Wikipedia:Plain and simple conflict of interest guide

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If you have a close association with the subject of a Wikipedia article, and you wish to edit the article, you are bound by some restrictions. The short version:

  • Be transparent about your conflict of interest.
  • Do not edit or create articles about yourself, your family or friends, your organization, your clients, or your competitors.
  • Post suggestions and sources on the article's talk page, or in your user space.
  • The role of editors is to summarize, inform, and reference; not promote, whitewash, or sell.
  • Article subjects require significant coverage in independent reliable sources.
  • State facts and statistics; don't be vague or general.
  • Take time to get sources and policy right.
  • Get neutral, uninvolved, disinterested editors to review your suggestions.
  • Respect the volunteer community's time; avoid making protracted or repeated requests.


The plain and simple conflict of interest guide is for editors who want to engage with the Wikipedia community about a subject with which they are affiliated. The applicable Wikipedia guideline is Wikipedia:Conflict of interest. It advises editors with a conflict of interest (COI) to disclose the conflict on the talk page of affected articles (see WP:COIDISCLOSE); to post editing suggestions on talk pages and noticeboards instead of directly editing affected articles; and to take new articles through Articles for creation for review.

The Wikimedia Foundation's terms of use require editors to disclose their employer, client, and affiliation with regard to any contribution to Wikipedia for which they receive, or expect to receive, compensation. If you are being paid to edit, you can disclose your COI on affected talk pages using {{connected contributor (paid)}}.


The Wikimedia Foundation's Terms of Use state:

Paid contributions without disclosure[1]

These Terms of Use prohibit engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation, impersonation, and fraud. As part of these obligations, you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation. You must make that disclosure in at least one of the following ways:

  • a statement on your user page, either custom-written or using {{paid}},
  • a statement on the talk page accompanying any paid contributions, or
  • a statement in the edit summary accompanying any paid contributions.

Applicable law, or community and Foundation policies and guidelines, such as those addressing conflicts of interest, may further limit paid contributions or require more detailed disclosure.

Also see FAQ on disclosure of paid contributions.


The Wikipedia community has been built on certain principles, summarized in the Five pillars and similar pages. Here's how these principles relate to conflicts of interest:

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.
As an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is designed for reference, not promotion. Advertising and marketing are not appropriate here.
Wikipedia has a neutral point of view.
Our policies and customs have developed to handle all articles in a neutral manner.
Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit and distribute.
By making an edit to Wikipedia, editors are giving permission for their writing to be modified, used and redistributed at will. All text submitted must be available under terms that are consistent with our terms of use. Copying and pasting from a company's official blurb or elsewhere could introduce non-neutral content and would infringe copyright if the wording is republished here. Such material is deleted on sight.
All Wikipedians should interact in a respectful and civil manner.
Editors who are here for professional reasons may become frustrated when they find that Wikipedia is not the medium they thought it would be. Cooperation, patience and courtesy are expected here.
Wikipedia rules are subject to common sense.
Following the rules to the letter does not guarantee that your contribution will be kept. The Wikipedia community holds common sense as its fundamental principle, and contributors who technically follow the rules but miss the spirit of the policy or are confrontational will not be successful.
What does this mean for me?
  1. Wikipedia is for reference, not marketing
  2. Source, cite, and inform rather than sell or promote
  3. Do not copy sources or company documents word-for-word
  4. Be patient and open to cooperation: learn from those you engage with
  5. Do not try to scrape past the requirements: do a good job, and it will be noticed

Conflict of interest[edit]

Types of COI[edit]

  • Article subjects or company owners: This places you in a conflict of interest, and you should refrain from editing affected articles. Instead, propose suggestions on article talk pages for other editors to review. Wikipedia is a public resource curated by a global community. You do not own the articles about yourself and they should reflect the available published literature on the subject, including criticism. That said, we take accuracy seriously and work hard to avoid undue harm to living people.
  • Paid contract editors and paid-advocacy editing: The COI guideline advises: "If you have a financial connection to a topic (as an employee, owner or other stakeholder), you are advised to refrain from editing articles directly, and to provide full disclosure of the connection." There is significant skepticism about the ability of paid contractors to work in alignment with Wikipedia's goals, and this kind of engagement often results in community and media backlash. Instead, propose suggestions on talk pages and at noticeboards for uninvolved editors to review. Avoid suggesting entire drafts in case these are carried into article space without adequate review; in the case of a commercial operation, a company draft risks the appearance of covert advertising.

