Research: Many Wikipedia Entries Have Errors, PRs Can’t Do Much About It

Marcia DiStaso, assistant professor of PR at the College of Communications at Penn State University, surveyed 1,300 PR pros and they say 60 percent of Wikipedia entries contain errors about their clients. And because of rules against PRs editing Wikipedia articles, the errors can remain published for an indefinite amount of time.

According to information we received via email, DiStaso has been conducting Wikipedia research since 2006 and gathered responses from PR pros across agencies, nonprofit organizations, companies, and other groups. She told ABC News that PRs are only allowed to leave comments and wait for a public response. Ideally, Wikipedia guidelines say that should happen within five days. But nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) say they never heard back. More than half of respondents thought the rules should be changed.

Wikipedia’s spokesperson Jay Walsh told the news outlet that there are 95,000 people around the world who edit at least five articles per month. Separately, it was revealed today that an Indiana man, Justin Knapp, a pizza deliveryman, became the first to reach one million edits.

While DiStaso says restrictions should be removed entirely, Walsh expressed concern that PRs, because they have a “vested interest” in certain entries, could exploit a too-lax editing policy. Back in December, a number of accounts tied to a Bell Pottinger controversy in the U.K. had to be suspended because of the possible actions of some of that firm’s staffers.

Below is an infographic about DiStaso’s research (h/t PRSA blog). Her research also found that a quarter of PR pros never check entries on Wikipedia, and of the 35 percent who do engage with the people at Wikipedia, only 29 percent said the conversations were “productive.” Wikipedia is the fifth most trafficked site on the Web.