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Major Wikipedia Donors Caught Editing Their Own Articles 125

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the edits-against-humanity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As reported before on Slashdot, one of the most terrible sins on Wikipedia is to edit articles for pay, or otherwise violate the 'neutral point of view' policy, per their co-founder Jimmy Wales. And yet, the Wikipedia-criticism website Wikipediocracy recently began a study showing that dozens of the Wikimedia Foundation's largest cash donors have violated that policy. Repeatedly, and wantonly. In short, they wrote articles about themselves or their companies, then gave the WMF big donations — and were not confronted about violating the NPOV policy." Do the proposed TOS changes address this? Note that they also found that many of the donors adequately documented their conflict of interest.
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Major Wikipedia Donors Caught Editing Their Own Articles

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    All that money has to buy something. The donations are likely part of the advertising budget.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's worth noting that the Wikipedia article on the game was created four days before the launch of the game's hardcopy version. Basically, it would have supported the launch. In the 2013 Christmas season, the article got over 120,000 views (around 4,000 views a day throughout December 2013). Smart marketing.
    • Shocked! (Score:4, Funny)

      by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @11:52AM (#46455561)

      one of the most terrible sins on Wikipedia is to edit articles for pay, or otherwise violate the 'neutral point of view' policy,

      I'm shocked, shocked to find that illicit editing is going on in here!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:09AM (#46454241)

    Editing your own article on Wikipedia is not prohibited as long as you disclose your conflict of interest and follow the rules, so I have trouble seeing how this submission is anything other than yet more manufactured controversy and/or anti-Wikipedia astroturfing.

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      I personally have no problem with someone editing an article on themselves as long as they're accurate, fair, and open about it. Should a company or individual be obligated to allow inaccurate information about them to remain in an article even when they KNOW it's inaccurate?

      • by edibobb (113989)

        It's not the inaccuracy that matters, it's the completeness. I may write an article about my company and omit the fact that the FTC has fined me seventeen times for cheating customers. When a company PR hack writes a Wikipedia article, you can bet it will present the company in a move favorable light.

        This is not limited to companies. Political parties hire people to write Wikipedia articles on even their most minor elected and appointed officials. While naturally unbiased and accurate, they consistently por

        • by Anonymous Coward

          it's not just what is added, but also subtracted from previous users. Some times you can look at the history of an article and find out it had a lot more information previously, but someone decided to subtract content even though it was relevant and factual.

          • by Tanktalus (794810)

            And sometimes you can find out it had a lot more information previously, but someone removed it because it was untrue, false, libelous, or, cardinal of all sins, lacked citations.

            The reality is that you can't really know why that information is gone without more information. It may have been removed legitimately. Or it may have been removed as part of a whitewash to clean up an image. So now, which is the better article? The one before or after the subtractions? We don't necessarily know.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          One of the downsides of having a free-to-edit encyclopedia is the difficulty in policing against bad actions like this, especially on articles visited infrequently. However the state of the articles on most of the major political players and products would seem to suggest that the editors have a low tolerance for the removal of bad news.

    • To me, the problem is that it breaks promise of neutrality, and deceives anyone who believes it's a neutral piece. I don't fault anyone for spinning their story in a way that benefits themselves; that's inevitable. But don't show me a NPOV policy that implies otherwise.
      • To me, the problem is that it breaks promise of neutrality, and deceives anyone who believes it's a neutral piece.

        NPOV is a lofty goal, but not a firm promise. For niche fields it can be difficult or impossible to find enough sources to present a neutral view.

        This is why Wikipedia policy prefers secondary sources but will still accept primary sources when few or none exist. The policy allows for the encyclopedia to have accurate information with proper references (yet written with a bias) rather than for the encyclopedia to have no information on the topic at all. The policy clearly allows articles written by the clos

    • Wikipedia has some really bad rules about editing and information - no "original research" for example, so basically nothing can be added to the sum total of human knowledge as Wikipedia considers it, until its been posted on some blog somewhere first...

      I've seen Games Workshop fictional universe articles pop up with the "needs third party citations" label, as apparently the original source material isn't good enough for Wikipedia...

      • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @10:23AM (#46454793) Homepage

        until its been posted on some blog somewhere first...

        No, that would be ridiculous. It has to be posted on one blog and linked to from another blog.

        • until its been posted on some blog somewhere first...

          No, that would be ridiculous. It has to be posted on one blog and linked to from another blog.

