Wikipedia:Paid operatives

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This is an essay about the issue of Paid Political Operatives editing Wikipedia. What pertains to them also pertains to other Paid-to-edit editors. It is a repository for editors to store information, arguments for and against paid operatives, conversations, and gleanings to do with the topic. This essay was formed to systemically address issues regarding paid editing of political articles and discussion pages on Wikipedia, in which influenced by pay political operatives are compensated to create and edit Wikipedia articles. While there are similarities, this essay is not about public relations (PR) or PR personnel.

  • Essay contents should not be contentious. Because they are supposed to represent opinions rather than being binding policy decisions, their content should only be substantially edited by those who agree with the stance espoused therein. If you disagree with the position taken by this essay, you're always permitted to write a counter-essay.
  • Discourse is limited by the expectation that even difficult situations will be resolved in a dignified fashion, and by policies which prohibit behavior such as personal attacks and legal threats. Editors who have genuine grievances against others are expected to use the dispute resolution mechanism rather than engage in unbridled criticism across all available forums. As previously stated, another option is to write a counter-essay.
  • Editors in general, regardless of permission level, are reminded to only engage in conduct that will directly improve the level of discourse in a discussion. Personal attacks, profanity, inappropriate use of humour, and other uncivil conduct that leads to a breakdown in discussion can prevent the formation of a valid consensus.

Blocks or other restrictions may be used to address repeated or particularly severe disruption of this nature. A prime consideration of all editors should always be to foster a collaborative environment within the community as a whole.


Political Campaigns[edit]

The objective of a political campaign is to create an organized effort to influence the decision making process within a group---The American Voting Public. The influence may be positive; to educate and inform. The influence may also be slanted only toward concealment and obfuscation. With that as a starting point, the essay hopes to focus on political operatives and their effect on the political articles and talk pages of Wikipedia. There is considerable difference between a political campaign for elected office and one that works to effect social change. Transparency, mobility, justification, mitigation, lawlessness, mobilization, single-mindedness, disdain, selectiveness, fervor, gratification, patronage, advocacy, contributor, contest, empower, critical, visionary, etc. are some characteristics that, depending on how these characteristics are implemented, will differentiate positive non-Point of View editing for the good of the reader with skewed, self-motivating editing for the good of the candidate. Personally I don't see any positives for influenced by pay political operatives being involved in political articles and talk pages. Any support of their active participation in the direct editing by themselves or by proxy is difficult to accept as neutral. While this may, on the surface, seem like taking a position against Paid Operatives, it is more of a wake-up call to fellow editors that Paid editing has drawbacks. Some might say that the 'insiders look" that paid editors bring is a balance. Others might wonder if that "insiders look" always comes with a price to pay.
If the candidate/employer is unhappy with the inclusion of what may, by some, be considered negative "press" in a Wikipedia article, the influenced-by-pay editors continuing employment within the campaign is in jeopardy. Since molding the collective mind of the voting public is the operatives main objective, no edit or entry by any other editor is insignificant or trivial. If the offending edit sheds a dim light on the candidate/employer, it must be extracted from the article; if not by the influenced-by-pay operative then by a proxy (or what some might term a slave editor). This fact alone is of major consequence when considering whether or not paid operatives should openly orchestrate Wikipedia articles and/or talk pages. They have a skewed reason to edit (or to have others edit at their behest). Their edits are for the good of the candidate and the "Campaign". Always! Their livelihood depends on it. It's how they pay the Mortgage, bills, etc.
Wikipedia is the most visible and most visited vehicle on the Internet. It dominates the generic keyword result positions in Google search. 7 Billion visitors a month. ((Many an edit war (or talk discussion) may seem like a fight over nothing to the casual observer but, considering that according to its staff Wikipedia gets about 7 billion views per month, stakes can be high)). An edit yields what millions of people read on the site on any particular topic. That, ladies and gentleman, is a HUGE marketplace/audience. In the heat of a major political campaign, tens of thousands of members of the Voting American Public come to Wikipedia for information. Wikipedia has a responsibility to serve the public, the patron, the very reason the Encyclopedia exists. Defending the legitimacy of public reliability is important. A paid operative that is influenced by his paycheck is not paid to safeguard the Integrity of Wikipedia or make sure that Wikipedia rules, guidelines, positions or suggestions by Jimbo Wales are adhered to. The PPO is paid to edit the article in order to promote his candidate/employer, to influence the voting public, and to get his employer elected to office. That is his Job. Period!

