Wiki-PR editing of Wikipedia
|Industry||Public relations, Consulting|
Wiki-PR is a consulting firm that formerly marketed the ability to edit Wikipedia by "...directly edit[ing] your page using our network of established Wikipedia editors and admin[s]." It was then banned, including all of its employees, contractors, and owners, by the Wikipedia community for unethical editing. Despite the ban, the firm still markets (as of May 2018[update]) its ability to advise clients on how to interact with the Wikipedia community.
Wiki-PR was created in 2010 by Darius Fisher, its current chief operating officer, and Jordan French, its current chief executive officer. Confirmed clients include Priceline and Emad Rahim, and suspected clients include Viacom, among many others. The firm claimed to have Wikipedia administrator access enabling it to manage the Wikipedia presence of more than 12,000 clients. Wiki-PR has been reported to use "aggressive email marketing" to acquire new customers.
Investigation and company reaction
|Public Relations and suspicious pages on Wikipedia, CBC Radio, interview with Simon Owens, October 24, 2013|
An investigation of sockpuppet accounts on Wikipedia, beginning in 2012, implicated hundreds of accounts. Wiki-PR's involvement was confirmed after four customers of Wiki-PR spoke anonymously to The Daily Dot journalist Simon Owens, and two others, Priceline.com and Emad Rahim, spoke to Vice journalist Martin Robbins. In addition to violating rules against sockpuppeting, Wiki-PR violated Wikipedia rules by citing articles that were planted on business content farms and various other websites that accept contributions from any Internet user as sources for Wikipedia entries, creating a false impression of credibility. The same websites were used repeatedly, and their presence in various Wikipedia articles aided investigators in identifying articles the company had worked on.
The investigation led to the Wikipedia community blocking hundreds of paid Wikipedia editing accounts believed to be connected to Wiki-PR that had edited contrary to Wikipedia's rules.
In 2014 the New York Times described Wiki-PR's methods as:
(Wiki-PR) uses a lot of people, with different identities, to edit pages for paying customers and to manage those pages. The paid sock puppets are ready to pounce on edits that don't adhere to the client's vision.
In The Wall Street Journal, French stated that Wiki-PR is a research and writing firm, counseling clients on "how to adhere to Wikipedia's rules." French stated that its paid work is part of the "fabric" of Wikipedia, complementing the work of unpaid volunteers. French acknowledged that Wiki-PR had sometimes made "bad calls" on notability of articles. He also stated "We do pay hundreds of other editors for their work—they're real people and not sockpuppets." Instead, as was reported by the International Business Times, Wiki-PR had been involved in "meatpuppetry"—a practice in which editors illegitimately encourage other individuals to edit in support of their position—in addition to planting articles online in order to try and garner better potential notability for its clients.
Wikipedia's and Wikimedia's reaction
As of October 25, 2013[update], Wiki-PR, including all of its employees, contractors, and owners, were banned from Wikipedia. Sue Gardner, former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, stated that the Foundation was "exploring our options". On November 19, 2013, Wikimedia's law firm, Cooley LLP, emailed a cease-and-desist letter to Wiki-PR.[a] French told The Guardian that Wiki-PR "is working with the Wikimedia Foundation and its counsel to sort this out," and hoped to have further information in a week's time. The Wikimedia Foundation acknowledged communicating with Wiki-PR, but the Foundation rejected any implication that they were negotiating with Wiki-PR, saying that if Wiki-PR wanted to continue editing, Wiki-PR must turn to Wikipedia's community.
- The cease-and-desist letter, titled "C&D letter to WikiPR from Cooley," is here.
- "Wiki-PR: Wikipedia Writers For Hire". Wiki-PR.com. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
- "Wikipedia probe into paid-for 'sockpuppet' entries". BBC News. 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
- "Leadership". Wiki-PR website. Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- Robbins, Martin (2013-10-20). "Is Wikipedia for Sale?". motherboard.vice.com. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
We'll both directly edit your page using our network of established Wikipedia editors and admins
- "Wiki-PR: The Wikipedia Consultants". Wiki-PR.com. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
We consult thousands of people and companies on how to interact with the Wikipedia community
- "Wikipedia editors, locked in battle with PR firm, delete 250 accounts". Ars Technica.
- Elder, Jeff (2014-06-16). "Wikipedia Strengthens Rules Against Undisclosed Editing". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
- "Wiki-PR homepage". Wiki-PR. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- Owens, Simon (2013-10-08). "The battle to destroy Wikipedia's biggest sockpuppet army". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
- Robbins, Martin (2013-10-19). "Is the PR Industry Buying Influence Over Wikipedia?". VICE. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- Stampler, Laura (2013-10-21). "Wikipedia Bans 250 Users for Posting Paid, Promotional Entries". TIME. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- Newman, Judith (2014-01-08). "Wikipedia-Mania Wikipedia, What Does Judith Newman Have to Do to Get a Page?". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
- Fowler, Geoffrey (2013-10-21). "Wikipedia Probes Suspicious Promotional Articles". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- Thomas Halleck (November 8, 2013). "Wikipedia And Paid Edits: Companies Pay Top Dollar To Firms Willing To 'Fix' Their Entries".
- Burrell, Ian (2013-10-21). "Wikipedia: We have blocked 250 'sock puppets' for biased editing of our pages". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- Fowler, Geoffrey (2013-11-19). "Wikimedia Steps Up "Sockpuppet" Fight". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- Halleck, Thomas (2013-11-22). "Wikipedia Sends Paid Editors Cease-And-Desist: Sockpuppet Account Morning277, Not Wiki-PR". International Business Times. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- Arthur, Charles (2013-11-21). "Wikipedia sends cease-and-desist letter to PR firm offering paid edits to site". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
- Burrell, Ian (2013-11-20). "Wikipedia names Texas PR firm over false manipulation of site entries". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-02-08.
- "Group Of Major PR Firms Pledge To Play Nice On Wikipedia". Tech Dirt. 2013-06-14. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
- Official website
- "Extensive network of clandestine paid advocacy exposed," The Signpost, 9 October 2013.
- Is the PR industry Buying Influence Over Wikipedia? October 19, 2013 Vice.com
- Is Wikipedia for Sale? October 19, 2013 Vice.com Motherboard