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Wikimedia Sends Cease and Desist Letter To Firm Providing Paid Editing Services 186

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the going-out-of-business-sale dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "For months, Wikipedia has been battling a company called 'Wiki-PR,' which purportedly sells paid editing services on Wikipedia and in October announced it had blocked or banned hundreds of Wiki-PR's sockpuppet accounts in response. Now Cyrus Farivar reports at Ars Technica that the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia) is escalating its game, issuing a cease and desist letter to Wiki-PR, demanding that the company immediately halt editing Wikipedia 'unless and until [Wiki-PR has] fully complied with the terms and conditions outlined by the Wikimedia Community.' The attorney representing the Wikimedia Foundation, Patrick Gunn, wrote that 'you admitted that Wiki-PR has continued to actively market paid advocacy editing services despite the ban — consistent with evidence that we have discovered independently. ... Should you fail to comply with the terms of this cease and desist letter, Wikimedia Foundation is prepared to take any necessary legal action to protect its rights.'"
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Wikimedia Sends Cease and Desist Letter To Firm Providing Paid Editing Services

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @10:53AM (#45473039)

    Any time I try to contribute to wikipedia it's just reverted by some 15 year old control freak. What we need is an open platform where anyone can contribute.

    • Any time I try to contribute to wikipedia it's just reverted by some 15 year old control freak

      One one hand I donated to WP on their last appeal, and on the other hand what you write here is why I don't even care about this story.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've made a few dozen major edits to articles -- I mean edits that add or completely rewrite at least one section of an article. I don't think I've been reverted once.

      I've had my contributions modified, of course -- usually for the better -- but that's the whole point.

      I don't know what you're doing wrong, honestly.

      • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:32AM (#45473397)

        This merely means that your edits were inconsequential to anyone with more free time than you.

        • How come this troll is modded "insightful"?

          The GP stated that his contributions were modified "usually for the better". This obviously means that the GP's edits were definitely not inconsequential: people saw them as improvements that can be further enhanced.

          • ... that Wikipedians can't be overprotective of their edits or biased against newbies or can't be zealots or um paid advocates?

            Try making significant improvements to the Slashdot lead. I guarantee you'll be reverted within a week.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        I've done several major edits, with cited sources, and several minor contributions with clearly cited sources. All of them were either reverted, or nuked from orbit. When the information which came from more than one source, and backed up didn't fit within their groupthink.

        What most people are "doing wrong" is not fitting in with the highly selective groupthink. If you do that, then it's a-okay, don't do that, and they'll revert.

        • I once tried to add a section to Bennett Haselton's wikipedia highlighting his absurd set of slashdot "essays" (the ones questioning the 5th ammendment).

          I mean...I was doing it to call out the fact that he is an idiot, but the content itself was accurate and cited to the original stories. I think it is notable enough for inclusion--thousands of people read and commented on those stories and I wouldn't have any idea who Bennet Haselton is if not for those posts. His wikipedia page even includes a section

    • by 0racle (667029)
      I'm willing to bet the wiki nazis aren't 15 year olds.
    • I notice you don't mention what you were editing. Was it highly technical, cutting edge research in an area where you are a leading expert? Because if not, then it sort of makes sense. Wiki has been going on for quite a while now. Current events obviously will attract other wikipedians at the same time. Stuff that is not current, wiki has been going on for quite a while, so most edits on those should probably be rejected.
      • I suspect that, if he were a leading expert in highly technical, cutting edge, research, he might stray from the "no original research" principle. It's an easy one to fall into when you really know what you're talking about (that and not citing enough, which has bitten me in some fields of expertise).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by melikamp (631205)
      The platform you speak of is called "the Internet". Buy cheap hosting and post whatever you want. If your Wikipedia edits keep getting reverted, there's probably a good reason for it, likely having to do with editing guidelines, most likely with NPoV.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      OR maybe you were wrong?

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Any time I try to contribute to wikipedia it's just reverted by some 15 year old control freak. What we need is an open platform where anyone can contribute.

      That's like asking how the RIAA manages to sue people - anytime I've gone to court I get buried in a ton of procedure and documentation. Well, if you did nothing but sue people all day long, chances are you'd have a good system in place for dealing with all that.

      If you ran a business that did nothing but astroturf Wikipedia all day then you'd have marketing/content experts who do the authoring. You'd have an operations team that monitors all the pages you're astroturfing to make sure your messages get/rem

  • by fragfoo (2018548)

    Wikimedia soon to implement that sound business model.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @10:55AM (#45473059)

    Geez, I don't have the time to edit this Wikipedia thingy. Can't I pay someone to do it for me?

    Seriously -- and I'm just playing Devil's advocate here so don't flame me -- but don't companies pay people in their communications departments to edit wikis related to their business? So, is it any different if you outsource it?

