April 23, 2014

Wikipedia: “Extensive Network of Clandestine Paid Advocacy Exposed”

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From The Signpost, (a Weekly Newsletter from Wikipedia):

An investigation by the English Wikipedia community into suspicious edits and sockpuppet activity has led to astonishing revelations that Wiki-PR, a multi-million-dollar US-based company, has created, edited, or maintained several thousand Wikipedia articles for paying clients using a sophisticated array of concealed user accounts. They have managed to do so by violating several Wikipedia policies and guidelines, including those concerning conflict of interest in paid advocacy—when an individual accepts money to promote a person, organization, or product on Wikipedia—and sockpuppetry.

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The Signpost has covered issues such as Microsoft’s attempt to monitor articles and “diploma mills” in 2007, the Nichalp/Zithan case in 2009, and a PR firm’s edits (“The Bell Pottinger affair“) in 2011. Paid advocacy received its most substantial treatment in 2012 with a series of interviews withpaid editing supporters, a skeptic, and Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. On the site itself, a full conflict of interest guideline was developed in response to the perceived threat of paid editing.

See Also: The battle to destroy Wikipedia’s biggest sockpuppet army (via The Daily Dot)

Who would go through all this trouble to concoct such an elaborate system of deception?

There are a number of reasons why a user might create fake accounts, but given the promotional nature of the edits and their subjects—mostly small companies, many of which were based in Silicon Valley—it seemed obvious to all that the Morning277 network was made up of paid editors who had been hired by these companies to create pages for them.

Wikipedia has had a long, uneasy relationship with paid contributors. Many purists believe that a Wikipedia page’s subject, or anyone paid by that subject, has no business editing that page because his objectivity is compromised.

share save 171 16 Wikipedia: Extensive Network of Clandestine Paid Advocacy Exposed
Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.