The character assassination of Alex Shih

Alex Shih is a multilingual Chinese, Japanese, and English speaking Taiwanese-Canadian. He grew up in Canada and attended the Simon Fraser University, then lived for a time in Japan, but has since returned to Canada and now lives in British Columbia.

He should not confused with the National Vice President for the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association, the Facebook employee, or the CFO of Axiom CryptoKitties of the same name.

He passed an RfA in May 2007, as the user “AQu01rius” and became an administrator of the English Wikipedia, this was not very long after he first joined Wikipedia in April 2006. He was once blocked for two minutes for being “too silly”.

He was elected to the English Wikipedia Arbitration Committee in 2017 as the candidate with the lowest support ratio, and resigned in September 2018 due to what was thought to be personal reasons, but was actually due to a massive breach of the privacy policy and a Wikimedia Ombudsman Commission case where he is under investigation for gross misconduct with the checkuser tools he was given as an arbitrator.

Arbcom statement

The Arbitration Committee feel it is appropriate to elaborate on the reasons for Alex Shih‘s departure. Whilst Alex Shih was a member of the Committee, he held the Checkuser right. Both his use of the tool and his disclosure on-wiki of non-public information breached the Wikipedia:Checkuser policy multiple times. In addition, arbitrators felt that he had committed other breaches of confidentiality in his use of private information received whilst on the Arbitration Committee. In August 2018, the Committee confronted Alex Shih with these concerns. Shortly afterwards, Alex resigned from the Committee and gave up the Checkuser and Oversight user rights. The Arbitration Committee considers this resignation to have been under controversial circumstances. The matter was also referred to the meta:Ombudsman Commission by a group of functionaries including several arbitrators when the extent of the actions came to light.

Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee/Noticeboard

Steward election

Of course this happened in August 2018, and nobody noticed, so why has in come up now? Well, it is due to the 2019 Stewards Elections where he had put himself forward as a candidate.

In a genius move of torpedoing the nomination two days before the voting started, BU Rob13 posted a statement to the effect that Alex had misused his checkuser tools on an RfA he was heavily involved in.

From this statement things developed quickly, Arbcom made their statement, and an extensive discussion developed on WT:AC/N. There was some concern over why the Ombudsman Commission hadn’t made any comment on the subject, and speculation over whether the Ombudsman Commission even exists, with The Rambling Man calling it non-existent and mythical.

Ombudsman Commission

It appears that five months on, Alex’s case is still open and under investigation, despite the fact that part of the Ombudsman Commission was just replaced, as part of the Wikimedia Foundations annual selection of ombudspeople. No effort was made to resolve it before the change of staff.

The Ombudsman Commission is selected from the community by the Wikimedia Foundation itself, and operates behind closed doors on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation legal department, dealing with abuse of advanced privacy sensitive user-rights, the use of which is governed with legal agreements and the privacy policy.

When faced with the claim the Ombudsman Commission didn’t exist, Drmies stepped forward to defend it, recounting how he had got in trouble with the committee before.

One thing is clear, Ombudsman Commission cases are rare and serious, and the details are rarely even mentioned, and certainly not published for public consumption.

The tortured tale of J. B. Hunley’s RfA

J. B. Hunley was nominated for adminship on the English Wikipedia in August 2018 by Ritchie333 and Alex Shih. The RfA was eventually closed as no consensus to promote, the RfA was an almost unparalleled perfect storm, and Hunley has barely made any edits since it was closed.

Hunley got into a heated argument with contributor collect on the off-wiki forum Wikipediocracy, they had fought previous in an Arbcom case over biographies, but this argument revolved around accusation of antisemitism.

The RfA eventually ended as extremely close, with only a few votes either way able to tip the balance.

One of those opposing the RfA was TheGracefulSlick, who was blocked for sockpuppetry, because Alex had run a checkuser on them, even though he was co-nominator of the RfA.

Possibly due to the inappropriate checking, TheGracefulSlick was unblocked after only three months, but went on to be community banned.

The verdict?

I can’t actually judge whether or not Alex’s actions were an egregious violation … it appears that a sockpupppet was exposed because of voting in an RfA because Alex checkusered the sockpuppet account. I do, however, find the ArbCom’s actions in covering up the real reasons he resigned to be … concerning. If Alex’s actions were so bad that he had to be forced to resign, why was a totally different reason given to the editing community? To me, this smacks of thinking the normal editors are not worthy of being told the real reasons for something … or it smacks of an elite trying to cover up mistakes made by other members of the elite. Either way, it smells. 

Ealdgyth – Talk 13:03, 7 February 2019 (UTC)

No of course it’s not that simple, the disastrous issue with the RfA wasn’t the only issue, as Alex committed multiple other violations of the CU policy, including on-wiki disclosure of non-public information, and other breaches of confidentiality in his use of private information received whilst on the Arbitration Committee. A substantial amount of suppression (oversighting) was needed to tidy up after him.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.