Wikipedia:Conflict of interest

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If you want advice about a conflict of interest, see Wikipedia:Conflict of interest/Noticeboard

Conflict of interest (COI) editing involves contributing to Wikipedia about yourself, family, friends, clients, employers, or your financial or other relationships. Any external relationship can trigger a conflict of interest. (The word interest refers here to something in which a person has a stake or from which they stand to benefit.)[n 1]

Conflict of interest is not about actual bias. It is about a person's roles and relationships, and the tendency to bias that we assume exists when roles conflict.[3] That someone has a conflict of interest is a description of a situation. It is not a judgment about that person's state of mind or integrity.[4][5]

COI editing is strongly discouraged. It undermines the public's confidence in Wikipedia, and risks causing public embarrassment to the individuals being promoted. If it causes disruption, accounts may be blocked. Editors with a financial conflict of interest, including paid editors, are advised not to edit affected articles; they may suggest changes on the talk page and must disclose their COI. Paid editors are required by the Wikimedia Foundation's terms of use to disclose who is paying them (the "employer"), on whose behalf the edits are made (the "client"), and any other relevant affiliation. See below and paid-contribution disclosure.[6]

When investigating COI editing, do not reveal the identity of editors against their wishes. Wikipedia's policy against harassment takes precedence over this guideline. Editors discussing changes to this guideline should disclose whether they have been paid to edit Wikipedia.

Wikipedia's position[edit]

Purpose of Wikipedia[edit]

When readers come to Wikipedia, they expect to find articles that have been written independently of the article subject. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is not a company or personal website, or forum for advertising and self-promotion. Articles should contain only material that complies with Wikipedia's content policies and best practices, and Wikipedians must place the interests of the encyclopedia and its readers first.

COI editing strongly discouraged[edit]

COI editing is strongly discouraged. COI editors should follow Wikipedia policies and best practices scrupulously, and may be blocked if they cause disruption. If you have a COI:

You can propose changes on the article talk page by using the {{request edit}} template. These proposals may or may not be acted upon.

You can also suggest changes on the conflict-of-interest noticeboard.

Note that you do not control articles and others may delete them, keep them, or add information that would otherwise have remained little known. While Wikipedians generally avoid naming editors and their paymasters, other media routinely do. This has led at times to embarrassment for the organization concerned.

Wikimedia Foundation terms of use[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation's terms of use require that editors who are being paid for their contributions disclose their employer (the person or organization who is paying for the edits); the client (the organization or person on whose behalf the edits are made); and any other relevant affiliation. This is the policy of the English Wikipedia.

Declaring an interest[edit]


General COI[edit]

If you become involved in an article where you have a general COI (including a financial COI) that does not include being paid to edit Wikipedia, you should use the {{connected contributor}} template (see below) to disclose on the article talk page. You should also discose the COI on your user page and during any discussion about the topic elsewhere. You can also make a statement in the edit summary of any COI contribution.

An example of a general COI would be if an article subject were a member of your family, and you propose an edit on the talk page. An example of a financial COI would be if you own a business that is the subject of a Wikipeda article.



If you are being paid for your contributions to Wikipedia, you must declare who is paying you, who the client is, and any other relevant role or relationship. You should do this on your main user page in a clearly visible list of your paid contributions, on the talk page accompanying any paid contributions using the {{connected contributor (paid)}} template (see below), on drafts, and during any discussion about the topic elsewhere. You can also make a statement in the edit summary of any paid contribution.

Paid editors must respect the volunteer nature of the project and keep discussions concise; see WP:PAYTALK.

How to disclose on article talk pages[edit]

General COI[edit]

Editors with a COI who are not being paid for their contributions to Wikipedia should place the {{connected contributor}} template at the top of affected talk pages. Please fill it in as follows:

{{Connected contributor|User1=Your username |U1-declared=yes}}.


Editors who are being paid for their contributions should place the {{connected contributor (paid)}} template at the top of affected talk pages. Please fill it in as follows:

{{Connected contributor (paid)|User1=Username of the paid editor|U1-employer=Name of person/organization that is paying for the edits|U1-client= Name of client|U1-otherlinks=Insert relevant affiliations, disclosures, article drafts or diffs showing paid contributions to articles.}}.
  • The employer is whoever is paying for the edits.
  • The client is on whose behalf the payment is made.
  • Otherlinks includes any other affiliation (role or relationship) that might be relevant.