Driving The Bus[edit]

  • The Bus is symbolic of all political articles.
  • Paid operatives should never drive the Bus, and should never be allowed, by other editors, to have their hands on the steering wheel of the Bus.
  • Paid operatives are passengers on the Bus...just like the other editors. They have no special seating assignment, no reduced fare, no GPS control of where the Bus is headed, no special permission to be a spokesman for the Bus Company.
  • Paid operatives should only ask the opinions of the Bus drivers (other editors). They should never pick out an editor with similar opinions and ask special favors of them.
  • Paid operatives should never direct the drivers of the Bus where to go, how to get there ("there" may look different for different factions on the Bus), and what to say when they get there unless the direction/objective/language is agreed upon via the general consensus of the passengers.

Jimmy Wales' position on paid advocacy[edit]

I am opposed to allowing paid advocates to edit in article space at all, but am extremely supportive of them being given other helpful paths to assist us in our efforts to be comprehensive, accurate and authoritative. This is a very simple rule that constitutes best practice: do not edit Wikipedia articles directly if you are a paid advocate. Instead, contribute proposed edits to the talk page, and escalate to appropriate venues on Wikipedia if you are having trouble getting people's attention.

The Special Pleadings of Selfish Interests[edit]

While each group has certain interests identical with the interests of ALL groups, every group also has interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. It will hire the best minds to "make its case, devoting all the time necessary in that interest". It will finally either convince the general public (our readers) that its case is sound or so befuddle the conversation that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible. Henry Hazlitt said; "When providing employment becomes the end, need becomes a subordinate consideration." The medium of money, pay, a salary, a potential career subverts the WP functions which were designed to insure credible articles for our readers enjoyment and education. Lance Holbert, an associate professor in OSU's School of Communication, said Wikipedia's existence as an egalitarian source of information leaves it open to corporate and political meddling.

Conflict of Interest WP:COI[edit]

Wikipedia is written, edited, maintained, and almost completely operated by volunteers from around the world. In one way or another they ALL have a conflict of interest. But only a miniscule % of those volunteers get paid to make changes to Wikipedia articles in support of those conflicts (or in concealed support of their employers conflict). When "Pay for Editing/Influenced by Pay" enters the encyclopedic environment, a problem surfaces related to Wikipedia's responsibility to maintain the highest level of trust by the reader.

  • A Wikipedia conflict of interest (COI) is an incompatibility between the aim of Wikipedia, which is to produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia, and the aims of an individual editor. COI editing involves contributing to Wikipedia in order to promote your own interests or those of other individuals, companies, or groups. (Note: Political candidates should be included within this list should any changes to WP:COI be contemplated)
  • Where advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest.
  • See WP:COI/N

Suggest WP:COO/Conflict of Objectives (rather than Conflict of Interest)[edit]

  • The focus of WP:COI looks for the solution in the wrong place. It should be on "what is the Objective of this edit?" What is the objective, the intention, of the editor making this edit? Is it to hide, or to inform? Is it to broaden the readers knowledge on the subject or to restrict and hide verifyable facts which may change a readers mind.
  • The editor and the reader may have differing objectives. The reader comes to Wikipedia for information. The influenced-by-pay operative, comes to Wikipedia to mold the article by providing limited information (Pro) or, by implementing negative, unverifyable subject matter (Con). Strict scutiny by all volunteers is required. Professional editors are paid to be diligent, to be on-guard. Wikipedia editors are not.
  • Influenced by pay political operatives confiscate our readers expectation of neutrality and conflict with the principles behind "everyone is free to edit".
  • rights as an editor curtailed????
  • conceal and conspire, contort and contravene
  • COO causes secret co-operation among editors to achieve a goal other than improving the article.
  • Coo--Coo. Picture a sweet little morning dove 'cooing' gentle to its mate. When in fact its like a hawk hovering over its prey, the article..

from Conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia[edit]

In the context of Wikipedia, paid editing or paid advocacy is a type of conflict of interest editing in which Wikipedia articles are edited by individuals paid to do so, as employees, contractors, or through some financial connection to individuals, products, corporations, organizations, political campaigns or governments which are the subject of those articles. Although the edits may often involve minor factual corrections and changes, significant media attention has revolved around the editing of articles which removes or downplays negative information and adds or highlights positive information.

