Wikipedia:COI+

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The guideline that governs editors who have a conflict of interest (COI) is Wikipedia:Conflict of interest; the section of the guideline that deals with paid advocacy can be seen at WP:NOPAY. The consensus on Wikipedia is that editors are strongly discouraged from editing articles where they have a conflict of interest, and those with a financial conflict of interest are very strongly discouraged. An editor stands in a conflict of interest when he or she has an external relationship (such as a relationship with an employer) that could reasonably be said to undermine his or her position as a Wikipedian. Editors are expected to advance the aims of Wikipedia, not the aims of outside parties.

Many Wikipedians are skeptical of efforts by those who are paid to edit Wikipedia articles, and who often do so without disclosure. In addition, corporate/for-profit accounts often end up being blocked or having their contributions reverted because of mistakes that escalate into edit wars or incivility. This essay outlines suggestions that aim to move in a different direction, to encourage editors with conflicts of interests to participate in improving Wikipedia articles in a way that benefits Wikipedia as a whole and is acceptable to the broader community.

The purpose of COI+ is to give paid COI professionals a path to citizenship. Accepting that paid editors have an uphill climb, the COI+ agreements are designed to give such editors a boost towards becoming welcomed and productive contributors to this community. The purpose is to improve the relationship between COI editors and Wikipedia by pointing to a single, concrete, purposeful set of agreements around which consensus can be formed and best practices implemented. COI+ is ultimately aspirational: it is not going to change the COI-editor/Wikipedia relationship overnight, but it may be a good place to start.

Comparison of COI guideline, Bright line and COI+[edit]

Element WP:COI/WP:NOPAY (the guideline) Bright line WP:COI+
Targets Editors with a conflict of interest (including paid advocates) Paid advocates Paid advocates; corporate/for-profit editors
Definition An editor prioritizing interests other than Wikipedia's (including anyone receiving monetary or other benefits to edit, or with a close financial relationship with a subject) An editor paid to influence Wikipedia An editor with a direct professional and financial investment in a subject
Position (Very) strongly discourages direct editing; encourages engaging on talk pages Prohibits direct editing, allows non-article-space engagement Encourages talk page engagement, escalation of community review
Exceptions Entirely uncontroversial edits, but very strongly discourages any direct editing by paid advocates Emergencies Uncontroversial edits, emergencies
Disclosure Required for paid advocates Required Required on userpages, relevant article talk pages, and in user signatures

Wikipedia's purpose[edit]

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that aims to summarize material that has been published by independent, reliable sources. Its articles seek to reflect the majority- and significant-minority positions of those sources in rough proportion to their representation in the source material. That is what is meant on Wikipedia by "neutrality," which is the encyclopedia's most central concept. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, or a platform for advertising or self-promotion. When editing Wikipedia, the primary purpose of editors must be to advance the interests of Wikipedia. When that primary purpose is undermined by a secondary role, the editor may stand in a conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest on Wikipedia is governed by the Conflict of interest guideline. It strongly discourages COI editing, which it defines as "contributing to Wikipedia in order to promote your own interests or those of other individuals, companies, or groups". When advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest.

In particular, the guideline very strongly discourages editing for profit or as a representative of a corporation. WP:NOPAY states that if you are receiving monetary or other benefits to edit Wikipedia as a representative of an organization, or if you would gain financial or other benefits from editing Wikipedia, then you are very strongly discouraged from editing Wikipedia in affected areas. The guideline advises editors with a financial interest in a topic to provide full disclosure of their connection, and to use talk pages to suggest changes (using the {{Request edit}} template to request edits) rather than editing articles directly. It notes that requested edits are subject to the content policies and may not be carried out.

Purpose of COI+[edit]

COI+ acknowledges that neutral, well-sourced contributions which advance Wikipedia's interests are welcome from any editor regardless of their background. COI+ wants to encourage corporate/for-profit editors to pursue a relationship with Wikipedia in harmony with our policies and our mission.

The COI+ program is intended to make it easier for the editorial community to identify paid editors who are trying to do the right thing. Paid editors may receive more civility and good faith from the community if they are transparent about their conflict of interest. Transparency may also protect them from the significant media backlash that has occurred when corporate and political COI editing has been discovered.

