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Controversies surrounding Royal Dutch Shell

By John Donovan

I have for some time been a major contributor to Wikipedia articles about Royal Dutch Shell, including the major article: “Controversies surrounding Royal Dutch Shell”.

On 6 October 2007, a Wikipedia administrator who uses the pseudonym “Jreferee” nominated the article for deletion.

Although personal attacks are frowned upon under Wikipedia etiquette, Jreferee, who is aware that I post information using my real name rather than a pseudonym, made a number of serious allegations about me which are untrue.

During the period of several days when the proposed deletion proceedings were underway, no one notified me even though I was the prime subject of discussion and could have taken the opportunity to rebut the incorrect information put forward by Jreferee in support of his or her nomination to delete.

The attempt to have the article deleted was unsuccessful. There were more votes to “keep” than “delete”, the only two votes for deletion came from a single individual within a period of 15 minutes.

Since these allegations were published on Wikipedia and amount to a direct attack on me, I believe that it is reasonable for me to respond.

I have always been upfront about my campaign for Shell management to abide at all times with its own ethical code known as the Statement of General Business Principles (the SGBP). The core principles include honesty, integrity, transparency and respect for people in all of Shell’s dealings. If Shell management had acted in accordance with the SGBP, the reserves scandal and many other controversies detailed in Wikipedia articles relating to Shell could not have happened.

The record of the deletion debate is printed below, with my comments inserted. The bold highlighting in comments from contributors to the deletion proceedings were made by me. Remember that my own comments – all in italics- have been inserted AFTER the deletion proceedings had concluded.


Yeouch! This article is nothing more than a POV fork largely created by a single user through original research so that he then can cite to this Wikipedia article in a personal letter writing campaign to Royal Dutch Shell. Among the many policies this violates, *** Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought, *** Wikipedia is not a soapbox, and *** Wikipedia is not a battleground *** come to mind. By adhering to the GA requirement that a topic is to stay focused without going into unnecessary details, and the requirement that only material that is independent of the subject be used in an article, this topic could be covered adequately within the Royal Dutch Shell article. — Jreferee t/c 16:16, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Jreferee provided a link to an article which was intended presumably to provide evidence in support of the above allegations which are untrue.

Original Research: Jreferee provided not a single example to support his allegation of original research. In fact my contributions are sourced from reputable sources including for example court documents, all of which are cited. Only the facts are stated.

Soapbox for my battles with Shell: Again not a single example is provided. There is no comment or spin in any contributions by me; just a record of relevant facts supported by independent reputable sources which are provided.

Creation of POV fork with aim of citing material in a personal letter writing campaign directed at Shell: Again not a shred of evidence to support the allegations. If Jreferee had taken the trouble to check the record, he or she would have discovered that I was not the person who created the “Controversies surrounding Royal Dutch Shell” article with imported information from the original Royal Dutch Shell article. I had an unpleasant debate with “Stephen Parnell” (another pseudonym user) who, if I recall correctly, was the person responsible for that act. This can be confirmed by checking the history of changes of the Royal Dutch Shell article. It most certainly was not me. The record of my debate with “Stephen Parnell” can be viewed on the discussion page for “Royal Dutch Shell”. 

“Stephen Parnell” subsequently persuaded an administrator “BozMo” – (another pseudonym user) to nominate for deletion the Wikipedia article about my website “”.  That article also survived the nomination for deletion. At a later date I received an email from a Shell insider tipping me off that “BozMo” is in fact Andrew Cates, a former Shell Managing Director. Andrew Cates had in the meantime revealed his identity on Wikipedia and disclosed that he had been in the oil industry. He was indeed a senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell until 2004. Mr Cates is a man of exceptional integrity and I have always found him to be helpful. Knowing his background I have not the slightest doubt that he has always acted entirely fairly and properly towards me. Personally I do not believe that anyone should be able to use a pseudonym as a Wikipedia editor or administrator. I believe that like me, everyone who wants the privilege of contributing should disclose their identity and declare any interest in any article with which they have any involvement. Other contributors can then take that into account. With regard to the letter to Shell (link below), it contained a perfectly reasonable and polite approach to Shell in relation to a very worthy charitable cause.


With regard to the allegation of citing my alleged POV material in the letter writing campaign, where is the evidence to support that allegation? Can Jreferee please reveal the evidence to support this charge? Has Jreferee checked the date of my first contributions and the first time that a communication that I sent to Shell contained a reference to such material?

I trust that Jreferee will either provide the evidence or withdraw the allegation together with all of the other reckless unfounded charges to which I take great exception.

Comment You are aware that we have mechanisms for a proposed merge beyond *fD, right? Is the nom actually calling for deletion? Also, doesn’t half of the nom basically negate WP:SPLIT? OR should be removed, but most of the article is well sourced. If you’d prefer they be so tightly focused in pursuit of GA status, then split the events into other articles (lord knows it’s well past what’s called for by WP:LENGTH, and always has been) and/or merge the strongly sourced points to the (already large) parent article. AfD seems like an odd place to bring this up. MrZaiustalk 16:23, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

MrZaiustalk correctly makes the point that most of the article is well sourced. Since I drafted most of the article if follows that my contributions are well sourced. The long section headed “Formula Shell” has not a single cited verification source. It was drafted by “Stephen Parnell” who disappeared into the night after creating a great deal of controversy and acrimony, not just with me. For some reason he or she even had the “Steven Parnell” page deleted.