For example, the employer might be a PR company and the client might be the subject of the article. If the employer and client are the same entity – if Acme Corporation is paying you to make contributions about Acme Corporation – the client parameter can be left empty. See the template page for further details.

What is conflict of interest?[edit]

External roles and relationships[edit]


While editing Wikipedia, an editor's primary role is to further the interests of the encyclopaedia. When an external role or relationship could reasonably be said to undermine that primary role, the editor has a conflict of interest. (Similarly, a judge's primary role as an impartial adjudicator is undermined if she is married to the defendant.)

Philosopher Michael Davis describes the "standard view" of COI as: "P has a conflict of interest if, and only if, (1) P is in a relationship with another requiring P to exercise judgment in the other's behalf and (2) P has a (special) interest tending to interfere with the proper exercise of judgment in that relationship."[7][n 2]

Any external relationship – personal, religious, political, academic, financial or legal – can trigger a COI. How close the relationship needs to be before it becomes a concern on Wikipedia is governed by common sense. For example, an article about a band should not be written by the band's manager, and a biography should not be written by the subject's spouse. But subject-matter experts are welcome to contribute within their areas of expertise, subject to the guidance on financial conflict of interest, while making sure that their external roles and relationships in that field do not interfere with their primary role on Wikipedia.

COI is not simply bias[edit]

Further information: WP:ADVOCACY

Bias regularly exists in the absence of a COI, and a COI can exist in the absence of bias. Beliefs and desires may lead to biased editing and advocacy, but they do not constitute a COI. COI emerges from an editor's roles and relationships, and the tendency to bias that we assume exists when those roles and relationships conflict.[3] COI is like "dirt in a sensitive gauge."[8] Determining that someone has a COI is a description of a situation. It is not a judgment about that person's state of mind or integrity.[5]

What is wrong with COI?[edit]


"A person is judged to have a conflict of interest on the basis of being in a conflicted situation, whether or not that person thinks he or she is capable of resisting the temptation or corrupting influence of the interest that could interfere with her judgment."

Wayne Norman , Chris McDonald, 2012.[n 3]

Until the latter half of the 20th century, the professions relied on the "virtue-centric approach," in which those with a COI were simply expected to act honourably and objectively. This is now known to have been unrealistic.[4][n 4]

The virtue-centric approach underestimates the extent to which the judgment of individuals with a COI may be impaired. Conflicted individuals cannot know the extent to which they have been influenced; Davis writes that they often "esteem too highly their own reliability."[10][11] For example, a conflicted person might overcompensate in an effort to be fair, leading to decisions he would otherwise not have made.[10]

The virtue-centric approach also ignores the damage involvement from conflicted individuals can inflict on public confidence, and the unease it causes within the affected community. If a judge is involved with a defendant, her role as an impartial adjudicator is undermined in the view of her colleagues and the public no matter how convinced she is that she can remain impartial.

Actual, potential and apparent conflict of interest[edit]


Actual conflict of interest: An editor has a COI with respect to a certain judgment and is in a position where the judgment must be exercised.[12]

N Example: A company owner has an actual COI if he edits articles and engages in discussions about that company. This is strongly discouraged.

Potential conflict of interest: An editor has a COI with respect to a certain judgment, but is not in a position where the judgment must be exercised.[12]

YesY Example: A company owner has a potential COI with respect to articles and discussions about that company, but no actual COI if she stays away from those pages. This is good practice.

Apparent conflict of interest: There is reason to believe that an editor has a COI, but he does not.[13]

Question? Example: An editor has an apparent COI if he edits an article about a company and for some reason appears to be the company owner, but in fact he has no such connection. Apparent COI causes bad feeling and should be resolved wherever possible.[13] Editors should try to allay suspicion through discussion.[n 5]

Financial conflict of interest[edit]

Financial relationships[edit]


If you have a close financial relationship with a topic you wish to write about – including as an owner, employee, contractor or other stakeholder – you are advised to refrain from editing affected articles. You may suggest changes on the talk page of those articles, where you should disclose your COI. You can use the {{request edit}} template to suggest changes.



Being paid to contribute to Wikipedia is one form of financial conflict of interest. Being paid to promote external interests on Wikipedia (known as "paid advocacy") is the type of paid contribution of most concern to the Wikipedia community, because edits by paid advocates reflect the interests of the client or employer. Paid advocacy includes public relations, marketing and advertising.

