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Royal Dutch Shell Wikipedia Machinations

Shell is obsessed with our online activities, not only in relation to our website, but also my role as a Wikipedian originating and editing articles relating to Shell.

I have noticed a suspicious correlation between Shell’s internal fretting about how to edit my Wikipedia contributions without being caught and editing undertaken during the same time period by Shell partisan contributors hiding behind pseudonyms

Article by John Donovan

As prominent critics of Royal Dutch Shell, it is invaluable for us to know what the company is saying, thinking and plotting about us.

The inside information comes mainly from Shell itself, which is obliged under the UK Data Protection Act to supply us on request with Shell documents and communications in which our names are mentioned.

As a result, despite redaction of some information by Shell lawyers, we have a wealth of evidence, confirming that contrary to the impression it would like to project, Shell is obsessed with our online activities, not only in relation to our website, but also my role as a Wikipedian originating and editing articles relating to Shell.

I have noticed a suspicious correlation between Shell’s internal fretting about how to edit my Wikipedia contributions without being caught and editing undertaken during the same time period by Shell partisan contributors hiding behind pseudonyms. If I had known then what I know now from Shell internal documents and emails, I would have been even more suspicious.

I am the main contributor to the Wikipedia articles: “Controversies surrounding Royal Dutch Shell”; “Royal Dutch Shell safety concerns” and “Royal Dutch Shell environmental issues” and author of a substantial part of a  book covering these important subjects.

In October 2007 I wrote an article drawing attention to personal attacks made against me by Wikipedia contributors operating under fictitious names. Unlike those using pseudonyms to conceal identity and background (as allowed under Wikipedia rules), I have always contributed using my real name and openly declared my Shell critic background from the outset.

Basically, I was accused of using Wikipedia to campaign against Shell. It was alleged that my contributions were all biased against Shell. The most hostile allegations against me came from people hiding behind pseudonyms. As can be seen from the discussion page content for the relevant Wikipedia articles, I made my suspicions known at the time about the bona fides of the relevant persons. Two of the most belligerent,  disappeared from Wikipedia after I drew attention to their activities, no doubt switching to new pseudonyms.

When I post information and comments about Shell on our own website, I do so on an outspoken basis deliberately designed to provoke debate. When I edit Wikipedia, I operate in accordance with Wikipedia requirements i.e. impartial information supported by reputable, independent verifiable sources.

I have on a number of occasions challenged anyone to produce any evidence of bias. I do so again now. No one has ever been able to cite any examples despite my extensive contributions. Much of what I have added to Wikipedia relating to Shell has subsequently been amended by people hiding behind pseudonyms.

On 23 November 2006, I published my email correspondence with David Bowen, a “website effectiveness consultant” and regular guest columnist for the Financial Times and The exchange was partly about “Tell Shell”, the Shell run blog facility. Mr Bowen had referred to it in an FT article – “Online greenery” – as being an “uncensored forum”. The correspondence stemmed from a complaint I made to the FT on the basis that despite giving a plug to Shell in his article, Bowen had failed to disclose that Shell was one of his clients.

David Bowen implied in his response that credit should be given to Shell for not trying to “edit back critical pieces” added to the Wikipedia articles. He also pointed out that although Tell Shell had been suspended, critical postings remained accessible on a Shell online archive.

I advised him that contrary to Shell’s boast of it being an uncensored forum for open and lively debate, Shell had in fact censored postings on Tell Shell. We also now know that Shell employees operating from Shell premises also secretly edited the relevant Wikipedia articles. Furthermore, the critical postings on Tell Shell are no longer available online.

I also brought to his attention the fact that I had posted positive information about Shell on Wikipedia. I was the author of the sections about Shell LiveWIRE, The Whistleblower Helpline and The Shell Foundation. I added these positive aspects to provide a balanced view. No one else had bothered to do so.

As a result of the information now received from Shell under the Data Protection Act, I have been able to compare Shell’s internal unfounded comments in relation to my Wikipedia postings, with  the personal attacks made against me on Wikipedia under cover of fictitious names during the same period. The allegations are identical in nature.

We have provided links below to the extensive Shell internal correspondence and documents where the subject came up. Shell was trying to figure out how it could edit my contributions to the articles without being caught. Concern was expressed about this prospective outcome.

It is obvious from the internal email dated 1 March 2007, the importance attached by Shell to the Wikipedia articles. The point is correctly made in the email that the Wikipedia articles “come up on the first page of Google search.”

Shell stated in the same email that the articles were managed mainly by xxxxxxxx (ex-Shell) and John Donovan (anti-Shell).” The “xxxx’s” denote the third party name deleted by Shell. The missing name was almost certainly either retired Shell Executive Paddy Briggs, a contributor to Wikipedia, or Andrew Cates, a former Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive. Paddy like me, always made contributions under his own name. Andrew Cates used the pseudonym “BosMo”. He had a senior editor function and is now a Wikipedia administrator.

After “BosMo” unsuccessfully nominated the Wikipedia article for deletion, I received an anonymous tip off revealing the identity of “BosMo” and his connection with Shell of which I was not then aware.  My related article from October 2007 should be read in conjunction with this article, particular my comments about Andrew Cates.

Mr Cates pointed out in June 2009: “BTW yesterday I found a blog item you had written in 2007. It was rather kind to me but wrong in implying I only revealed my identity as Andrew Cates after someone from inside the company had told you who I was in 2006. Please see: [3] My first contribution here at WP was to say that BozMo was Andrew Cates and it was within 5 days of leaving Shell 1 April 2004. The same edit gave my new employers website and my homepage. I always had my real name here. I had used BozMo anonymously in other contexts (anonymous cartoons on company noticeboards for example) going back a decade before that, but I have never been anonymous at WP.”

Contrary to the repeated assertions by Shell in the internal correspondence and documents accessible below, my father, Alfred Donovan, has never added or edited any Wikipedia articles.

Ironically, the only Wikipedia article originated by me that has been successfully nominated for deletion was one focusing solely on positive aspects of Shell. Please see my email to Royal Dutch Shell Company Secretary Michiel Brandjes dated 6 March 2009 attached to a Shell internal email. The article “Royal Dutch Shell initiatives was deleted on 28 April 2009 on the basis that it was too one sided in favor of Shell.


1 March 2007
2 March 2007 16:13 & 18.56 Plus 3 March 18:01
2 March 2007 16:51
19 March 2007 18.43 20 March 2007 8:10
23 March 2007
6 June 2007 12:51
SUNDAY 29 July 2007 11:31 & 30 July 2007 8:19 AM
30 July 2007 22:38 & 7 August 2007 14.24
31 August 2007 16:17
12 October 2007 15:21 & 15:58
16 October 2007
26 December 2007
19 February 2008 4 Pages
4 April 2008
9 March 2009
8 April 2009
8 July 2009
18 December 2009 11.34:
18 December 2009 12.07
Shell Focal Point document “Donovan Campaign Against Shell”

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

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