    If you have an ethical or professional responsibility to edit Wikipedia to advance your client's or employer's interests, then you stand in a conflict of interest and should not edit affected articles directly, with or without disclosure. This advice applies to lawyers, public-relations representatives, corporate communicators, marketers, search engine optimizers, and others in a similar position. The Wikimedia Foundation regards paid advocacy as a "black hat" practice[2] and requires that all editors disclose any employers, clients, and affiliations for any and all edits they would be paid for.[3]

Practices not regarded as COI[edit]

  • Wikipedians-in-Residence (WIRs): Experienced and trusted Wikipedians often align themselves with an institution to facilitate common goals. WIRs can be paid, and that is not inherently a COI, as long as the objectives are aligned with Wikipedia's mission. If you are a Wikipedian in Residence, be careful not to take on the marketing or promotional goals of the organization; be a Wikipedian first, and always keep that in context. Disclosure is recommended when working on the Wikipedia articles about the host institutions themselves.
  • Consultants for mission-aligned organizations: When an organization like an educational non-profit – one that largely shares our mission of sharing knowledge – seeks someone to help facilitate an informal collaborative relationship, that is often a mutually beneficial situation. These positions may be for-profit. Be careful of areas where missions are not aligned. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety by limiting scope to mission-aligned areas and using full disclosure for any potential areas of concern.


  1. Register with an independent username. Your username should represent you as an individual, not your company or organization as a whole. It may be your real name, or it may be a name you invent to represent yourself, but it should not be your company's or client's official name or the names of its products or services, or be designed to promote them. Also, multiple people may not ever use the same account. Any of these are grounds for a block of the account until the username is changed. Some editors will use a name like John at Montane Corp to make clear that they're from an organization but editing as an individual.
  2. Read the notability guideline. Not every company, person, artist, artwork, event, or website can have a Wikipedia article. This site is not a business directory, an index, or a collection of marketing brochures. The only subjects that can have articles are those with significant in-depth coverage from published, reliable, third-party sources. If your subject does not yet have this kind of coverage from independent sources, then you should wait until a later time to consider requesting the creation of an article.
  3. Declare your conflict of interest. Being transparent about who you are and who you're working for is the easiest way to gain the community's trust, get help, and avoid embarrassing revelations of misconduct. Clearly state your background and goals on your userpage as explained here, at the COI noticeboard, and at the talk pages of articles related to your COI. Here are positive examples of editor disclosures: 1, 2, 3, 4. It's also appropriate to add the connected contributor template to the article's talk page. The COI template may also be used on the article, if there are neutrality concerns being discussed.
  4. Do not make direct edits to live articles. Wikipedia's guidelines strongly discourage COI editing. The safest way to avoid it is simply to never make direct edits to live articles. That doesn't mean your contributions are unwelcome. Instead of direct editing, propose changes, get editors to review them, discuss any issues, and let others make the changes. A simplified guide to making these types of requests can be found here.
  5. Follow laws about advertising and promotion: While not legal advice, we encourage editors to follow their country's laws and guidance about online advertising. The US Federal Trade Commission has Endorsement Guidelines and Dot Com Disclosures. A German court ruling in Munich found that editing Wikipedia with the aim of influencing customers constitutes covert advertising, and are a violation of European fair trading law. The UK Advertising Standards Authority reached a similar decision in 2012 finding that the content of tweets were not clearly identified as marketing communications, and were therefore in breach of the ASA's code.
  6. Create a draft. If you would like to request the creation of a new article where you might have a COI, or make suggestions for changes to an existing one, create a userspace draft. You can then ask someone to review it through Wikipedia:Feedback or Articles for creation. Alternatively, post a draft or proposal of the changes on the article's talk page, along with {{edit COI}} explaining your proposed changes. Note that the creation of article drafts by, or on behalf of, article subjects is regarded by some Wikipedians as controversial and unethical (see Wikipedia:Ghostwriting). The draft should aim for neutrality, but there's no guarantee it will be used. It should not be incorporated into Wikipedia without sufficient review from a variety of editors in proportion to its scope and contentiousness. Any draft may be rigorously edited to conform with our policies.
  7. Sources, sources, sources. This cannot be overemphasized. Wikipedia exists to summarize the best published sources, not a company's inside goals or mission.
    • Articles should summarize what independent, published, reliable sources have said about subjects. Self-published material from a company or group can be included, but it should not overwhelm or be used as the basis of an article.
    • Good sources typically include academic journals, newspaper articles, magazine profiles, and expert websites so long as they are not self-published. Poor sources typically include blogs, press releases, and sources with a direct connection to the subject.
    • Other editors must be able to verify that information is supported by a reliable source; see Wikipedia:Citing sources.
  8. Neutralize your conflict of interest. When proposing changes, take extra care to write without bias. Write so that your biggest competitor would think it was fair and balanced. Write so it's impossible to tell that someone who works for the company wrote it. If not, you will harm the chances of the article being created or the edits being accepted.
  9. Avoid spam. Articles should not include links to promotional pages or content. A simple link to an organization's official website is allowed and is sufficient.
  10. Have editors review your draft. To have a draft reviewed, paste {{subst:submit}} on top of your draft, or ask for opinions on the article talk page using the {{edit COI}} template. You can also ask at the Conflict of interest noticeboard, Editor assistance requests, or WikiProject Integrity.
  11. Don't use other articles as excuses: If you find other articles similar to the one you plan to suggest, but they have problems as described above, it's not a good idea to use them as justification for your suggestions. They may be tagged or deleted at any time. Make your suggestions according to our policies and guidelines, then they are more likely to be accepted and your article is less likely to get deleted.
  12. Accept that other editors can and will edit all articles: Once an article is created or changed, no one controls its content. Any editor has the right to add or remove material to the article within the terms of our content policies. If there is any publicly available material on a topic that you would not want included in an article, it will probably find its way there eventually. The solution is to fairly summarize both good and bad aspects of a subject, in proportion to the coverage they receive in reliable sources.
  13. Learn about the history of COI editing. In addition to this guide, there is an extensive history of Conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia. If you want to know why there is skepticism or hostility toward paid editors, you should read it. You can also learn from a presentation designed for conflict-of-interest editors from the public relations industry, Speaking Different Languages? Corporate Communications and Wikipedia.

