The vast majority of the people who propose and make changes to Wikipedia are volunteers. A few people, however, have figured out how to manipulate Wikipedia’s supposedly neutral system to turn a profit.
That’s [Ed] Sussman’s business. And in just the past few years, companies including Axios, NBC, Nextdoor and Facebook’s PR firm have all paid him to manipulate public perception using a tool most people would never think to check.
Wikipedia’s rules can feel dense and impenetrable and are phenomenally boring to talk about, but it helps to know a little about the site’s structure to understand exactly what Sussman does.
On his website, Sussman identifies himself as “a journalist, lawyer, academic and technology entrepreneur” who “is often called upon in ‘crisis management’ situations where inaccurate or misleading information has been placed in a Wikipedia article, potentially creating severe business problems for its subject.”
And because Sussman is open about what he’s doing, he’s forced to play by Wikipedia’s rules, which means disclosing his affiliation every time he suggests an edit on behalf of a client. One risk, he warns clients, is that “an experienced Wikipedia user might check the Talk page of the article” (the section attached to every article where editors discuss issues or concerns that come up) and discover that an editor with a conflict of interest had made his mark.
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Reports Like this Are Not a New Thing…See: Conflict-of-Interest Editing on Wikipedia (via Wikipedia)