    • by Piata (927858) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:13AM (#45473217)
      If this is allowed then it completely undermines Wikipedia as a reliable source of information. It will be just another marketing platform doomed to a slow death as it loses all relevance.
      • by Kardos (1348077)

        These two sentences summarises the entire discussion. Where are the mod points when you need them!

      • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:25AM (#45473317) Journal

        as a reliable source of information

        You mean it wasn't already?

        • Show me a source of information on as many topics as wikipedia that is more accurate.

          There are plenty of anecdotes of wikipedia being vandalized or wrong, and that's amusing, but many people mistake that to mean that wiki is bad, which is foolish. Numbers rather than anecdotes are needed for that. Last study I heard, wikipedia was competitive with the professional encyclopedias in terms of accuracy, and had them easily beat in terms of breadth.

          A lot of people also seem to assume that because anyon
        • You mean you have a golden "bible" that contains the absolute truth and can be completely trusted? Because if you do, you may own an actual Bible.

      • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:36AM (#45473429)

        "Notability not truth" and "volunteer democracy" (i.e. truth by consensus of people with the most time to waste) are what undermines Wikipedia as a reliable source of information.

        EVERYONE is biased. If someone pays to express their bias on Wikipedia, all they're doing is paying for the time to compete. This may make things worse, better, or change nothing much at all, depending on whether the paid-for bias is more or less truthy than other bias.

        • by lgw (121541)

          A better platform would have multiple pages for contentions issues. For most of Wikipedia, there's no drama, and it's a good source of information. But for the remainder, often the most interesting parts, there is constant drama, page locks, revert wars, and so on. All of that should be solved by admitting that Wikipedia doesn't list "facts", it lists "consensus opinions", and where there's no consensus it needs to let each side have it's page.

          Note at the top in bold text which page represents the consen

          • Note at the top in bold text which page represents the consensus of published scientists,

            "And of course the consensus is..."

            "No, it isn't!"

            and so it continues.

            I am still intrigued by the idea of competing factions forming to create separate editions of pages. Like for "Israel" you can have a page for people who are basically pro-Israeli-government-behaviour and others who are basically anti-. The problems are, then:
            - You have "pro-NPOV" people who try desperately to correct obvious biases in each version;
            - You have subversive editors who come from one faction to subtly remove anything they per

            • by lgw (121541)

              Oh, yeah, you definitely still have control by those with too much time to kill, but at least the reader sees the whole picture. I think most people in the West, to use your example, would be shocked by the "Evil Zionist Menace" page and enlightened in ways that the page "owners" didn't intend. It would be more educational all around, IMO.

        • I will take unpaid-for bias against paid-for bias every time. Yes, I get bias both ways, but at least it comes from the poor side.

          • 1) I am not sure how it's improving the plight of the poor (since I assume that is a concern of yours) to allow poor people to spread nonsense just to spite richer people;

            2) Those with a lot of time on their hands to edit an online wiki tend not to be very poor.

            • It's not improving the plight of the poor. It improves my perception of a situation. Let me elaborate: The "rich" side has many ways of expression available, advertising bombardment through the media being the most obvious example. The "poor" side has much less (e.g. a website, which is also more passive than, say, TV advertisements). Of course getting unbiased information is the best, but if a website or two is biased towards the opinion of the "poor", it doesn't worry me. The "rich" side will get their op

        • by Tom (822)

          This, a thousand times this.

          WP is a collection, and like all collections reflects the bias of the collectors. Including their pride and egos and and turf-wars and mood and a dozen culture artifacts such as "notability" and deletionism.

          The problem is that WP is utterly unscientific, and thus a throwback to dark ages times. The requirement for "citation" is meaningless once you get to stuff like this - astroturfing, PR companies, etc. - there's nothing easier than buying an article in your favor and then "cit

      • by ak3ldama (554026)
        You mean like happened to Sarah Palin's page the night before she was chosen to be the VP candidate? Or on any other such page where there is a desire to scrub past or present? I am at least happy that we have a relatively transparent view into the history of these articles - but it has already been completely undermined.
      • Even the Wikipedia people say that there's lots of information on Wikipedia that isn't reliable. Wikipedia should never be relied on as a source of truth or accuracy.

        In any case, wasn't there a thing a few months ago where the editors were getting paid on the side?

        If a company employee changes an article, why is that worse than a volunteer changing an article?

    • Paid editing isn't banned. Frowned on a bit, maybe, but not banned. It is creating loads of sockpuppets and editing deceptively and disruptively that seems to have got these guys in trouble.
    • by steelfood (895457)

      I don't have the time to edit this Wikipedia thingy. Can't I pay someone to do it for me?

