In Germany the media report about a wave of politicians losing their PhD degrees and public offices. Anonymous plagiarism fighters use wikis to unravel academic fraud.
It started in February with Guttenplag Wiki, founded by User:PlagDoc to examine the plagiarism a law professor had seen in the PhD thesis of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. On March 1st, Guttenberg resigned as German minister of defense.
User:Goalgetter then wanted to examine some other PhD thesises, but User:PlagDoc refused. So User:Goalgetter founded a new wiki, also at wikia.com, called VroniPlag. The object of interest was the thesis of Veronica Saß, the daughter of the former Bavarian prime minister Stoiber. The university of Konstanz now seized her degree. By the way, the hint to have a look at Saß’ thesis came from a Konstanz IP.
The next succes of VroniPlag was to bring down the political career of Silvana Koch-Mehrin, vice president of the European Parliament (of the liberal parliamentary group). She decided to remain a member of parliament, but withdrew as vice president and as member of the highest organ of her national party, the liberal FDP.
Another German liberal European MP on the list of VroniPlag is Jorgo Chatzimarkakis. Ironically, Chatzimarkakis on his own web site says that he wants to fight for intellectual property and against the stealing of knowledge. Matthias Pröfrock, a state representative for the Christian Democrats in Baden-Württemberg, chose not to use his degree until further examination of his former university of Tübingen.
User:Goalgetter described himself in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine as an independent entrepreneur with a lot of conservative clients who might disapprove his anti-plagiarism actions. Also plagiarism hunters linked to universities are afraid that they might suffer negative consequences should their activism become public. User:Goalgetter said that until February he did not have anything against Guttenberg or his Christian Social politics, he thought he was fresh and accurate and was deceived like most others. Then minister Guttenberg was outed as a fraud but admitted nothing. “We are the physicians of society. We see the flaws in the sick system, we must unravel them to make society become a better one.”
But who will go to the prestigious Grimme Awards for VroniPlag and possibly accept an award? The VroniPlaggers are not unanimous, some suggested that Wikia-collaborator (and Wikipedian) Tim Barthel should attend. User:Goalsetter himself would like the group to go with baseball caps and sunglasses.
Probably you have never heard about Axel E. Fischer, as most Germans didn’t until November. He postulated a ‘Vermummungsverbot’ (ban on wearing face coverings, usually at political demonstrations) on the internet. Every surfer should be obliged to write in chatrooms and elsewhere under his full real name, he said.
According to Mr. Fischer’s believes, a democratic society needs people to be publicly responsible for their actions. On the other hand he wants a ‘digital eraser’ to make it possible to delete one’s comments afterwards.
What is less funny: Mr. Fischer, Christian Democratic Union, is the chairman of the Bundestag (parliament’s) committee on ‘Internet and Digital Society’. In March, when he was interviewed by Breitband-dradio, he had severe problems to answer the question how he obtains information on internet politics. Via the internet, he said. The interviewer kept asking, and Mr. Fischer answered that there is Wikipedia, and search machines, and that there are so many sources he couldn’t name a single one. He obviously also did not know what ‘open data’ or ‘net neutrality’ means. It sounds like Sarah Palin and foreign politics (that Bush doctrine…).
People commented on his ideas with jokes similar to the ‘Chuck Norris’-sentences. Here a small sample from Norbert Hense’s collection and other sources (my translation):
Axel E. Fischer demands severe weather warnings for cloud computing.
Axel E. Fischer demands stopping restrictions on the data highway.
Axel E. Fischer demands ritalin against ADSL.
Axel E. Fischer demands Chambers of Crafts for WoW guilds.
Axel E. Fischer demands phishing licences.
Axel E. Fischer demands escape routes in chat rooms.
Axel E. Fischer demands gasoline tax on shell access.
Axel E. Fischer demands better fire control in VPN tunnels.
Axel E. Fischer demands to lock OpenOffice in the evening.
Axel E. Fischer demands condoms for bluetooth-pairing.
Axel E. Fischer demands sunglasses against Flash.
Axel E. Fischer demands electric fences against server migration.
Axel E. Fischer demands regulated shopping hours for online shops.
Axel E. Fischer demands counter-terrorism units against Google bombs.
Axel E. Fischer demands tilt protection at browser windows.
Axel E. Fischer demands biometric avatars.
Axel E. Fischer demands the introduction of a penalty fare at the Universal Serial Bus.
Axel E. Fischer demands pledge of secrecy for .doc-files.
Axel E. Fischer demands ISBN for Facebook.
Axel E. Fischer demands new toilet paper for W3C.
Axel E. Fischer demands a low fat policy for cookies.
Axel E. Fischer demands daycare facilities for script kiddies.
Axel E. Fischer demands preventive detention for killer-applications.
Axel E. Fischer demands fishing quota’s for social nets.
Axel E. Fischer demands machine-readable captchas.
Axel E. Fischer demands real meat in spam.
Axel E. Fischer demands reservations for digital natives.
Axel E. Fischer demands vaccine protection for computer mice.
Axel E. Fischer demands a census in Second Life.
Axel E. Fischer demands followers being banned by anti-stalking legislature.
Axel E. Fischer demands requirements to wear helmets at data mining.
Axel E. Fischer demands drug-sniffing dogs for data packets.
Axel E. Fischer demands anti-rabies inoculation for Firefox.