          Right!. That's how scientific research works too. Write a paper for a journal run my you and your friends then right a new paper sighting the published one and submit to a more prestigious journal, who's reviewers are also colleagues. Now it's all fine

          • by Tanktalus (794810)

            Right!. That's how scientific research works too. Write a paper for a journal run my you and your friends then right a new paper sighting the published one and submit to a more prestigious journal, who's reviewers are also colleagues. Now it's all fine

            I see what you did there.

            (It's "citing". I'd tell you to look up that word in wikipedia, but I'm guessing it's been illicitly edited by some research journals trying to skew the definition their way.)

            • by jkflying (2190798)

              You missed "right a new paper".

              • You missed "right a new paper".

                Yeah, and two other egregious errors in that sentence, too.

                Or maybe we just need to understand the true meaning of the sentence: "then right a new paper sighting the published one and submit to a more prestigious journal"

                In other words, I take a new paper in the works and make it "right" by including research literally gleaned from the previous paper while staring at it ("sighting") and copying it.

                Perhaps the GGP was actually talking about plagiarism and falsifying research to fit an agenda.

      • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @10:23AM (#46454797)

        Makes perfect sense for their intended purpose. Wiki pages are supposed to be accepted knowledge not ground-breaking and controversial theories. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia not a science journal.

        • The side effect of the rule is perpetuating no longer correct information. For example: a wikipedia entry states that a building is slated to be demolished, but the demolition hasn't begun, since that is what the last cited source has. However, looking out my window, I can see they have finally started demolishing it. Even if I provide a picture of the demolition, I cannot update the article and be within the rules, until the local paper is bored enough to run a story about it (which may never happen).

          • by Sockatume (732728)

            Yes, that's how documentary evidence works. The assumption on the part of the reader is that there may be undocumented events that are not included in the formal record.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        On the first point, the whole point of an encyclopedia is that it's not the author's own feelings on the subject, but a disinterested report of the general consensus on the material. On the second point, a regurgitation of the contents of Codex Chaos (or whatever) is not only of less scholarly value than the source (the most accurate and complete it can ever be is a copy-and-paste), it's the kind of thing Games Workshop has a long and storied history of suing people into the dirt over. So it has no business

    • by Tx (96709)

      "Editing your own article on Wikipedia is not prohibited as long as you disclose your conflict of interest and follow the rules[...]"

      That's just the point though, they are not following the rules. FTA; "While the research behind the 144 named donors who gave more than $5,000 to the WMF is not yet complete, it is already clear that several dozen of them are not widely notable enough to have a Wikipedia article associated with them", "While a few have adequately disclosed their conflict of interest, most have

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Editing your own article on Wikipedia is not prohibited as long as you disclose your conflict of interest and follow the rules, so I have trouble seeing how this submission is anything other than yet more manufactured controversy and/or anti-Wikipedia astroturfing.

      In slashdot's defense, they did use the *link to the wikipedia page* of wikipediocracy in describing their role. A golf clap is in order.

    • Did you read the summary past the first sentence or so?

      "In short, they wrote articles about themselves or their companies, then gave the WMF big donations and were not confronted about violating the NPOV policy."

      That said, I've routinely come across articles on Wikipedia that were not tagged NPOV yet were clearly cut+pasted from marketing material or written in that unmistakable tone. It's especially common on articles that aren't very popular.

      Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y... [wikipedia.org]

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        You only get confronted for breaking the policy if you break the policy. NPOV isn't a set of rules on who can edit what, it's a style guide.

    • FALSE: Any other editor who sees you editing your own article will slap you with a ban for COI. It's a standard part of wikilawyering.

  • Conflict (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ksevio (865461) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:10AM (#46454247) Homepage
    It's true that in theory, it's a conflict of interest to edit an article about one's self/company, but these are also the people most knowledgeable on the subject and have the most to contribute. I imagine the people who are large cash donors aren't trying to do it as a bribe, they're just heavy wikipedia users that wanted to help the site. Ideally they should document a conflict of interest, but that's not very clear how it should be done.
    • Re:Conflict (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:16AM (#46454315)

      Ideally they should document a conflict of interest, but that's not very clear how it should be done.

      Like this [wikipedia.org]

      • According to EU law on deceptive advertising – and potentially, too, FTC guidelines in the US – there has to be a disclosure to the reader on the article page itself if companies write or contribute to their own Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia does not enable such disclosures. Enabling them has never been up for discussion. (For EU law, see the German frankincense – "Weihrauchpräparate" – judgment, which was quite clear on this matter.)
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Didn't his choice of username already disclose his interest? You don't have to be Dirk Hatchett, Internet PI to figure out that that the JsDillon writing the article about Josh Dillon might, in fact, be Josh Dillon.

