A crew member from "The Hunting Ground," a one-sided film about campus sexual assault, has been editing Wikipedia articles to make facts conform with the inaccurate representations in the film.
Edward Patrick Alva, who is listed on the film's IMDB page as part of the camera and electrical department, has been altering Wikipedia entries for months, in violation of the website's conflict-of-interest guidelines. Alva is the assistant editor and technical supervisor for Chain Camera Pictures, the production company associated with "The Hunting Ground" director Kirby Dick.
Wikipedia guidelines state: "Do not edit Wikipedia in your own interests or in the interests of your external relationships." As a member of the film's production team, Alva should not have been editing pages about the film or related to the film.
Alva's Wikipedia username is Edwardpatrickalva, and he acknowledges in his user bio that he has "a conflict of interest when I edit articles on Wikipedia that are related to Chain Camera Pictures." Yet Alva continues to do just that.
Alva created his Wikipedia account just two weeks after my alma mater Florida State University President John Thrasher first called out the filmmakers for their inaccurate and unfair portrayal of the school and its handling of the rape accusation against former star quarterback Jameis Winston. It wasn't until September 18, six months after creating his user profile, that Alva acknowledged he had been editing Wikipedia pages related to "The Hunting Ground."
Nearly all of Alva's Wikipedia edits have related to "The Hunting Ground," either through edits to the film's main Wikipedia page or through edits to the pages of some of the people featured in the film.
Alva took particular interest in editing the Wikipedia page of Jameis Winston, the only person named in the film as an alleged rapist. Winston was cleared by three separate investigations, yet activists — and the film — claim this was due to a biased process and investigators seeking to protect a star football player. The film doesn't mention the holes in Erica Kinsman's accusation against Winston and in fact allows her to tell a story that contradicts physical evidence.
On March 31, 2015, Alva edited Winston's Wikipedia page to remove much of the explanatory material surrounding the FSU and Tallahassee police investigations into Winston and to soften the doubt in Kinsman's story.
For instance, Alva removed a section of Winston's page that said no charges were filed against Winston because of "major issues" with the Kinsman's story. He also removed a large section that described how Kinsman "broke off contact with [the Tallahassee Police Department] and her attorney indicated that she did not want to move forward at that time."
Alva also edited the wording in a section about the New York Times' reporting of the case. The article originally stated that the Times "reported irregularities in the rape investigation involving Winston." Alva changed that sentence to read the Times "published the conclusions of its own investigation in April 2014, asserting that neither the TPD nor FSU had genuinely investigated the initial report."
This falls in line with the narrative of "The Hunting Ground."
On April 16, Alva again edited Winston's page and moved the rape accusation against him up to the summary paragraph at the top of the page. On Sept. 21 Alva altered language regarding a court decision that went in Winston's favor, changing the word "upheld" to "declined a motion to dismiss" when talking about Winston's claim for defamation.
Wikipedia employs "talk pages" to allow editors to discuss changes to articles. Alva used the Winston talk page to suggest the edit of "upheld" without disclosing his conflict of interest as a member of "The Hunting Ground."
Alva has also been editing the Wikipedia page for "The Hunting Ground" as well as other pages to include references to the film. On July 4, a Wikipedia editor told him he was "strongly discouraged" from editing the page because of his work for the director, and warned him that his account may be clocked if he did so.
As recently as Nov. 17, Alva was again warned that his editing violated Wikipedia's conflict of interest rules.
Back on April 30, Alva deleted a section of text from "The Hunting Ground's" Wikipedia page that detailed all of the shifting accounts of Kinsman's accusation against Winston. Some of what was deleted included references to Kinsman's claim in the film that she was drugged, even though toxicology reports found no known date-rape drugs in her system and the fact that a second semen sample from Kinsman's boyfriend was found on her pants from the same night.
On Nov. 17, the day Alva was reprimanded by a Wikipedia editor for breaking the conflict of interest rules, he had added several major sections of positive information about the film, burying criticism. He added information about the film being screened at American universities and in the United Kingdom above a paragraph detailing criticism of the film from Slate's Emily Yoffe.
Alva has also inserted mentions of the film into Wikipedia articles relating to campus sexual assault, such as the page about Title IX, the law being used to force colleges and universities to adjudicate felonies. On Aug. 24, Alva inserted a paragraph mentioning the film and its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. He did the same for the entry on the "Anti-rape movement."
On Mar. 24, Alva edited the Wikipedia page for Andrea Pino, one of the main accusers in "The Hunting Ground" to remove the word "alleged" before a description of the film.
Alva's other Wikipedia edits include changes to the pages of Harvest Moon (a video game) and "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."
Many of Alva's changes, especially to the Winston page, have attempted to change the articles to support the story told by the film. The film itself is inaccurate, as the president of FSU and 19 Harvard Law professors have noted. The film distorts the evidence and uses false statistics to paint a picture of a rape epidemic at American universities. (Despite the filmmakers insistence that it is a documentary and "completely accurate," emails between an investigator for the film and the lawyer of one of the accusers strongly suggest otherwise.)
The filmmakers didn't even reach out to those maligned in the film until after it was submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. FSU President Thrasher said his school wasn't contacted until Dec. 18. That was three months after the film was submitted to Sundance, and just about the time the Rolling Stone gang-rape hoax was falling apart because its author had failed to reach out to any of the students accused in the article.
Update: This article now includes the disclosure that I graduated from FSU. It doesn't change any of the facts in the article, but I'm including it anyway.