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Conflict and Duplicity

Conflict of Interest
A source of the distortion in the Wikipedia articles about Prem Rawat has been exposed as being Rawat’s personal webmaster and long time devotee Jossi Fresco[1].  An article in the Online journal, The Register  titled Wikipedia ruled by 'Lord of the Universe'   authored by Cade Metz  reveals that Fresco has made thousands of alterations to the article about Prem Rawat even though Fresco is employed by an organisation that promotes Rawat:

And more than two years after joining, he posted a "disclosure" deep inside his user page that says he works for an organization "related" to Prem Rawat.[2]

According to Wikipedia's "user contribution" tool, Fresco's first 2400 edits - spread over more than a year from April 2004 to August 2005 - were almost entirely devoted to Prem Rawat- or cult-related articles.[3]

Not only has Fresco expended hours of effort to shape the Rawat article, he has acquired influence within the Wikipedia hierarchy:

"Jossi [Fresco]ranks among the top three editors by contributions to three out of the four key content policies," says a senior admin, referencing stats available from a Wikipedia contribution analysis tool. "What makes this remarkable is that two of those policies have been in existence since Wikipedia was founded, long before he got involved, so he's made enough recent edits to catch up." Fresco's influence is particularly conspicuous when it comes to the policies concerning conflict of interest and biographies of living persons. ………….., Fresco uses this policy to control the content on Prem Rawat-related Wikipedia articles - he says as much in his Wikipedia disclosure - and though other well-known mainstream sources refer to Rawat's religious movement as a cult, such information is largely absent from Wikipedia.[4]

Most worryingly for those Wikipedia insiders who fear that sectional interests are surreptitiously gaining control of the Encyclopaedia,  The Register reveals that Fresco has had a major impact on the very policy that should dictate his own conduct – the Conflict of Interest policy:

In similar fashion, Fresco has heavily influenced Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy. He's made more edits to the policy than all but two other Wikipedians.

Shortly after the policy was first drafted in October 2006, it included a section that forbade guru followers from editing articles about their gurus. ………….. But Fresco removed this language, defending the change on the policy's discussion page. The original author of the policy, Wikipedia Arbitration Committee member Charles Matthews, in turn argued that Fresco shouldn't be anywhere near the conflict of interest policy.[5]

Despite Fresco’s obvious conflicts he is still to be seen trying to influence the attempts to make the Rawat articles more balanced.[6] The ultimate authority for Wikipedia, Jim Wales appears to be in total denial of what is wrong with the system over which he presides and simply denigrates The Register.[7]  Meanwhile critical website Wikipedia Review  provides a more considered response to The Register’s revelations.[8]

 Fresco’s reply

 Fresco has published a self serving, and according to one ‘respondent’, dishonest response to The Register article.[9]:

I am not interested in disclosing any further personal information as disaffected former students, such as the people he used as a source, have in the past manipulated the media and harassed me and other students. They have also colluded to disrupt Wikipedia, in a forum managed by one of the people who the journalist used as a source. They even attempted to subpoena me to disclose the identities of fellow Wikipedians during a frivolous legal complaint with a third party a few years back, and during that time I received hate mail and threats to myself and my family from anonymous people. I have no inclination to bring off-wiki disputes to the project, so this is all I will say publicly about these people.

 Fresco’s claims about the subpoena, have been rejected outright by the principal in the case concerned.[10]

Jossie Fresco has referred to my libel lawsuit in his wikipedia entry. His statement that I tried to find out the identities of wikipedians is completely false. My lawsuit was filed in February, 2004. The libel complaint is based on numerous statements made on the internet which falsely claimed I was involved in illegal activity. The libel complaint details many of the statements, which occurred between 2001 and 2003. Wikipedia is never mentioned.

A superior court judge authorized a subpoena to Jossi so he could be deposed about his knowledge, as Rawat's webmaster, of the identities of the people making these libelous claims - again, none of which involved wikipedia.