    • It is in some ways a tough question. If Wikipedia says your organization was founded in 1999, and it was founded in 1989, shouldn't you edit it? What is a donor supposed to do when there is an inaccuracy like that? I guess the point of the article wasn't the quality or accuracy of the edits so much as the ignoring of the terms of service at the time, presumably implying that the donations incurred immunity. It is unclear if non-donors received a higher level of reaction to the same thing.
      • by Pope (17780)

        You should be able to edit it, but WP requires that change to have a 3rd party source, which frankly is a bit ridiculous, but I can totally understand why the rule is there.

      • Well, in the example given in the WO post, the article on the game was apparently created (or rather recreated) four days before the launch of the hardcopy version. Complete with positive reviews. Tell me the company didn't have an interest in that.
    • by gsslay (807818)

      The OP talks of violation of the NPOV policy, but that is not what is happening. They are violating to COI (conflict of interest) policy. Violation of NPOV is easy to determine by reading the article, because a NPOV violation applies no matter who wrote it.

      COI violations are less easy to determine if you do not know who the editor is.

    • Employing PR agencies to edit articles is very bad for the wiki. Once such practice is discovered and proven conclusively , The admins should lock the article and only include content after review.
    • This. In fact, I think it is accepted that people with potential bias do and should edit/create articles when they are needed. They should not take a good article and edit it to be more positive for them or their employers, but if something is missing they should add it.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        They should not take a good article and edit it to be more positive for them or their employers, but if something is missing they should add it.

        Unfortunately, such editing is extremely common, especially around times of great discussion. Usually what happens are things like "Controversies" get edited down or completely deleted. Then someone puts it back, and then a PR editor removes it again and the edit war continues.

        It's been shown a lot of those edits have been done by people associated with the page - b

        • If they are a donor or not should not matter. People who edit Wikipedia a lot are likely far more likely donate. And simply being an expert in Quantum Mechanics makes you biased in any opinion you have relating to this field, but at the same time Wikipedia needs QM experts to write in the QM sections. Most editing in Wikipedia is done by people who are highly biased, but the theory is that you get enough biased people together and include everything they do agree on, and it will work out as a decent article

        • It has to be said that often PR agents or article subjects start editing the article because someone has turned it into a hatchet job, and nobody cares. Risker, a longstanding member of Wikipedia's arbitration committee, recently said, on Jimbo Wales' talk page: "You remember when the press made a huge deal about people from Congress editing the pages of congressmen, and when the edits were actually reviewed, almost all of them were (a) cleaning up vandalism, (b) fixing errors of fact (c) updating factual
    • For example, I have need for the data about all the radio stations in the U.S. Who else but the radio stations themselves would have set up those pages?
      • by Pope (17780)

        The FCC could have, or a radio advertising network could have same info. Someone with access to that info could make the page. Whether that WOULD happen is another matter.

    • these are also the people most knowledgeable on the subject and have the most to contribute.

      How true. Most people don't realize that I am a demi-god with an IQ of 324; only I can add those unique facts to my Wikipedia page.

  • by Huntr (951770) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:11AM (#46454265)

    I'm sure others will tell me why I'm mistaken, but this doesn't bother me so much, mainly because it doesn't surprise me.

    Basically, you're telling me that a document that can be edited by anyone is being edited by people to show themselves in a more positive light, ToS be damned.

    Well, yeah.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      What we really want is for Wikipedia to enforce every one of its own rules with an iron fist, of course, whether the result makes any sense or has a positive effect upon the project at all. Right?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm shocked, shocked to find non-neutral points of view in Wikipedia!

  • Wait, this is Wikipedia. How could they not be confronted, when anyone can do the confronting, even the writers at Wikipediocracy.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Wait, this is Wikipedia. How could they not be confronted, when anyone can do the confronting, even the writers at Wikipediocracy.

      Perhaps they were well sourced neutral contributions, and no confrontation was needed. You are right, its a non story. Hell the people writing TFA could have gone and confronted the people themselves!

    • by gsslay (807818)

      Because there was nothing to confront them about. NPOV was not violated and the OP is talking bunk.

      I've read the article that is mentioned in particular. A minor page about a card game. A few things might be better worded, but I see no flagrant violations of NPOV. Yes, one or two contributing editors may have had a conflict of interests, and probably shouldn't have been editing it. But the article as it stands is broadly neutral and reasonably cited.

      If this is the best example that Wikipediocracy can p

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Note who the author of Wikipediocracy TFA is: Greg Kohs [wikipedia.org]. Seems someone is butthurt.

