Wikipedia announced today that it’s investigating “as many as several hundred” users who may have been paid to promote organizations or products on the massive online encyclopedia.
“Our readers know Wikipedia’s not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way. Our goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and anything that threatens that is a serious problem. We are actively examining this situation and exploring our options,” Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.
Wikipedia said it has already blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts for “non-neutral editing.”
Available in 287 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 29 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people.
“Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature. Unlike a university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise, paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a ‘black hat’ practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people,” Gardner said.
“What is clear to everyone is that all material on Wikipedia needs to adhere to Wikipedia’s editorial policies, including those on neutrality and verifiability. It is also clear that companies that engage in unethical practices on Wikipedia risk seriously damaging their own reputations. In general, companies engaging in self-promotional activities on Wikipedia have come under heavy criticism from the press and the general public, with their actions widely viewed as inconsistent with Wikipedia’s educational mission.”
In January, Mike Wood wrote for Business Insider that he gets paid to edit Wikipedia for leading companies.
“With each article that is deleted by the community, there is another client looking to pay me to get the article back up,” he wrote. “For every article that is tagged, there is a marketing company contacting me to re-write the article and remove the tag. For every person who tries to find my account and block it, there are ten emails that I am responding to, giving quotes to write their article.”
“The Wikimedia Foundation is closely monitoring this ongoing investigation and we are currently assessing all the options at our disposal,” she added. “We will have more to say in the coming weeks.”