Advocacy is prohibited by our policies on neutral point of view and what Wikipedia is not, and paid advocacy is an especially egregious form. The Wikimedia Foundation regards paid advocacy as a "black hat" practice.[n 6]

If you receive, or expect to receive, compensation (whether money, goods or services) for your contributions to Wikipedia, then:[15]

  • You must provide full disclosure of the COI, along with who is paying you (the "employer"), on whose behalf the edits are made (the "client"), and any other relevant affiliation. You should supply that information on your user page; at the top of affected talk pages using the {{connected contributor (paid)}} template; and whenever you make edit requests or suggestions related to the topic.
  • You are very strongly discouraged from editing affected articles where those external relationships could reasonably be said to undermine your ability to remain neutral.
  • You may use the talk page of affected articles to suggest changes, and use the {{request edit}} template to request edits. Requested edits are subject to the same standards as any other, and editors may decline to act on them.

To find an article's talk page, click the "talk" button at the top of the article. See WP:TEAHOUSE if you have questions about these things.



Paid editors must respect the volunteer nature of the project and keep discussions concise. To justify their salaries or fees, paid editors may submit billable hours, along with evidence of their talk-page posts. Volunteers should be aware of this before being drawn into long exchanges with such editors. Editors should not be required to engage in extended or repetitive discussions with someone paid to prolong them.

Any editor who refuses to accept a consensus by arguing ad nauseam will likely be in violation of several Wikipedia guidelines and policies, including WP:Tendentious editing, WP:Disruptive editing, WP:WikiBullying, WP:OWN and WP:Civility.

GLAM, Wikipedians in residence, reward board[edit]

There are forms of paid editing that the Wikimedia community regards as benign. These include Wikipedians in residence (WiRs) – Wikipedians who are paid to collaborate with mission-aligned organizations, such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums. WiRs must not engage in public relations or marketing for their organization, and they must operate within the bounds defined by Core characteristics of a Wikipedian in Residence at Wikimedia Outreach. They must work closely with a Wikipedia project or the general Wikipedia community, and are expected to identify their WiR status on their user page and on talk pages related to their organization when they post there.

Another benign example of paid editing is the reward board, where editors can post incentives, usually to raise articles to featured- or good-article status. If you participate in this kind of paid editing, transparency and neutrality are key.

Covert advertising, consumer protection[edit]


United States Federal Trade Commission[edit]

All editors are expected to follow United States law on undisclosed advertising, which is described by the Federal Trade Commission at Endorsement Guidelines and Dot Com Disclosures.

European fair-trading law[edit]

No ads.svg

In 2012 the Munich Oberlandesgericht court ruled that if a company or its agents edit Wikipedia with the aim of influencing customers, the edits constitute covert advertising, and as such are a violation of European fair-trading law. The ruling stated that readers cannot be expected to seek out user and talk pages to find editors' disclosures about their corporate affiliation.[16]

UK Advertising Standards Authority[edit]

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK found in 2012 that the content of tweets from two footballers had been "agreed with the help of a member of the Nike marketing team." The tweets were not clearly identified as Nike marketing communications, and were therefore in breach of the ASA's code.[17]

Other categories of COI[edit]

Legal and other disputes[edit]

Further information: WP:BLPCOI

The biographies of living persons policy says: "[A]n editor who is involved in a significant controversy or dispute with another individual – whether on- or off-wiki – or who is an avowed rival of that individual, should not edit that person's biography or other material about that person, given the potential conflict of interest."

If you are involved in a court case, or you are close to one of the litigants, you should not write about the case, or about a party or law firm associated with the case.

Campaigning, political[edit]


Activities regarded by insiders as simply "getting the word out" may appear promotional or propagandistic to the outside world. If you edit articles while involved with campaigns in the same area, you may have a conflict of interest. Similarly, editors should not edit articles in which they have a political conflict of interest. Examples:

  • Government employees should not edit articles about their agencies, government, political party, political opponents, opposition groups, or controversial political topics.
  • Political candidates or their staff should not edit articles about themselves, their supporters or opponents.

Writing about yourself, family, friends[edit]


You should not create or edit articles about yourself, your family, friends or foes. If you have a personal connection to a topic or person, you are advised to refrain from editing those articles directly and to provide full disclosure of the connection if you comment about the article on talk pages or in other discussions.