        • by thekohser (981254)

          Note that the author made clear that the Cards Against Humanity editing was merely "a 'mid-grade' violator of conflict-of-interest norms". And note that he said that more reports would emerge in this series, which would suggest that there are worse offenders waiting in store. Yet, we see the typical low-grade reading comprehension folks who jump to words like "butthurt" and "doubt... anything to worry about". It is no wonder Wikipedia is trusted by so many people, considering how many people can't read a

          • by Sockatume (732728)

            There are worse offenders than someone who edited an article about himself while using his own real-life name as a handle? What's next, a guy who corrected a spelling mistake on his high school's page without bothering to log in first?

            • by thekohser (981254)

              No, how about an organization that dropped Bell Pottinger as their PR agency, after Jimbo Wales blasted Bell Pottinger for "ethical blindness"; then the organization hired a new PR firm, which quickly went about puffing up the organization's Wikipedia article without disclosing who they were or that they were hired to promote the organization? Let me know if that's an acceptable situation as far as you're concerned.

          • by gsslay (807818)

            Except we did read it, and most likely reached the same conclusion. He's got next to nothing, but hopes that darkly hinting at future revelations of much worse will fool us into taking him more seriously than he deserves.

            If you're going to have a series of revelations about anything, best start with one that doesn't have people saying "meh".

  • Did the anonymous submitter disclose their ties to Wikipediocracy?

  • As long as documentation is given that somebody is paying for editing an article, and of course if the contributed text respects NPOV (and the subject is considered worth to be present in Wikipedia), there is no problem at all. After all, you may use Wikipedia articles in a commercial work: it is sufficient that it is released under CC-BY-SA. So what's bad in being paid for writing?
    • by thekohser (981254)

      Please discuss this with Jimmy Wales and Geoff Brigham at the Wikimedia Foundation. They disagree with you, and the recently terminated employee Sarah Stierch is concrete evidence of this.

  • Non sequitur (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:32AM (#46454427)

    Companies and individuals edit articles about themselves, if they ARE or ARE NOT donors.

    Please explain the logic that says you should not donate to Wikipedia, if you have edited an article about yourself?

    OK, just because you edited your own article doesn't mean it's not NPOV. But let's say it was biased in your favor...

    So what if the article is not NPOV? Other editors will participate in its development.

    Also, if you can't prove your notability beyond a shadow of a doubt, there turn out to be an army of deletionists visiting all the articles who will be more than happy to nominate you for deletion in a few heartbeats.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      I think the angle they are trying for here is suggesting that they were not confronted about editing articles about themselves because they were donors. That is implying that others who are not donors were confronted about editing articles about themselves. In other words, the donation is buying them out of the policy against editing articles about yourself.

      I don't think the article actually presents any evidence to support that insinuation, but I think that's what they're aiming for.

      • by thekohser (981254)

        I believe you'll see over time (in the forthcoming series) that the real insinuation is whether the Wikimedia Foundation is correct to keep the gifts from donors who especially brazenly violate Wikipedia's community norms (and potentially, Terms of Use).

        • by mysidia (191772)

          The real insinuation is whether the Wikimedia Foundation is correct to keep the gifts from donors who especially brazenly violate Wikipedia's community norms

          The Wikimedia foundation would be best off not scrutinizing or reviewing the identity of who makes donations to them...instead, preferring to keep all donations anonymous, and the foundation and community blind to the identities of any donors.

    • by ttsai (135075)

      Instead of restricting edits, why not follow the existing guidelines about open disclosure? There are guidelines about declaring and displaying conflicts of interest. However, there don't seem to be any guidelines that explicitly address the implicit conflict of interest in being both a financial donor and an editor (at least I don't see it). I think donors should be able to edit, but they should not be able to edit without disclosure.

      In a way, the donor-editor conflict of interest is nastier than the ed

  • If they "adequately documented their conflict of interest" then they were not "caught."

  • Wikipediocracy, the Internet’s foremost Wikipedia criticism community, has embarked on....

    .

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:40AM (#46454471)

    The summary seems to have the wrong idea about what the NPOV policy actually means. Straight from the link it provided to Wikipedia's definition:

    Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic. All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view.

    Note that it does NOT indicate who can or cannot participate in editing an article. So long as their interests are disclosed, it's quite possible that people with vested interests in a subject will be able to contribute more meaningfully to a page than those without firsthand experience on the subject. Their contributions may in some cases need to be revised by others to better conform to NPOV, but they may bring to light facts and sources that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

    It's one thing to edit articles for pay--where your obligation to your employer exceeds your obligation to the policies of the site--but if you're just someone with an opinion or a vested interest, you should be perfectly capable of setting those aside in order to help construct pages that are balanced, fair, and neutral in their approach to the subject at hand, and that's exactly what I've seen people do. Though, I'll certainly grant that the cases where someone hasn't done so are much more memorable. ;)

    And is it really any surprise that the people donating to Wikipedia are the ones editing it? It's a self-selecting sample: people donate to Wikipedia because they're the ones getting the most out of the site, rather than the other way around, which seems to be the perspective that the criticism is coming from.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:45AM (#46454511)

    So some people made donations, then followed all the rules for editing their own stuff ... and you're getting your panties in a twist because?