Creating draft articles and proposals[edit]

A number of Wikipedians have offered advice to companies and public-relations representatives that they should create article drafts, and offer those drafts to editors to be copied into the encyclopaedia. A significant section of the community regards the practice of companies creating drafts as unethical – a form of ghostwriting – because readers do not know that they are reading text authored by the subject of the article.

Editors should apply appropriate scrutiny to requests from parties with a COI, because such editors may be furthering interests other than Wikipedia's; indeed, they may be under an obligation to further an employer's interests. Editors should not be swayed by the credentials, position or persistence of a COI editor, and should treat their arguments as they would those from any other. If a COI editor engages on a talk page, editors should not feel obliged to do what they request. Requests from COI editors that come through VRTS, unless presented as an office action, should be treated as any other. VRT volunteers have no special authority.

To the extent that a proposed draft from a COI editor/corporate representative/paid advocate:

  1. concerns a controversial company, organization, or public figure,
  2. contributes a substantial amount of text or revisions,
  3. contributes text about the controversies themselves, or
  4. makes extraordinary claims,

a robust review is required. Imagine this is a sliding scale in which a small non-profit that recommends a change to a fact about their history or operations needs just ordinary review, but a major oil company proposing changes about their own environmental record warrants very serious scrutiny, and from a variety of editors with different perspectives. A robust review involves broad disclosure, active involvement from more voices (especially critics), and clear notification on noticeboards that these discussions are ongoing.

