Wikipedia:Don't cry COI

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Maybe instead of crying, whining, and throwing your toys out of the pram when we see paid editors, we should all just calm down and be reasonable.

When an editor sees a single purpose editor, one initial reaction might be to cry "COI!" or "Paid editing!", taking the issue to noticeboards and other venues. It is often done in violation of assuming good faith.

Paid editing is editing for money with a clear conflict of interest. Sometimes these edits are promotional, but most of the time they are in good faith. Paid editors should be distinguished from experts. While experts may work in a given field, paid editors are paid to edit, while experts merely edit as volunteers.

Crying COI[edit]

Reporting editors to noticeboards such as ANI or (gasp) ArbCom and trying to prove they are paid will do no good. It is harassment of the worst kind and is a form of witch-hunting. Trying to out editors as COI is also a form of crying wolf.

In general, dragging COI editors to noticeboards and making ad hominem arguments will only make the situation worse. This does not mean that disruptive COI editors should not be reported. Rather, use the appropriate guidelines for reporting users just like you would anyone else, but do not use a COI as a principal argument.

Focus on COI edits, not COI editors[edit]

Paid editors are generally seen as bad or not here to build an encyclopedia. However, this isn't always true. Some editors are paid simply to update their companies' information, not spew advertising. Others may become helpful editors overall. While some paid editors edit themselves, others take a "request permission" route and post {{edit request}}s on the talk page.

Having a conflict of interest is not in itself a problem for Wikipedia and not a reason to report editors. Rather, look at the edits themselves. If the edits break any rules, such as making promotional edits, it is prudent to report them. However, if the edits and editors are reasonable and appropriate, there is no reason to cry COI.

Persecution of paid editors and experts alike[edit]

COI editors have to know a lot about their subject. Unfortunately, they are often confused with experts, who also know a lot about their subject.

Experts and paid editors alike are criticized frequently, having their edits reverted on sight and getting harassed on their talk pages. This is detrimental to Wikipedia. Experts frequently have the most knowledge of subjects that non experts would know little about, such as nuclear physics. A non-expert would have a hard time editing these subjects and could inadvertently introduce misleading information.

Professors, class projects, and university edits[edit]

Like experts, these are often lumped in with COI editors. It is a little bit different from the last two because there is a place for reporting class projects, Wikipedia:School_and_university_projects. However, unidentified projects risk being misidentified as COI edits.

The "no paid advocacy" proposals[edit]

Several times in several essays users have tried to propose policies to essentially ban paid editing. These proposals are, however, too vague, and lead to witch-hunting of editors, both paid and not. It essentially causes other users to go after paid editors for disagreeing with them. Another proposal considers banning every editor who deliberately adds false information to articles. This is a vague and poor proposal, as it gives no guidelines on what is in bad faith and what is a mistake. It would lead to editors getting users blocked on little or no grounds other than that they made a mistake or added "I just don't like it" material.

[edit]

Although, yes, they are paid to edit Wikipedia, and that by nature may make some dislike them, paid editors frequently have more knowledge of a subject than the average layman. They are more qualified to write articles than most Wikipedians, who when writing about an article they have no knowledge of, frequently just regurgitate what they find in sources.

Complicated subjects such as the biology of obscure animals known only by their Latin classifications and other subjects deep within a particular science cannot be written by people who don't know what they are. Paid editors are not entirely the best people to be writing these articles, but they at least know their subject.

Astroturfing PR firms[edit]

These need to be distinguished from paid or COI editors. Often paid editors work for themselves and have worked for the company before being asked to edit Wikipedia. PR firms are companies hired to edit Wikipedia by employing editors. Some are there to update, but others are more malicious in their intent. While some PR firms have a hands-off policy, astroturfing businesses are PR firms that mask their COI under the guise of being a volunteer—such as most Wikipedia editors. These firms are not here to build an encyclopedia, and even try to actively undermine it, flaunting rules or inserting blantant NPOV material into articles. They use editors far beyond common SPAs—some boast they even have admins working for them.

This is a larger breach of policy than paid editors, and should be dealt with more quickly. However trying to out individual editors as socks working for PR firms will do little help unless those claims are backed up by a CheckUser.

See also[edit]