An exception to editing an article about yourself or someone you know is made if the article contains defamation or a serious error that needs to be corrected quickly. If you do make such an edit, follow it up with an email to WP:OTRS, Wikipedia's volunteer response team, or ask for help on WP:BLPN, our noticeboard for articles about living persons.

Citing yourself[edit]


Using material you have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies, including WP:SELFPUB, and is not excessive. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work. When in doubt, defer to the community's opinion. (For the guideline against Wikipedia citing itself as a source, see WP:CIRCULAR.)

Cultural sector[edit]


Museum curators, librarians, archivists and similar are encouraged to help improve Wikipedia, or to share their information in the form of links to their resources. If a link cannot be used as a reliable source, it may be placed under further reading or external links if it complies with the external links guideline. Bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files.


Law of unintended consequences[edit]

Wikipedia's law of unintended consequences

Once an article is created about yourself, your group, or your company, you have no right to control its content, or to delete it outside the normal channels. Content is irrevocably added with every edit. If there is anything publicly available on a topic that you would not want to have included in an article, it will probably find its way there eventually.

No shared accounts, no company accounts[edit]

Further information: WP:NOSHARE and WP:ORGNAME

Do not create a shared organizational account, or use the name of an organization as the account name. The account is yours, not your employer's.

Making non-controversial edits[edit]


Editors who have a general conflict of interest may make unambiguously non-controversial edits (but see WP:FINANCIALCOI). They may:

  1. remove spam and revert unambiguous vandalism,
  2. remove content that unambiguously violates the biography of living persons policy,
  3. fix spelling and grammatical errors,
  4. repair broken links,
  5. remove their own COI edits, and
  6. add independent reliable sources when another editor has requested them, although it is better to supply them on the talk page for others to add.

If you have a COI, and an article you want to edit has few involved editors, consider asking at the talk page of a related Wikiproject for someone to review your proposal. Edits not covered by the above should be discussed on the article's talk page. Also see WP:COITALK.

Supplying photographs and media files[edit]

Editors with a COI are encouraged to upload good-quality digital media files that are appropriately licensed for Wikipedia and that improve our coverage of a subject. For more information, follow the instructions at Commons. In some cases, the addition of digital media files to an article may be a non-controversial edit that editors with a COI can make directly, but editors should exercise discretion and rely on talk pages when images may be controversial or promotional. If the addition of an image is challenged by another editor, it is not uncontroversial.

Copyright, licensing[edit]

Editors are reminded that any new text they contribute to Wikipedia is irrevocably licensed under the terms of a Creative Commons-Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 license and the GNU Free Documentation License. Any new writing, including article drafts and talk-page comments, can be freely copied, modified, deleted, reproduced, altered and quoted by third parties for commercial and non-commercial use, with the sole requirement that the work be attributed to Wikipedia contributors.

How to handle conflicts of interest[edit]

If an editor has disclosed that s/he is editing with a COI, raise the issue in a civil manner on the editor's talk page, citing this guideline, or open a thread on WP:COIN. Avoid making disparaging comments about the subject of the article, its author, or the author's motives.

If an editor edits in a way that leads you to believe they might have a COI, consider whether the issue may be simple advocacy instead. The appropriate forum for concerns about advocacy is WP:NPOVN. The appropriate forum for concerns about sources is WP:RSN. If there are concerns about sock- or meatpuppets, please bring that concern to WP:SPI.


Relevant article talk pages may be tagged with {{Connected contributor}} or {{Connected contributor (paid)}}, and the article itself may be tagged with {{COI}}.

Avoid outing[edit]

When investigating COI editing, the policy against harassment takes precedence. It requires that Wikipedians not reveal the identity of editors against their wishes. Instead, examine editors' behavior and refer if necessary to Wikipedia:Checkuser.

Dealing with single-purpose accounts[edit]

Accounts that appear to be single-purpose, existing for the sole or primary purpose of promotion or denigration of a person, company, product, service, website, organization, etc., and whose postings are in apparent violation of this guideline, should be made aware of this guideline and warned not to continue their problematic editing. If the same pattern of editing continues after the warning, the account may be blocked.

See also[edit]

Wikimedia Foundation
Contact us
Policies and guidelines

These represent the opinions of individual editors:

Historical items, including failed proposals, former policies, obsolete essays, etc.

These items and the discussions surrounding them may show how Wikipedia consensus has changed over time. They may also include "good ideas" for editing behavior that go "above and beyond" official policies.


