted Stevens participated in “kinky sex adventures.”
  • Sen. John McCain “looks like a pig.”
  • Hillary Clinton’s conception was “a complete accident,” and when she was born, “she had clubbed feet and her arms bent the wrong way.”

Wired Magazine reported that Wales had edited his own Wikipedia page at least 18 times by 2005, even though the “encyclopedia” frowns on attempts by people to correct their own bios.

“People shouldn’t do it, including me,” Wales told the magazine. “I wish I hadn’t done it. It’s in poor taste. … People have a lot of information about themselves but staying objective is difficult. That’s the trade-off in editing entries about yourself. … If you see a blatant error or misconception about yourself, you really want to set it straight.”

In 2008, WND reported that Wikipedia included detailed photos of nude homosexual men engaging in sex acts and a variety of other sexually explicit images and content.

Mark Pelligrini, then-regional representative for Wikipedia, told WND, “Wikipedia’s goal is to provide an encyclopedia that contains the sum of all human knowledge. To that end, Wikipedia does not censor objectionable material.

“[I]f someone goes to the articles on ‘sex,’ ‘penis’ or any graphic topic, we do provide frank descriptions and images,” Pelligrini said. “For images, we aim for clinical pictures of the sort you would find in an anatomy or medical textbook.”

However, in addition to textbook anatomy images, the following were found on Wikipedia:

  • Recordings of women experiencing orgasms
  • Videos of nude men participating in “ejaculation educational demonstrations”
  • Detailed photographs of men and women masturbating
  • Images of mammary intercourse
  • Close-up images of topless women and male and female sexual anatomy
  • Large-scale photos of men performing oral sex on one another (and performing oral sex on themselves)
  • An illustrated list of sex positions
  • Threesomes
  • Photos of nude strippers
  • An image called “Virgin Killer” depicting a naked prepubescent girl from the 1976 cover of a Scorpions album (banned in the U.S.)

In 2010, Larry Sanger, who formerly worked for Wales and describes himself as the “co-founder” of Wikipedia, accused the site of knowingly distributing child pornography (a claim the Wikimedia Foundation disputed).

A 2010 Fox News investigation reportedly revealed the site “has become home base for a loose worldwide network of pedophiles who are campaigning to spin the popular online encyclopedia in their favor and are trying to lure more people into their world.”

The self-described “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” claims federal law protects it from liability of its users’ edits because it operates an “interactive computer service.”

Wikipedia tells the public, “Don’t be afraid to edit – anyone can edit almost any page, and we encourage you to be bold! Find something that can be improved, whether content, grammar or formatting, and make it better.”

(Dec. 23 update: After publication of this report, Larry Sanger contacted WND to clarify his role in co-founding Wikipedia:

“Very amusing article about Jimmy Wales! Knowing him as I do, none of it came as any surprise at all. He doesn’t seem to have changed a bit.

“But I have to pick a nit. You wrote, ‘In 2010, Larry Sanger, who formerly worked for Wales and describes himself as the ‘co-founder’ of Wikipedia.’ This makes it sound as if it were only my claim. In fact, it was Jimmy Wales’ claim in the first three press releases that he circulated for Wikipedia, in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

“Unfortunately, you missed the opportunity to skewer Wales on this point, because it was only in 2005 that he began to arrogate the title “sole founder of Wikipedia” to himself. He is now widely ignored on the point, even by Wikipedia itself, which has routinely called me a co-founder for most of the last five years or so.)

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