The board of Wikimedia UK has voiced support for its chairman despite him being banned from editing the English language version of the site for at least 6-months after adding inappropriate material, including pornographic links, and using his position to discredit others.
Ashley Van Haeften, whose username is 'Fae' was elected by Wikimedia UK, the Wikimedia chapter covering the UK, as a trustee in April 2011 and unanimously elected by the board as chairman in May this year. He was sanctioned by the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom) of the English Wikipedia on 8 July after being accused of deceiving the community, posting inappropriate material and launching personal attacks to discredit other users. Other accusations, such as the infringement of copyright, were opposed by the Committee, which can impose binding restrictions on users.
“For numerous violations of Wikipedia's norms and policies, Fæ is indefinitely banned from the English Language Wikipedia. He may request reconsideration of the ban six months after the enactment of this remedy, and every six months thereafter,” the Committee said, also imposing a single-account limit and a “personal attack parole” which could see him removed from the site entirely if he is found to breach its community rules.
Van Haeften has received a long line of complaints relating to his behaviour as an editor on Wikipedia. The arbitration case was filed against him on 29 May by Matthew Bisanz from Washington DC.
“Fæ has rendered himself unquestionable and unaccountable regarding his conduct because he responds in an extremely rude manner that personally attacks those who question him,” he said, advising he brought the case to arbitration “as the community has been unable to resolve issues raised regarding Fæ's conduct and I believe his poor conduct and tendency towards disruption renders him unfit to hold adminstrative access”.
Subject to 'good faith concerns' by other users Van Haeften was found unanimously by the Committee of 12 arbitrators to have used ad hominem attacks to discredit those raising concerns as perpetrators of a personal attack on him - typically relating to his sexuality.
Concerns raised about Van Haeften include adding poor quality material to biographies of living people – considered to be one of the most serious violations. On one occasion he contested the removal of a link to an advert for a pornographic video, re-adding the content and extending the description.
In May founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales himself requested that Van Haeften not comment on his talk page: “Fae in particular is hereby formally invited to permanently stay off my talk page. Your false insinuations about other users, and badgering responses, are exactly what stand in the way of thoughtful progress on this and related issues,” he said.
Despite ArbComm's decision the board of Wikimedia, the charity arm of Wikipedia, has sounded its support, and defended its decision to elect him as chairman in the recent elections: “The Board is united in the view that this decision does not affect his role as a Trustee of the charity. His work at Wikimedia UK has always been enthusiastic and diligent. In particular, his knowledge of charity governance, and his ability to bring about consensus at WMUK's board meetings, have been particularly valuable.
“The Board points out that the editing issues were fully public before, and during, the recent elections to the board, and were openly and publicly discussed. Our membership placed their trust in him by electing him as a Trustee. He was then elected unanimously as Chair of the Board. He continues to have the full support of the Board.”
Wikimedia UK registered with the Charity Commission in November 2011.