A law firm which represented Jossi made a motion to have my lawsuit dismissed as a violation of free speech rights. That motion was denied. There have been repeated statements made on the internet that my lawsuit was a SLAPP suit - in other words, that it violated free speech. There was a judicial determination that found otherwise. By denying the motion to dismiss the suit, the court impliedly found the libel complaint was not frivolous.

It appears that Jossi's first involvement in wikipedia came in April, 2004. That was well after the suit was filed. In any event, the libelous statements alleged in the suit had NOTHING TO DO WITH WIKIPEDIA.

The court proceedings and filings are public record for anyone who cares to investigate.

Publisher Damned – The duplicity of disguising  an ‘authorised biography’.

A primary source quoted in the Wikipedia articles about Prem Rawat is a biography called Peace is Possible[11], the presentation by Jossi Fresco and other pro Rawat editors is that this book is independently published and authored. This presentation is wholly false, the book is in effect an ‘authorised’ biography procured by Rawat’s followers.

The publisher of Peace is Possible is given as Mighty River Press which lists its address as  P.O. Box 605  Dresher, PA 19025 US, its CEO’s name is given as J. Levin.  

No business with the name Mighty River Press is on record with the Pennsylvania State Corporations Register,[12] however P.O. Box 605  Dresher, PA 19025 is given as the address of James Levin, President of a business called Neighborhood Restorations, vice President is given as Scott Mayo.  The name Neighborhood Restorations appears as part of the title of a range of businesses of which the officers are James Levin and Scott Mazo.[13]

An SEC filing says of Levin and Mazo:

The General Partner of the Operating Partnership is WPB  L.P., a Pennsylvania limited partnership (the "General Partner") whose general partner is WPB II, Inc., a Pennsylvania  corporation ("WPB II") which also serves as the Developer of the  Apartment Complex.  WPB II is equally-owned by James Levin and                 

Scott Mazo.  Mr. Levin, a Certified Public Accountant, has been  involved with the development and syndication of tax credit  projects since 1990.  Mr. Mazo has been involved in the  development of the tax credit projects since 1990 and commercial  rental properties since the mid 1980's.  Since forming a partnership in 1992, Mr. Levin and Mr. Mazo have developed over 350 units of affordable housing. 

Mr. Levin and Mr. Mazo are also the sole owners of Prime Property  Management, Inc., a property management company which is serving  as the Management Agent for the Apartment Complex. [14]

The name Scott Mazo appears on a FEC filing which lists Mazo as being Employed by Neighborhood Resorations, and which gives his home address as Gulph Mills.[15] Scott Mazo is also the name of a Board Member and Treasurer of The Prem Rawat Foundation,[16] details lodged with Guidestar give the address of Scott Mazo TPRF Board and Treasurer, as Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania.

Jossi Fresco does not specify which organisation causes him to have a Conflict of Interest in editing Wikipedia, however he is listed as the Press contact for a number of documents put out in the name of The Prem Rawat Foundation[17] [18]  [19]  [20]

In Summary:

James Levin is the CEO of the self described family business  (Mighty River Press) i.e. Levin is the owner or is a co-owner of Mighty River Press. MRP is the publisher of the Rawat biography. Therefore Levin is, via the unregistered Mighty River Press, the publisher of Rawat’s biography.

James Levin has been the business partner of Scott Mazo for twenty years, they have more than thirty business listings in which they share partnerships.

Scott Mazo is the Treasurer of  The Prem Rawat Foundation.

The relationship between Levin and Mazo undermines any suggestion that Peace is Possible has been published independently of Prem Rawat or his promoters. Its use as a reference for an encyclopedia is dubious, not because it is in effect an ‘authorised’ biography but because the ‘authorisation’ has been deliberately disguised.  Further as an active editor and administrator of the Rawat Wikipedia articles, and as a person with clear links to The Prem Rawat Foundation, Jossi Fresco must reasonably be presumed to be fully cognisant of the obfuscation of the relationship between the publisher of Peace is Possible and the Treasurer of The Prem Rawat Foundation.