  1. ^ Interest (from Middle English, interess) originally meant "the possession of a share in or a right to something."[1]

    Neil R. Luebke, 1987: "[T]he term 'interest' [in 'conflict of interest'] means some actual share or right on the basis of which one can materially gain or lose. It does nor mean an affection for some person, a feeling of sympathy for some cause, or a desire for some area of activity. In this sense I could have an interest in the Bad-News-Corporation, through a generous bequest by my rich uncle, even though I detest its corporate practices and conscientiously refuse to buy its products."[2]

  2. ^ Davies writes: "A conflict of interest is a situation in which some person P (whether an individual or corporate body) stands in a certain relation to one or more decisions. On the standard view, P has a conflict of interest if, and only if, (1) P is in a relationship with another requiring P to exercise judgment in the other's behalf and (2) P has a (special) interest tending to interfere with the proper exercise of judgment in that relationship. The crucial terms in the standard view are 'relationship,' 'judgment,' 'interest,' and 'proper exercise.'[7]
  3. ^ Norman and McDonald quote legal scholar Bayless Manning, 1964: "[S]ubjective intent is not important [in conflict of interest law] ... If the wrong kind of outside interest is held, no amount of leaning over backward or purity of soul will satisfy [a confirmation] Committee or the statutes."[4]
  4. ^ The first court case to use the term conflict of interest as currently understood was in 1949 in New York.[9] Until the 1950s COI in the professions was addressed by expecting the conflicted individual to act objectively. Norman and McDonald write that this was naive.[10]
  5. ^ One approach is to disclose personal information, either on Wikipedia or privately to a trusted editor, although editors should not feel obligated to do this.
  6. ^ Sue Gardner, then executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, wrote in 2013: "Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature. Unlike a university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise, paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a "black hat" practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people."[14]


  1. ^ Jay M. Feinman (ed.), One Thousand and One Legal Words You Need to Know, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 100.

    Angus Stevenson, Maurice Waite (eds.), Concise Oxford English Dictionary (luxury edition), Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 740.

  2. ^ Neil R. Luebke, "Conflict of Interest as a Moral Category," Business & Professional Ethics Journal, 6, 1987 (pp. 66–81), p. 68. JSTOR 27799930
  3. ^ a b Michael Davis, "Introduction," in Michael Davis and Andrew Stark (eds.), Conflict of Interest in the Professions, University of Oxford Press, 2001, p. 12.
  4. ^ a b c Wayne Norman, Chris McDonald, "Conflicts of Interest," in George G. Brenkert, Tom L. Beauchamp (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics, Oxford University Press, 2012 (pp. 441–470), p. 447.
  5. ^ a b Bernard Lo and Marilyn J. Field (eds.), Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice, Committee on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice, Institute of Medicine, National Academies Press, 2009, p. 49.
  6. ^ "Paid contributions without disclosure", Terms of Use, Wikimedia Foundation.
  7. ^ a b Davis 2001, p. 8.
  8. ^ Davis 2001, p. 11.
  9. ^ Davis 2001, p. 303, citing In Re Equitable Office Bldg. Corporation, 83 F. Supp. 531 (S.D.N.Y 1949).
  10. ^ a b c Norman and McDonald, 2012, p. 461.
  11. ^ Davis 2001, pp. 11–12.
  12. ^ a b Davis 2001, p. 15.
  13. ^ a b Davis 2001, p. 18.
  14. ^ Sue Gardner, "Press releases/Sue Gardner statement paid advocacy editing", Wikimedia Foundation, 21 October 2013.
  15. ^ This applies whether you directly represent the payer or represent a firm hired by that person or organization, and whether or not you regard yourself as a representative.
  16. ^ The case arose out of a claim against a company by a competitor over edits made to the article Weihrauchpräparat on the German Wikipedia. The judgment can be read here.
  17. ^ Mike Sweney, "Nike becomes first UK company to have Twitter campaign banned", The Guardian, 20 June 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carson, Thomas L. "Conflicts of Interest and Self-Dealing in the Professions: A Review Essay," Business Ethics Quarterly, 14(1), January 2004, pp. 161–182. JSTOR 3857777
  • Davis, Michael. "Conflict of Interest Revisited," Business & Professional Ethics Journal, 12(4), Winter 1993, pp. 21–41. JSTOR 27800924
  • McDonald, Michael. "Ethics and Conflict of Interest", The W. Maurice Young Center for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia.
Wikipedia and Wikimedia links
External links