Delete per WP:POVFORK, WP:OR, WP:SOAP, and WP:BATTLE. STORMTRACKER 94 17:20, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

No reason given for deletion vote.

WP:OR does not apply to vast tracts of this very long article, and many individual incidents documented in the article carry no POV concerns, covering, as they do, only well-known issues that are thouroughly documented by reliable, verifiable sources. Please be more specific and explain how deletion is preferable to a cleanup and/or split. MrZaiustalk 17:53, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

MrZaiustalk comments are self-explanatory. He tries to pin down Jreferee.

Delete per Stormtracker94 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Russavia (talk • contribs) 17:35, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

“Stormtracker” repeats the vote for deletion again without any explanation.

Keep. This is one of the most controversial companies in the world. The reasons for that require more space than they could be afforded in the parent article. Many users have contributed here. Donovan’s editing is transparent as he edits under his own name. In the email, he’s not pretending the information is independent of him. Lapsed Pacifist 18:52, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Keep Neutrality problems can be fixed. Article is sourced, and a natural spinoff from parent article. Mandsford 21:13, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

keep Article problems can be fixed; POV deletions are more difficult to deal with and they disrupt the work of WP editors. Having ‘controversy’ articles regarding problems that corporate/other entities have gotten themselves into is a good way to split up articles that are otherwise too long Hmains 00:54, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

Keep Issues of neutrality and OR can be fixed — enough reliable sources exist to write a neutral and balanced article, and content forking is justified on the basis of (i) the sheer size and historical importance of Shell and (ii) the fact that these controversies are independently notable. We don’t delete sourced material on notable controversies simply because a company generates so much controversy; “excessive detail” should only be invoked to trim insignificant detail, which this is not. Thomjakobsen 01:02, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

Note: This debate has been included in the list of Business-related deletions. — Gavin Collins 09:08, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Comment from nominator – In regards to the keep remarks made above, the handful of editors who have made edits to a topic supposedly about ‘one of the most controversial companies in the world,’ only one editor has more than 25 edits to the article. Johnadonovan has made 198 edits to the article. The next highest number of edits is 22, then 17, then 5, then 4, 3, 2, and mostly 1. See Wikipedia stats. More space is used than needed because of the failure to only use and cite to independent, third party reliable source material and the failure to stay focused on the topic without going into unnecessary details. The article largely does not cite sources nor could it since most of the material added is original research. Disliking Royal Dutch Shell is not a basis to throw out Wikipedia’s standards to allow a free-for-all disparagement of Royal Dutch Shell. This POV fork needs to be deleted. — Jreferee t/c 19:21, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

I regretfully have to say that what Jreferee stated is simply untrue. Again sweeping allegations are made without any specific example being quoted. I do not invent or fabricate events involving Shell. Those inserted by me are a historical fact. I carried out the research to find the information and provide reputable independent sources to cite for verification purposes.  There is no point of view comment by me but a statement of verifiable fact. I cannot be held responsible for the inclusion of information by other contributors such as the example of “Formula Shell” which does not follow Wikipedia requirements.

Please respond to the point made above concerning the large sections that discuss specific events and controversies that would plainly meet WP:NOTE if forked off. I’ve only ever performed the most cosmetic of cleanups on this article, and am not terribly interested in the subject matter, but I can still see some value in covering those events that plainly meet WP:NOTE. The OR that you mention should be removed. Again, seems more like grounds for cleanup than deletion. MrZaiustalk 20:12, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Again MrZaiustalk tries to pin down Jreferee who is clearly heavily biased against the inclusion of factually accurate, properly sourced information contributed by me and drafted without any spin against Shell. What is the problem with detail as long as it is informative to people interested in Shell, which they must be if they are reading the article? I contend that the Wikipedia articles relating to Shell are invaluable to Shell stock holders and particularly shareholders interested in investing in ethical businesses.

I agree with this. The fact that one editor has (allegedly) made a large number of bad edits is not a deletion argument. Additionally, much of it does seem sourced, although it’s been done as external links inserted directly into the text rather than proper inline cites. More of a style issue though. Thomjakobsen 20:19, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

It is relevant to note that I inserted the section “Wiki-face lift for Shell?” which revealed that someone at Shell had edited articles without revealing that the edits were made by a Shell employee. I provided a source for the information. Personally I believe that Shell should openly edit Wikipedia pages about the multinational to ensure the information is accurate. Shell would be subject to the same rules as everyone else.

If Jreferee cares to check the record, he or she will discover that I was the contributor who added a number of entirely positive sections about Shell. I did this to provide a balanced article when all information was within a single article: Royal Dutch Shell

Jreferee has for some unknown reason or motive abused the position of being a Wikipedia administrator. He or she attempted to delete an article which contains invaluable up to date information about Royal Dutch Shell and used unsubstantiated untrue allegations to try to obtain support from other contributors.  Fortunately MrZaiustalk in particular realised that something was amiss and put up a strong resistance by taking a reasonable balanced view. I do not know MrZaiustalk and have had no contact with him.

I have come to regularly insert links to Wikipedia articles about Shell in articles published by me because the Wikipedia information is generally accurate, unbiased and well sourced. I see nothing wrong with generating readership for Wikipedia articles.

The link below is to the archived Wikipedia discussion page dealing with the nomination for deletion. Please note that the content must not be changed. It is the original nomination for deletion discussion without any insertions by me.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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