    No one is even bitching that what they wrote was misleading. The entire complaint is simply that it happened at all.

    Thats fucking retarded, shut up and crawl back in your scumbag, drag others down to your level hole. Slashdot should go with it for posting this kind of crap.

    What the fuck is wrong with you people, most of the big donators are fucking editors, these people are 'in to' wikipedia, of course they edit stuff THEY KNOW ABOUT ... which is THEIR STUFF.

    Unless they are lying, misleading or misrepresenting, then whats the problem? Come up with an actual problem with what they did before you blow it out of proportion.

    They followed the rules and aren't a problem, STFU FFS.

    • by thekohser (981254)

      Can you show where Dillon followed Wikipedia's "WP:COI" guidelines, especially the part that encourages self-disclosure by conflicted editors? I doubt it.

  • Does it matter as long as they provide sources for the information they add to wikipedia?

  • For people who hate "deletionists [google.com]", they are remarkably concerned over an article [wikipedia.org]'s resurrection.

  • Disclaimer - I work for the Wikimedia foundation, but expressing my own opinion.

    Donations go to the Wikimedia Foundation, covering various technology/organizational costs, but the foundation is not involved in the actual editing or reviewing process - that has always been done exclusivelly by the community. Donations would never affect the content of an article simply because its a different group of people - those who receive the money spend it on internet/development/building/conferences, while volonteers

    • by thekohser (981254)

      According the Wikimedia Foundation's most recent Form 990 (which I am sure Yurik hasn't read), less than 51% of donation dollars are actually applied toward the program services that any 501(c)(3) is obliged to support, to fulfill the charitable mission of the organization. That is an abysmal program efficiency ratio (most good charities strive for ratios of 80% or 90% or higher), so please don't lie to us about the money being spent on internet/development/building/conferences. Only half of the money is

      • by yurik (160101)

        Thekohser, thanks for the reply, could you point me to the correct info? I only found http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi... [wikimedia.org] and that doc is not trivial, so any help explaining your position would greatly help. Where do 49+% go? Is it the same for all non-profits or non-profits in the same sector (if there is such a division). Thank you!

    • by thekohser (981254)

      Also, if you think that the Wikimedia Foundation doesn't pay close attention to the articles about their donors, I have a bridge that I'd like to sell you, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/inde... [wikipedia.org]

  • Of course they did it. 99.9% of the people on this planet are fucking assholes.
  • From summary (and presumably TFA):

    "one of the most terrible sins on Wikipedia is to edit articles for pay, or otherwise violate the 'neutral point of view' policy"

    but...that's not what NPOV is about. NPOV isn't a conflict-of-interest policy. It doesn't say anything about editing articles for pay.

  • His first version of the article, which was promptly deleted:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/inde... [wikipedia.org]

    His second and last batch of edits, after the article was resurrected by a third party:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/inde... [wikipedia.org]

  • The article lists only one Wikipedia article, and it's for a silly game. The article isn't particularly bad, although it could be trimmed a bit. It looks more like fancruft than promotion. A better (worse) example is needed.

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Both the original article and this /. story are both not-so-subtle ads for CAH.

      Well played.

    • by thekohser (981254)

      A better (worse) example is needed.

      Stay tuned, Animats. Stay tuned. One donor hired a new PR firm to puff up their Wikipedia article with thousands of bytes of content, because their previous PR firm was Bell Pottinger, and they felt compelled to get rid of them. (You may recall the highly-publicized interaction between Jimmy Wales and Bell Pottinger -- http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk] )

  • Wikipedia maintains their no-ad policy on the ground of preventing potential "conflicting interest", yet I don't see how a small ad word buyer can have more influence than a donor cited in TFA. It's more of an ideological reason than anything else, very much like their debate of adopting mp4 video format.
  • I fail to see any problem provided that the information is accurate and that is ensured by the very nature of Wikipedia's open editing. If someone puts up false information someone else quickly corrects it.

    Wiki is beautiful.

  • I did not donate, yet I edited "deadbeat". Is that a conflict-of-interest?

  • I note the link in the edited version on the front page is just the Wikipedia page about Wikipediocracy. Here's the link to the actual post on the site: http://wikipediocracy.com/2014... [wikipediocracy.com]

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