Wikipedia is free for anyone to edit, but the site maintains a neutral point of view policy. The encyclopedia's official stance on editors who have a conflict of interest strongly discourages them from working in areas where they would be intentionally or unintentionally biased. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has argued that editors who have a clear political or financial conflict of interest should never directly edit articles, but instead propose edits to other editors on article talk pages, and seek their feedback.

A number of scandals have risen around paid editing. In 2006 Wikipedia editor Gregory Kohs was banned from Wikipedia after he began openly soliciting for work as a paid editor. In 2007 a website called WikiScanner was founded which allowed users to match the IP addresses of Wikipedia editors with known company and organization offices. WikiScanner, and other investigations, revealed that Diebold, the CIA, The Vatican, Sony, Bell Pottinger, Portland Communications and many other individuals, companies, and politicians have edited or had people from their offices edit their own or related Wikipedia articles.

Several companies exist today which charge for Wikipedia editing. Public relations firms offer services related to the monitoring and editing of topics on the encyclopedia. As negative press has grown over conflict of interest editing, some public relations professionals have sought to improve the relationship between their industry and Wikipedia, as well as to influence its policies and procedures to be more accommodating of good faith efforts to edit from PR professionals. A Facebook group, Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE) was started to work on these issues, and the Public Relations Society of America and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations have been involved in efforts with Wikipedia to improve guidance and develop best practices in this area.

Jimbo's assorted comments[edit]

  • Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has personally maintained strident opposition to paid editing:
In 2009 he stated that "It is not ok with me that anyone ever set up a service selling their services as a Wikipedia editor, administrator, bureaucrat, etc...I will personally block any cases that I am shown. There are of course some possibly interesting alternatives, not particularly relevant here, but the idea that we should ever accept paid advocates directly editing Wikipedia is not ever going to be ok. Consider this to be policy as of right now."[1]
  • Jimbo's support of a paid political operative's openness and modus operandi:
Thank you for being open about your identity and treating the community with respect. Reviewing your edit history, I see that you have not made any edits to article space (only talk pages) for many months - this is a very good thing indeed. Please know that as long as you continue following these practices, I will support your participation and use it as a model for others.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:15, 31 January 2012 (UTC) From the PO's talk page, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Jimbo recommends vigilance:
" ... I think it is good to keep a close eye on [the operative] - the media will be watching his every edit..." Jimbo Wales From Jimbo Wales (talk) 13:37, 10 February 2012
  • A discussion by Paid Ops...[1]
  • Jimbo's Line in the Sand:
You will have my full support as long as a simple rule is followed: no editing of Wikipedia article space by paid advocates. There is absolutely no reason to ever do this - the talk pages, notice boards, wikiprojects, and OTRS provide ample opportunity for ethical engagement of Wikipedia. This is easy. The most common opposition to this comes from corrupt interests.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 21:53, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

Paying someone is a COI[edit]

Volunteer Wikipedia spokesperson David Gerard said, "[Wikipedia] tends not to look favorably in terms of conflict of interest, and paying someone is a conflict."[2] Gerard added that public relations representatives commonly get blocked from editing by Wikipedia administrators.[2]

In the same month that had seen conflict of interest issues raised by both Microsoft and MyWikiBiz, Wales stated that editors should not be paid to edit, and PR agencies would be banned if they persisted.[3]

Newt Gingrich[edit]

In the first quarter of 2012, it came to light that Joe DeSantis, the campaign communications director for American politician and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, had argued for and made changes to Gingrich's Wikipedia article.[4] Some of the changes which DeSantis requested were minor, but he also tried to remove negative details which he thought unduly biased the articles,[5] including details about Gingrich's extramarital affairs, information about his financial expenditure, ethics charges against him, and his political positions on controversial issues.[5][6] The incident was notable for DeSantis' switch from editing articles about the politician and his wife directly, to following Wikipedia' conflict of interest policy by using the linked discussion pages for each articles to suggest edits rather than make them himself. He said, "I stopped making direct edits in May 2011 because I was alerted to the COI rules...Earlier I thought that simply disclosing my affiliation was enough but it wasn't. So I started posting requests on the Talk page. This has been far more successful and the other editors on Wikipedia have largely received this very positively."[6] He told the political journalism organization Politico that his approach of working with the Wikipedia community by discussing edits on talk pages to be more successful than making the changes himself.[5] Wikipedia editor Tvoz was quoted as critical of the practice; he wrote: "... I have to say this micro-managing by a Gingrich campaign director is a matter of concern to me even though you now are identifying yourself. Pointing out factual errors is one thing, but your input should not go beyond that, even [on a Talk page]."[4]

