Wikipedia Tells Marketers and PR Reps to Come Clean

Demands disclosure of conflicts

Wikipedia is getting tough on marketers that corrupt entries for brands, products and individuals.

The site—whose content about every topic known to man is curated by an army of unpaid public editors—is trying to limit paid postings, or at least force more disclosure when editors are paid.

“Wikipedia’s community editors work tirelessly at maintaining the accuracy, transparency and objectivity of the articles, which requires identifying conflicts of interests and removing bias,” Wikipedia said today in its announcement of rule changes. “Editing-for-pay can be a source of such bias, particularly when the edits are promotional in nature or in the interest of a paying client.”

Last year, Wikipedia started investigating hundreds of editors who may have had conflicts of interest. In October, Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner exposed rampant black-hat, paid editing known as “sock-puppetry.”

Today, Wikipedia changed its guidelines, requiring editors to disclose conflicts. “If you are editing an article on Wikipedia on behalf of your employer, for example, you must disclose your employer's details,” Wikipedia said. “If you have been hired by a public relations firm to edit Wikipedia, you must disclose both the firm and the firm’s client.”

Wikipedia is often a battleground for politicians, corporations and other organizations competing to control the conversation around their biographies and businesses.

In the case of advertising, regulators work to guard against marketers who secretly push brands and products in online venues like social networks and blogs. Wikipedia’s new terms now state that editors must comply with laws that cover such marketing tactics.

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