[SIGCIS-Members] Apparent plagiarism in Nightingale's deleted Huffingon Post article

Hahn, Barbara barbara.hahn at ttu.edu
Tue Sep 9 01:37:54 PDT 2014

Hi all: I was just myself thinking what a fantastic article this would make.  Since Tom's earlier response to me explaining what makes this case unique, I think such an article would be a splendid introduction to a few other (more classic) examples of technological myth-making.  Comparing the usual story (various court battles over patents for, say, Eli Whitney's cotton gin; or market competition, as in the cases of lightbulbs or safety bicycles) would provide a really wonderful hook, and a great introduction to what historians of technology do.

Though it doesn't seem particularly difficult to do, I don't have the time to write such a thing, but frankly someone should.  Alternatively, it could be an class assignment for an upper-division undergraduate or postgraduate student, or a research exercise, or something.

What fun.
+ + + + +
Dr. Barbara Hahn
Associate Editor, Technology and Culture
Associate Professor, History Department, Texas Tech University (on leave 2014-2016)
Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow
School of History, University of Leeds

From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [members-bounces at sigcis.org] on behalf of Jean-François Blanchette [blanchette at ucla.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 2:53 AM
To: sigcis
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Apparent plagiarism in Nightingale's deleted      Huffingon Post article

Dear Thomas and all,

This is such a fabulous story on so many levels, it truly boggles the mind —— the inclusion of a Hollywood celebrity into the cake batter had been so far the only ommission and that has now been thankfully corrected.

I’d really love to introduce more people to it, especially students ——— is there an up-to-date guide to the story available somewhere, or lacking that, what’s the best place to start?

Thank you!

On Sep 9, 2014, at 5:44, Thomas Haigh <thaigh at computer.org> wrote:

> Thanks Andy,
> Yes, I noticed the similarities myself in a comment posted on the now deleted Nightingale article. The same chunks of text also appear in Ayyadurai's 2013 book, again without mention of her name. So leaving aside the issue of factual accuracy this would appear to be a clear cut case of plagiarism: chunks of previous published text pasted and/or paraphrased without attribution to the original authors.
> In fact all the articles in the now deleted Huffington Post series had significant overlap with each other, Ayyadurai’s website, and his book in terms of the quotations used, the talking points repeated, the evidence presented, the pictures used, and as we see in this case the actual words used. The 5 “myths” she claimed to rebut were all found on a longer list of 12 “myths” on Ayyadurai’s own website. Ayyadurai has  rather distinctive prose style and it is echoed in phrases all over the HP articles, which some commentators noted read as if they have a common author. For example, he always puts “historians” in quotes when talking about us.
> Nightingale’s is a literally incredible article, and if you haven’t yet taken the time to marvel I urge you to go tohttps://web.archive.org/web/20140905024145/http:/www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-j-nightingale/the-history-of-email-five-myths-about-email_b_5756340.html before reading on. Did you know, for example, that “Popular sites such as Wikipedia, unfortunately, continue to promulgate the myths of email's history. Industry insiders dominate and monopolize such forums, and immediately remove even documented citations and facts, which expose and counter their false claims on email's origin.”
> That article states that “As an MIT professor who led MIT's Sociotechnical Systems Research Center for nearly half a decade and served on the faculty in MIT's Engineering Systems Division for over 17 years…..” You might ask, why would an MIT faculty member allow plagiarized (or, in the kindest interpretation, ghostwritten) and blatantly inaccurate material to appear under her name? Surely she would have too much to lose?
> Well, she is actually referred to on her own bio page and in other sources as a “Professor of the Practice” which at MIT is another name for “Adjunct Professor.” http://web.mit.edu/policies/2/2.3.html states that “Appointments to the rank of "Adjunct Professor of _____" and "Professor of the Practice of _____" are equivalent…” Also that “An appointment as an adjunct professor or professor of the practice carries no implication of academic tenure or of membership on the Faculty.” So a Professor of the Practice is not actually a faculty member.
> Nightingale still has a bio up on an MIT personal page (which also calls her a faculty member), but is not listed, for example, on the “People” directory of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center which she used to direct (!) and her Linked In page says that she left her MIT jobs in June 2014. So she appears to be a former adjunct rather than a current faculty member.
> Having said that, she is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, so you might expect some kind of baseline professional responsibility from her. http://www.nae.edu/29986.aspx Also, according to Linked In, “Past-President and Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.” Not someone you would expect to sign her name to a factually deficient, plagiarized and/or ghosted piece of badly written propaganda. But, apparently, she did.
> An odd aspect of all this is that, like Ayyadurai himself, she gains a great deal of apparent credibility from her former association with MIT. Both have frequently been called “MIT professors” in reports, and I am sure the association helped to convince reporters to repeat Ayyadurai’s claims. Yet they are going to great lengths in a quixotic attempt to undermine MIT’s actual historical accomplishments in email, including CTSS mail and the work of the many MIT graduates and faculty who founded and worked at BBN. Ayyadurai has also been deploying a lot of populist rhetoric against the idea that elite institutions like MIT are essential to innovation.
> Best wishes,
> Tom
> From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On Behalf Of Andrew Russell
> Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014 2:05 PM
> To: sigcis
> Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Fwd: Re HuffPo article on Ayyadurai
> Hi everyone -
> I’m reposting below an email from Dave Farber's list - it's another interesting turn in this bizarre tale.
> Andy
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: "Dave Farber via ip" <ip at listbox.com>
> Subject: [IP] Re HuffPo article on Ayyadurai
> Date: September 8, 2014 at 11:25:26 AM EDT
> To: "ip" <ip at listbox.com>
> Reply-To: dave at farber.net
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: "Declan McCullagh" <declan at well.com>
> Date: Sep 8, 2014 1:49 AM
> Subject: Re: [IP] HuffPo article on Ayyadurai
> To: <jpgs at ittc.ku.edu>, <jpgs at comp.lancs.ac.uk>
> Cc: <dave at farber.net>, <dnight at mit.edu>, <news at the-tech.mit.edu>
> [Dave, for IP if you like]
> Prof. James P.G. Sterbenz wrote to MIT prof Deborah Nightingale:
> Do you plan to make a statement on your
> Web page to protect your reputation, or do we assume that you are
> (figuratively) in bed with Ayyadurai?   If you do make such a statement
> I would like a pointer and will include in with the other materials I
> maintain on this case along with your original blog entry.
> I just noticed something unusual about the now-deleted Huffington Post article published under the name of MIT professor Deborah Nightingale.
> What's unusual is that paragraphs of that now-deleted article defending "email inventor" Shiva Ayyadurai are word-for-word identical to a web page called InventorOfEmail.com. It looks like Mr. Ayyadurai created that page himself, though I haven't checked.
> You can see this unexpected bit of synchronicity for yourself. Prof Nightingale's article is archived here:
> https://web.archive.org/web/20140905024145/http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-j-nightingale/the-history-of-email-five-myths-about-email_b_5756340.html
> "Those who promoted MAIL as "email," when the term "email" did not even exist in 1965, were attempting to redefine "email" as a command-driven program that transferred BCD-encoded text files, written in an external editor, among timesharing system users, to be reviewed serially in a flat-file."
> "One would be hard-pressed to draw a historical straight line from MAIL to today’s email systems. MAIL was not "email", but a text messaging command line system, at best."
> The InventorOfEmail.com page, which Archive.org says predates Prof. Nightingale's HuffPo blog, is here:
> http://www.inventorofemail.com/claims_about_email.asp
> "Those who promoted MAIL was "email" when the term "email" did not even exist in 1965 are attempting to redefine "email" to be a command-driven program that transferred BCD-encoded text files, written in an external editor, among timesharing system users, to be reviewed serially in a flat-file."
> "One would be hard-pressed to draw a historical straight line from MAIL to today’s email systems. MAIL was not "email", but a text messaging command line system, at best."
> Also it looks like about 10 paragraphs in Prof. Nightingale's now-deleted HuffPo blog, published September 2, appear in a Google+ comment posted under the name "Jason Rebule" a week earlier. That comment appeared in a KQED thread attacking critics of Ayyadurai. You can see the thread here:
> https://plus.google.com/+KQEDSCIENCE/posts/emYcPo9ZjVw
> Similarly, another now-deleted HuffPo blog post in the series was published under the name of Rutgers technologist Robert Field. It uses this sentence:
> https://web.archive.org/web/20140904233350/http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-field/history-of-email-first-email-system_b_5722000.html
> "Standard histories of the Internet are full of claims that certain individuals (and teams) in the ARPAnet environment in the 1970s and 1980s "invented email." "
> That sentence also, according to Archive.org, had previously appeared on the InventorOfEmail.com site:
> http://www.inventorofemail.com/claims_about_email.asp
> I don't see either Prof. Nightingale or Robert Field credited on the InventorOfEmail.com site.
> I presume there's a good reason why a Huffington Post guest blog published under the name of a well-known MIT engineering professor would be assembled in such a manner, but I confess I haven't yet been able to think of one.
> -Declan
> PS: I recall a CNET article written by some enterprising journalist who revealed the provenance of an anti-Net-neutrality op-ed published under the name of an MIT adjunct professor. The op-ed was actually written in part or in whole by a "secretive lobbying organization in Washington, D.C. called the LawMedia Group" that counted Comcast as a client. I would not dare to suggest, of course, that such a thing could be happening here. http://www.cnet.com/news/wanted-writers-for-d-c-tech-lobby-group-secrecy-mandatory/
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Jean-François Blanchette, Associate Professeur
Dept. of Information Studies, UCLA

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