What to do when something goes wrong[edit]

  • If an article about your company is deleted: Seek to understand why by reading the deletion rationale. Was it promotional? Did it lack good sources? Did it fail to demonstrate the subject's importance? Fix these issues and/or use the new article wizard to have your draft reviewed before resubmitting. If you think the article was incorrectly deleted, first attempt to talk to the administrator who deleted it. Then, for uncontroversial deletions, submit a request for undeletion. For controversial deletions, use Deletion Review. If you need a copy of the deleted article, ask for it to be 'userfied' by either the administrator who deleted it or someone on this list.
  • If your account is blocked: Stay calm and seek to understand why. Was your article blatantly promotional? Does your username represent an entire company or organization rather than you as an individual? Ask the administrator who blocked you for an explanation. Read the guide to appealing blocks; then appeal the block by placing {{unblock}} on your Talk page, followed by a comment defending your intentions and acknowledging if you made a mistake and how you will avoid in the future. Or, do the same by speaking with administrators in our live chat at #wikipedia-en-unblock connect.
  • If no good sources exist for your article: Do more research. Ask for help locating sources at the Reference Desk. Advance the subject's coverage by contacting high quality sources and asking them to write about it. Wait. Try again.
  • If there's a mistake in your article: For minor spelling, grammar, or entirely uncontentious factual corrections, fix it yourself (click Edit at the top right of the page and Save your changes). For any substantial changes, or changes that anyone might find contentious, seek input from other editors and let them decide whether to do it.
  • If someone is editing the article: Remember that nobody, not even the subjects of articles, owns them. Accept that others will make changes, and engage them in civil and constructive dialogue.
  • If someone is vandalizing the article: It is better to allow vandalism to be reverted by others. If no one else does, you can revert (undo) obvious vandalism yourself by using the History tab at the top right of the article. Remember that vandalism only applies to intentionally destructive changes, not to edits you simply disagree with. Substantive disagreements need to be civilly discussed on the talk page.
  • If you want to ask someone to make changes to the article: Post requested edits on the article's talk page using {{edit COI}}, or ask for help at Conflict of Interest collaboration project or at the Conflict of interest noticeboard.
  • If you disagree strongly with other editors and they're not changing their minds: Stay civil. Read the relevant policies. Seek the input of other uninvolved editors. Ask for a third opinion. Use the dispute resolution procedures. Post at a relevant noticeboard. Pursue formal mediation.
  • If you requested feedback but haven't received a timely response: Be transparent about your identity and conflict of interest; use the Talk pages of the article; raise issues on community (or other) noticeboards; go to relevant WikiProjects; use the Biography of Living Persons noticeboard or Conflict of interest noticeboard; apply for page protection so the article can only be edited by select accounts; go to Jimmy Wales's highly watched Talk page; email; or seek assistance from Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee.
  • If you're overwhelmed by Wikipedia's interface and policies: Take your time. Ask for help. Ask questions. Remember we're here to assist you and we're not your enemy.

Everything you need to know about...[edit]

Writing and sourcing[edit]

  • Neutral point of view: Write from a neutral point of view. Wikipedia has no "opinion" of its own; it just accurately summarizes reliable sources. Readers should not be able to tell whether the writer of an article likes or hates a product or a subject. Writers must not only write positive content neutrally but write for the enemy including negative content and criticism in a neutral fashion.
  • Verifiability: Articles should contain only material that has been published by reliable sources. These are sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, like newspapers, academic journals, books, and television and radio network broadcasts. Even if something is true our standards require that it be published in a reliable source before it can be included. Editors should cite reliable sources for any material that is controversial or challenged, otherwise it may be removed by any editor. The obligation to provide a reliable source is on whoever wants to include material.
    Publications by governmental entities can often be reliable sources. (However, they may also be primary sources, which are less desirable than secondary sources.)
  • No original research: Articles may not contain previously unpublished arguments, concepts, data, or theories, nor any new analysis or synthesis of them if it advances a position. In other words, you can't make a point that hasn't already been directly made somewhere else in a reliable source. You can summarize, but it has to be based in the sources. This includes companies' in-house data, even from experts and marketing material. Unless it is independently published, we want to avoid it.
  • Be bold in updating pages. You can't break Wikipedia, because any edit can be undone. However, discussion is important, and editors who take time to get feedback and be respectful throughout will have the most success.

Interacting with other editors[edit]

Steps for engagement[edit]

Wikipedia is a very busy, free-form place and intentionally maintains a policy of no deadline. COI editors may use the following as a loose guide which may help but implies no guarantee of response. If one of these steps does not lead to resolution, go to the next step:

Step Communication Likely wait
Step 1 Talk page messages with edit requests 1 week
Step 2 Help desk, and/or help chat 1 week
Step 3 COI noticeboard, Administrators' noticeboard, and/or other noticeboards 1 week
Step 4 Contact Wikipedia's volunteer response team (VRT) via Up to 1 week, varies depending on volume of messages at any given time
  • It's best to move through the steps in sequence, but continue to check back the forums where you previously posted. Note that VRT can most often only give you general guidance and then direct you back to the appropriate community forums in previous steps--so invest your energy in those options as much as possible.
  • 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. If necessary, invite other uninvolved editors to participate.
  • Exceptions to the above should only be for uncontroversial edits, specifically including removing outright vandalism, addressing unsourced and blatant lies or factual errors, and fixing spelling or grammar. Aim for neutrality in all of your conduct.

