Wikipedia’s Sockpuppets

A team of Wikipedia admins overseen by the Wikimedia Foundation has uncovered the largest sockpuppet network in Wikipedia history.

wikipedia sockpuppetsA Wikipedia network associated with the account, Morning277, is made up of paid editors who were hired by small Silicon Valley companies to create pages for them. The account has made more than 6,000 edits since 2008. Hundreds of pages connected to the network have disappeared and many involve the company, Wiki-PR.

Wiki-PR warns potential clients, “Don’t get caught in a PR debacle editing your own page,” and offers to generate articles about clients who don’t meet Wikipedia’s “notability” standard.

“Whatever your opinion on paid editors, Morning277’s actions did not meet even a minimum level of disclosure,” writes The Daily Dot’s Simon Owens.

Owens points to Wiki-PR’s claim to employ Wikipedia admins. If true, this could mean Wikipedia power users are involved in sockpuppetry—the creation of online personae to purposefully disguise one’s identity—and that “sleeper agents” exist among the Wikipedia elite.

An investigation was prompted when Wikipedia editor, DocTree, reviewing a page for UK digital encryption company, CyberSafe, discovered the page’s sources dealt with Internet security in general, but not CyberSafe. “It was all smoke and mirrors,” DocTree told Owens.

Most pages in the Morning277 network are positive and promotional in nature. Previous reports, however, point to evidence of sexist and revenge edits to Wikipedia pages.

In May, Salon’s Andrew Leonard outed Wikipedia editor “Quorty” for a series of revenge edits to a Wikipedia page about late writer Barry Hannah. Qworty had made more than 13,000 edits—trying to hide his true identity while destructively editing the pages of other writers and making numerous edits to his own page (Bob Young).

Owens asked DocTree if the current investigation had effectively wiped out most of the undisclosed, conflicted edits on the site. DocTree responded, “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.