2008 General election[edit]

During the 2008 US presidential race, changes made by both Barack Obama and John McCain's campaigns made the news[7] and there were suspicious updates to Sarah Palin's Wikipedia biography after the announcement of her Vice-President running position.[8] "TitianGate", as it was dubbed, was a 2009 incident in which UK leader Gordon Brown compared himself to the Italian Renaissance artist Titian who was known for his late-in-life achievements and longevity. Brown said that Titian lived until 90, which was also stated in Titian's Wikipedia article. Conservative leader David Cameron said Titian did not in fact live that long, and pointed out the event as an example Brown's tendency for inaccuracy. Shortly after Cameron's comments, Titian's article on Wikipedia was edited to reduce his age; a search of the IP address that made the edit tracked back to the Conservative Party central office.[9][10]

In June 2011 PR Week reported on a 'fixer', a known but unnamed London-based figure in the PR industry who offered services to 'cleanse' articles.[11] Wikipedia entries this person was accused of changing included "Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, Von Essen Group chairman Andrew Davis, British property developer David Rowland and billionaire Saudi tycoon Maan Al-Sanea" as well as Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby.[11] According to PR Week's investigation, 42 edits were made from the same IP address, most of them removing negative or controversial information, or adding positive information.[11] Also in 2011 there were conflicted edits to US Congressional representative David Rivera's Wikipedia article.[12]

Whom are Influenced by pay political operatives trying to fool?[edit]

Answer:' Our Reader.'

FROM:Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/TimidGuy ban appeal (section)[edit]

Conflict of Interest guideline[edit]

2) Many issues concerning paid editing, anonymous editing, outing and harassment, are unresolved. Our policies and guidelines are complicated and sometimes contradictory. Investigating, sanctioning and/or exonerating editors on the basis of who they are or what they do in real life is not only controversial but often impossible. Furthermore, extreme cases apart, there is no consensus about the extent that editors may edit articles on topics with which they are personally involved. Hence, of necessity, review must focus primarily on the editing patterns of those editors about whom problems are claimed.

Passed 14 to 0, 00:48, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

Comments from around Wikipedia[edit]