      Why? What article are you editing, that you'd be willing to pay someone to do it instead of yourself?

      companies pay people in their communications departments to edit wikis related to their business?

      You're not allowed to put in original content. You're not allowed to edit articles about yourself or articles with content that involve you or your affiliations in any way. Paying someone else to do it on your behalf is equally unacceptable. So excluding these, what type of edits could you possibly want to pay to be done?

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Geez, I don't have the time to edit this Wikipedia thingy. Can't I pay someone to do it for me?

      Seriously -- and I'm just playing Devil's advocate here so don't flame me -- but don't companies pay people in their communications departments to edit wikis related to their business? So, is it any different if you outsource it?

      Editing Wikipedia is a bit of a specialty these days. Even Jimbo had trouble creating a stub without it getting deleted.

      Anybody can add a sentence to an article. However, if some company for a flat fee would watch a list of articles of interest to my company, keep them friendly for me, and deal with all the edit wars on the talk page without bothering me with the details I could see that being worth something.

  • by NuAngel (732572) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @10:56AM (#45473075) Homepage
    Under our current (ridiculous) law, it is a felony to break a website's ToS. Go on, Wikimedia, don't just sue them, make them into life-long criminals!
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:10AM (#45473191) Homepage Journal

      but the right to do business trumps that.

      besides, that law is there just as joke and as a tool for the feds so that everyone is a potential felon.

  • Considering that the "terms and conditions outlined by the Wikimedia Community" include a specific directive to "ignore all rules" if they get in the way of improving the encyclopedia [wikipedia.org], it's going to be really hard to make this stick. I don't see this legal threat going anywhere and I suspect it will simply be disregarded and forgotten.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is bullshit and a clear indication of the authoritarian/statist bias of wikipedia. Wikipedia should base its work on the concept of LIBERTY, not locked down by self-proclaimed strongarm rulers and kings. What a joke wikipedia has become. I hope someone starts up a new one that is, you know, actually FREE to edit. In a TRULY free wikipedia, only the best articles will naturally emerge. Guaranteed.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:22AM (#45473297) Homepage

    Having to comply with terms of service, regardless of whether or not money gets involved is normal.

  • Surprised (Score:5, Interesting)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:25AM (#45473313)

    Every complex ecosystem has parasites and bottom-feeders. The internet and Wikipedia is no different.

    I wish them luck in shutting these guys down.

  • Score one for ToS violations punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act! Throw the book at 'em I say!

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:37AM (#45473433) Journal

    This page has been reverted and locked due to repeated marketing edits to the benefit of the subjects [X, Y, Z] and/or the detriment of subjects [A, B, C]. Page has been reverted to a pre-marketing edit and locked pending review.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So instead of getting paid to promo a company, they'll get paid by destroying the competitors?

    • How did their attempts to counter scientology's crap go? I remember hearing they blocked all edits from known scientology IP addresses, or something similar, but I remember people here saying that was futile and easily defeated. I'm guessing if there was a simpler way to solve the problem than threatening legal action, they would have done it already, since they've faced this problem before.
    • by Kardos (1348077)

      Nah, that's free advertising for them

  • by FishTankX (1539069) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:00PM (#45473637)

    They could just lock and revert any page that has shown evidence that it has been edited ny paid pr companies and put a banner ontop of the page in question stating that the page has been locked for six months due to paid editing from a pr company. This would encourage companies not to do such things for fear of looking bad. The opposite of what they were hoping for.

    • Pay the PR company to spiff up your competition's page(s) and they get punished.
    • by gsslay (807818)

      Who says its the opposite of what they were hoping for? You don't know what they were hoping for.

      It sounds like an excellent way of stopping any bad news ending up on your company's wiki page. Start editing it prior to the bad news breaking, make sure everyone knows you're paid editing it. Page gets locked. No-one can then add the bad news when it breaks.

      Or an excellent way to ruin a competitor's article.

      One of the key principals of Wikipedia is that page locking is a last resort, for as short a time a

      • If so, then could you just keep the banner at top saying it has been PR edited, then highlight the edited portion in blue or something to show which part was added by a paid PR company?

  • by Thruen (753567) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:12PM (#45473741)
    It seems as though this company is violating Wikimedia's ToS. Doesn't that mean the same law they used against Aaron Schwartz applies to them? Maybe Wikimedia can press charges and have these people who actually have malicious intent and are knowingly breaking the law can serve some jail time. If only there were some system in place that could apply laws evenly to all people...
  • by mythosaz (572040) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @01:14PM (#45474381)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_is_an_MMORPG [wikipedia.org]

    They're just banning griefers. It upsets the vocal high-level players who don't want to have their fun (squashing noobs) ruined.

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