The COI+ program is a way for paid editors to distinguish themselves in their businesses or corporations as editors who are informed about best practice, and who know how to be productive members of the Wikipedia community. Participation in the COI+ program would show that a paid editor aspires to be honest, trustworthy and fair, while demonstrating integrity and respect for Wikipedia. It also sets up a minimum level of knowledge for the editor, skills they need to be effective.

The program is entirely voluntary. COI+ participants would be expected to follow all Wikipedia policies and guidelines, like any other editor. They would be subject to community sanctions, including blocks and bans; good-faith efforts to follow the steps laid out on this page might be taken into account when deciding the best course of action.

The COI+ agreements[edit]

Expectations of COI editors

In fulfilling the COI+ program, COI editors on Wikipedia agree to:

COI editors who adhere to this code of conduct can expect to:

  • Be treated with civility, respect, or even kindness
  • Have policies and guidelines explained to where they may be uninformed or misinformed
  • Receive responses to requests for assistance
  • Have incidences of misinformation, falsehood, or obvious bias in articles addressed with some urgency
  • Not be judged by the worst behavior of other editors
  • Have the opportunity to help improve Wikipedia

Steps for community review[edit]

Wikipedia is a very busy, free-form place and officially has no deadline. COI editors should use the following timeline as a guide. If one of these steps does not lead to resolution by the given timeline, go to the next step:

Step Communication Suggested wait for resolution
Step 1 Talk page messages with edit requests, help desk, and/or help chat 1 week
Step 2 Paid Editor Help board, COI noticeboard, Administrator noticeboard, and/or other noticeboards (check back at step 1 as well) 1 week
Step 3 Contact Wikipedia's volunteer response team via info@wikipedia.org (check back at steps 1 and 2 as well) 1 month
  • Move through the steps in sequence, but continue to check the forums where you previously posted even as you advance to a new step. OTRS can often only direct you back to the forums in steps 1 and 2, so it's best to invest your energies in those options as much as possible. If after 1 month no one has replied to your requests, feel free to leave a message on Jimmy Wales' talk page as he has requested.
  • Exceptions to the above timeline should only be for uncontroversial edits, specifically including removing outright vandalism, removing blatant lies or glaring misinformation, fixing spelling, or fixing grammatical errors.
  • Negative information about your company or client that is well-sourced should never be removed by you.
  • If other editors have responded to your requests but not implemented them because they disagreed with what you are requesting, you should never implement changes by editing the article yourself. Instead, engage those editors in civil discussion and try to reach consensus about wording that is acceptable to all.

Participating editors[edit]

COI+ followers[edit]

Add your name here if you would be willing to follow the COI+ agreements, in the event that it moves beyond the proposal stage. Also please watch this page to stay up to date on the project agreements.

  1. WWB Too (Talk · COI) 18:36, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
  2. 16912 Rhiannon (Talk · COI) 17:15, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
  3. Jeff Bedford (talk | COI declaration) 21:36, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  4. Guy Macon (talk) 16:54, 3 October 2012 (UTC) (Non-COI editor)

COI+ helpers[edit]

If you have a constructive history of working with conflict of interest editors, and you want to helping to organize and oversee this project, please add your name below.

  1. Ocaasi t | c 16:01, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Userboxes[edit]

COI+ This user follows the COI+ agreements. Talk to me if you think I need help with my editing!

Displaying this COI+ userbox on your Wikipedia userpage requires you to follow the above agreements, and you understand that it may be recommended for removal by another editor if you are blatantly in violation of those agreements. But you should be warned first so you can try and fix your error.

To put this userbox on your userpage, click your username at the top center-right of the screen, click edit, and add {{Wikipedia:COI+/participant_userbox}}.

COI+ This user helps with the COI+ project. Let me know if you need my assistance!

Displaying this COI+ userbox on your Wikipedia helps other editors identify you as a good person to ask for assistance with COI related issues. It also suggests you might review COI+ participants behavior. While you might be permitted to remove a 'misbehaving' editor's userbox, please make an effort to talk to them first!

To put this userbox on your userpage, click your username at the top center-right of the screen, click edit, and add {{Wikipedia:COI+/helper userbox}}.

Additional resources[edit]

The following may also be helpful:

Desired corporate/for-profit participants[edit]

Public relations organizations

Wikipedia consulting companies

Freelance article writers