The night of the Las Vegas Strip shooting, before police identified the killer as 62-year-old gambler Stephen Craig Paddock, night owls on 4chan assembled their own narrative of the tragedy. In their discredited telling, the shooter was a balding Rachel Maddow fan and registered Democrat by the name of Geary Danley.
It soon became clear that Danley had not been involved in the rampage — the confusion was seemingly due to his having once been married to the romantic partner of the actual gunman — but not before the theory spread to Everipedia, a Wikipedia-style site where an editor with the all-caps handle CUCKMONGLER assembled a page claiming Danley had been “named a suspect” in the investigation.
The page was eventually updated to add that Danley had been cleared of suspicion after speaking to authorities, but as of this writing the uncited claim that he had initially been named a suspect was still live, along with a link to Danley’s personal Facebook page and a sweeping invitation to add more information: “Any source is valid, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Pictures, videos, biodata, and files relating to Geary Danley are also acceptable.”
It wasn’t the first time Everipedia editors have created, and subsequently failed to delete, pages about individuals with tangential connections to mass tragedies that, like doxxing, often feature links to personal social media pages. After fringe news sites misidentified the driver of the Dodge Challenger that slammed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one, Everipedia created two pages: one for the actual driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr., and another for the victim of the mistaken reports that remains online today, complete with links to his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
That pattern of creating invasive entries for non-notable people may be a scheme to cash in on search queries. Take Joshua Thomas King, another white nationalist at the Charlottesville rally: He’s too obscure to warrant a Wikipedia entry, but as of this writing, the top result in a Google search for “Joshua Thomas King wikipedia” is his Everipedia page.
If that is Everipedia’s strategy, it appears to be moderately successful. As of this writing, Danley’s Everipedia page has racked up more than 134,000 views, according to an on-page ticker, while the entry on the shooting itself had accumulated just 7,000.
Everipedia claims to have 6 million English-language articles compared to Wikipedia’s 5.4 million. Its creators, who have called the site a “thugged-out Wikipedia,” aspire to someday host hundreds of millions.
According to Everipedia, the site was founded in 2015 by UCLA graduates Sam Kazemian, 24, and Travis Moore, who is 27 or 28, along with a Swedish designer, Theodor Forselius, 22, who met Kazemian while visiting campus. Later that year, Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam joined as a retroactive co-founder; he later recalled that he was impressed by the project because he saw an opportunity for a less discerning alternative to Wikipedia.
The closer you look at Everipedia, the less substantial it appears.
“So the way that I met Sam, I had left [Genius] for about 6 months,” Moghadam told the Iranian startup blog Tech Rasa in 2016. “I was giving a talk at UCLA and Sam came up to me and said I made a new version of Wikipedia and he showed me my Everipedia page. And I got really excited because I tried so hard to get my own Wikipedia page. I even paid a kid to put it up for me and I tried putting it up myself and they kept taking it down.” In Moghadam’s telling, he helped Kazemian find his first investor and then joined the team. “It’s growing much faster than my old site, RapGenius.”
Above all, according to Moghadam, Everipedia is easy to use: “You cut and paste any Facebook page into [an] Everipedia page,” he said in another interview.
The closer you look at Everipedia, which didn’t respond to questions or a request for a list of its most visited pages, the less substantial it appears. Almost every page on the site is copied verbatim from Wikipedia — although not updated as frequently as Wikipedia — and the trickle of entries posted by Everipedia users relate almost exclusively to sensational topics including YouTube trolls, the “meme war of 2017” and the hip hop producer who tattooed an image of Anne Frank onto his face. Other recurring subjects are activists, white supremacists, and people who were shot and killed by police — all topics that seem engineered to capitalize on trending search terms.
Also unlike Wikipedia, a collaborative nonprofit encyclopedia launched in 2001, Everipedia has its eye on revenue. The site offers a service in which individuals and businesses can pay an annual fee in exchange for a custom-made Everipedia entry that receives “full-time monitoring for updates and preventing vandalism,” starting at $299 per year. Its home page claims that it is “free from ads,” but ads periodically appear on the site, and a link at the bottom of every page labeled “Advertise” links to information for prospective sponsors. Maghodam has trumpeted the site’s growing traffic, but its Alexa score indicates limited popularity.
Since its launch, Everipedia has periodically cropped up in mainstream coverage. Its article about Geary was cited by a since-deleted Gateway Pundit story that claimed he was the shooter. It confused the doctor who was dragged off a United Airlines flight earlier this year with another man of the same name. Its articles appear as “Top Stories” on Google, the feature that also surfaced wrong information from 4chan relating to the Las Vegas shooting.
Moghadam, the most recognizable personality behind Everipedia, is better known as one of the founders of Genius, the annotation site previously known as Rap Genius. Moghadam’s tenure at Genius is perhaps best remembered for his vulgar outbursts. He once told Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett to “suck my dick,” and bragged about stealing from Whole Foods in a post he later called satire. In 2014, Genius forced Moghadam out after he posted sympathetic annotations to the site’s copy of mass shooter Elliot Rodger’s manifesto. Moghadam later blamed some of his bizarre behavior on an undiagnosed brain tumor.
Everipedia has echoes of Moghadam’s raunchy humor. Last year, the verified Everipedia Facebook page posted a link to a New York Times interview with Milo Yiannopoulos that it said “will make you cum with laughter.” One of Moghadam’s inappropriate annotations to the Rodger manifesto was a lewd reference to the gunman’s sister; in 2015, Moghadam created an Everipedia page about the sister.
In any collaboratively edited project, it’s possible that mistakes will slip through as editors work to understand an unfolding event. But detailed guidelines on what constitutes a reliable source help minimize the chances of error and prepare readers for the possibility of it. On Wikipedia, for instance, breaking news stories are topped by a warning that information “may change rapidly as the event progresses, and initial news reports may be unreliable.” Everipedia shows no such message.
Everipedia isn’t the first would-be Wikipedia competitor. Andrew Schlafly, the son of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, created Conservapedia in 2006 as a counterpoint to what its founders called widespread liberal bias on Wikipedia. Encyclopedia Dramatica, which is currently facing a life-threatening copyright lawsuit, is an ad-supported cesspool of surreal troll humor founded by online provocateur Sherrod DeGrippo in 2004.
In the comment section on Geary’s Everipedia page, there’s a spirited discussion over the ethics of linking a presumably innocent person to a national tragedy.
“This site sure did name him as the shooter and was the source of fake news,” wrote one commenter. “There should at least be an apology to this man.”