Technical help[edit]


  • Talk pages. Almost every Wikipedia page has a corresponding talk page where discussion happens among editors. To use the talk page, click [edit] and add your comments. To create a new topic, click [new section] at the top of the page, give the section a title, and leave your comment. New topics go at the bottom of the page.
  • Indenting. To make conversations easier to follow, place your comments below the one you are responding to and indent it using a colon (:). Each colon moves the comment farther to the right, so if the person above you used 3 colons (:::) you should use 4 (::::). To start a new talk page topic, click [new section] at the top of the page and type a title with your comment; or, start a new level 2 heading for the same effect.
  • Signatures. On talk pages but not article pages, all comments should be signed with ~~~~. Once saved, this will turn into your username or ip address with a timestamp.
  • Edit summaries. Each time you make an edit, leave a brief note about what you did and why. Place it in the edit-summary box before you click save.


  • Good sources: Newspapers, highly respected blogs, magazines, books, journals, industry publications, and expert websites; independent of the subject, with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy; somewhere or someone you would trust if you read it, knowing that they did their homework and don't want to get the information wrong.
  • Manual references: Use reference tags after the period: ...end of sentence.<ref>Reference info here: author, publication, date, title, place, web address, etc.</ref> Place at the end of the sentence after the punctuation.
  • Better references with templates: These are thorough and easy to use. Click [edit], and place the cursor at the end of the sentence you want to reference. Using the editing toolbar, click [cite] or {{ }} and choose the source type (web, book, TV...). Fill out the fields you know, click [enter], and [save] when ready.
  • Reference section: References should show up at the bottom of the page. Make a level 2 header: ==References==. Then place {{reflist}} below the header. You don't have to type out the references there; instead, place them inside the article after the sentence they support. They'll appear automatically.


To use a picture (or other media such as sound or video) on Wikipedia, you need permission from the owner/photographer:

  • If it is your own picture that you produced yourself, then you can just upload it yourself, from WP:UPLOAD, saying "It is entirely my own work". This link will take you to Commons, where free files are hosted.
  • If it is not yours, then you need permission from the owner one of two ways:
    1. License statement on company website: Ask the company to place the image somewhere on the company's official website. Then, either on the same page or on a separate copyright page on the same website, they should include a statement that the work is released under a suitable free license, for example: "The image of the X Company Logo is released under the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0." The recommended Creative Commons Attribution License allows the image to be used by anyone, with or without modifications, and allows commercial use, so long as the original author is credited. Some other licenses are also acceptable — contact a helper if you would like more information. Once this is done, a helper can assist you in uploading the image. Your company can also upload the image to another website, such as Flickr, under its official account, with the same license statement.
    2. E-mail permission: Have the owner email permission with the picture attached to stating "I release the attached image under the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0." (Again, some other licenses are also acceptable — contact a helper if you would like more information.) The email should say that they are the creator and/or sole owner of the exclusive copyright of the photograph(s) of the attached photo (or the photo at, and include their full name. It may require several days to process this e-mail - to avoid this delay, use the other method above. Once your image is approved, a helper can assist you in uploading the image.
  • After uploading, put the file in a Wikipedia page by adding [[File:FILENAME|thumb]FILEDESCRIPTION]] to any Wikipedia page.

Sample articles[edit]

These articles demonstrate use of sources, neutral writing, and formatting. Use them as models. You can click [edit source] on their pages to see the code used, and you can reuse or rework it for your own draft articles where appropriate.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Refraining from Certain Activities", Wikimedia Foundation terms of use.
  2. ^ Gardner, Sue. "Press releases/Sue Gardner statement paid advocacy editing", Wikimedia Foundation, 21 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Terms of Use - Wikimedia Foundation". Retrieved 1 September 2018.