  • Because of the essentially non-actionable nature of WP:COI, my firsthand impression of COI/N is that it mostly inflames situations rather than helps solve them. 21 February 2012
  • A small coterie of editors used the noticeboard as just another platform to air their views without restraint while they treated the actual conflict of interest policy as a minor side show few cared to see. At WP:COI, 2007
  • The main problem is where to draw the line. Is common membership of an external site sufficient to qualify as a conflict of interest? What about members of the same WikiProject? People editing from the same household? The same university? Married couples, de facto couples, girlfriends, associates? Members of the same Wikimedia chapter who work together? People self-identifying as belonging to the same club, group or political party? People from the same city, state or country? There is serious potential to create a precedent that bestows momentum to the issue, starting its movement down that slippery slope. If ArbCom is going to make a ruling on conflict of interest, it would be in ArbCom's best interests to establish as bright a line as possible in defining what does or does not constitute a conflict of interest. If such a line can't be defined, any decision ArbCom were to render on the matter would be at serious risk of being undermined by its own ambiguity. Precedents are even more subject to the doctrine of unintended consequences than anything else. From a User talk page (22Feb2012)
  • But I believe the process works - there are enough editors on all sides of issues and on no side of issues, to keep these articles balanced, accurate, and shaped in the way they want, without any chilling effect or hesitance to shoot down the respectfully worded campaign requests. Joe is doing what we told him is ok to do - my quarrel is not with how he has proceeded after he stopped editing directly - my concern, as I have said, is that we have here an imbalance, where by definition he is going to be viewed as more of an "expert" on the subject than the rest of us, but his expertise is of course biased, and I think the organic development and editing of articles by people with opinions of course, but not paychecks fueling them, is what makes Wikipedia great. From Talk:Gingrich Campaign, 2012, 22Feb2012
  • Well, as to the first, the idea that we should permit (or perhaps even encourage) paid agents and not ask them to self-identify is a position that very few if any other editors have advanced, and is certainly contrary to WP:NOPAY, a policy (although granted it only states that "it is advised" to provide this info). And I think there's a good reason that this is accepted by most Wikipedians. For instance, I as a volunteer would not wish to engage in a time-consuming back-and-forth with another editor without knowing that (say) that he actually agrees with me but is required by his employers to maintain the position that he is advocating, so that the entire engagement is a sham. Would you? ....., and I think that knowing that one is engaging with a paid agent is useful information, and useful information ought to be presented in several different places where a person might look for it, when appropriate and if not causing information overload. From WP:PAW mid January, 2012
  • Wow. Its rare I come across an editor who argues at me as forcefully and with as much fire and brimstone as I frequently do at others in AfD. Bravo for that (seriously)! I now fear I've waded into an area where I know less than ideally I should. So, let me say, my experience with probable paid editors is seeing them lurking around articles that few pay attention to. Such as BLPs I worked on at Wikipedia:Unreferenced BLP Rescue or helped out on at via Wikipedia:Article Rescue Squadron; they are all over the place and I informally keep tab on their edits via my watchlist and freely revert when necessary. They aren't trying to be bad, usually. They want their company or client's article to look decent and will indeed shade it some, so they DO MERIT watching. So I watch. See, e.g., Tire Kingdom (comment in its AfD: "This is our second largest company"), Chris Hicks (record executive), City Limits (New York magazine), Jennifer Nicole Lee, Sleepy's. Is my watching comprehensive? Probably not. That's why I could see a disclosed paid editor list as being a useful project group tool, just like New Page Patrol watches new articles or the Article Rescue Squadron patrols deletion processes. Both those groups/tools are also possibly subject to abuse (e.g., the NPP newbies drive me crazy when they try to speedy delete highly notable subjects) but that doesn't mean they shouldn't exist. So that's where I'm coming from. lifted from Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/User:Herostratus, Wikiproject;Paid Editing Watch, Editor Registry 12:26, 10 March 2012
  • "Wikipedia.....being a collective, open project, (it) must be accessible to most, but as its production becomes important for its "owners" (readers and producers), boundaries have to be set to protect its integrity. De Laat's article describes and analyzes the tensions and permanent adjustments needed to manage these apparently opposed goals. From Signpost/2012-03-26/Recent research#Flagged revisions, etc.
  • Don't worry. Persistence will win in the end, and volunteers cannot compete with professionals. From CREWE Talk/#COI template 08:33, 26 March 2012
  • WP:AGF and WP:CIVIL are foundational to Wikipedia, and I believe in them. But they are a two-way street, and there is nothing in AGF or CIVIL that requires us to assume good faith or be civil to someone who is being uncivil and attacking us. We are not guided by "turn the other cheek" - we 're supposed to try to work together in a hospitable manner and foster mutual respect. I appreciate and share your concern about keeping Wikipedia great, but I part company with you on this one, and am not hesitant to say that I hope this exchange has driven him away. We don't need to encourage editors who come on and just attack. It's not as bad as vandalism, but it is detrimental to the project as it drains energy and distracts from the important work we need to be doing. From an Editors talk page
  • We need to fight to the end to do everything possible to keep paid corporate hacks off this website...--MONGO 11:04, 12 March 2012 From Jimbo talk/Archive 99)
  • There was no reason for removal other than the Campaign didn't like it.
  • Is this edit about improving the article or about removing an embarassment about the candidate?

Q: Why should unpaid volunteers help deal with the flood of non-neutral, non-encyclopedic advocacy that advocates are being paid to overwhelm them with?[edit]

From User:Jimbo's Paid Advocacy FAQ

A: The market for shills knows no lower bound in terms of the willingness of organisations to hire poor quality advocates. On wikipedia I give skills to colleagues who volunteer, on a voluntary basis—this is my main motivation to engage here. Paid editors who do not comprehend basic elements of scholarly and professional literacy, such as plagiarism, are not only seeking to change the content of the encyclopaedia; they are seeking education from the community. And I am not willing to volunteer expert skills, skills I have to exert under direction IRL, in order for some wage slave or petits bourgeois contractor to get paid. I'm happy to help skill up volunteers of the most irreconcileable interests, views and politics. I'm willing to teach a volunteer why he can cite one music magazine, and not another, and how to do so. I'm willing to teach a volunteer how not to plagiarise by close paraphrase a notable neo-con opinion, and how instead to re-express the fundamental point or quote as appropriate. But I volunteer for that very feeling of not working under the direction of management, but along side other free volunteers.

I don't maintain an understanding of our reliable sources policy to teach paid shills who can't be bothered reading core policy documents they should have read themselves. Nor do I maintain a capacity for spotting plagiarism such that I can teach a paid shill the core of proper attribution and re-expression. There is no lower bound in price or standard of conduct to limit the shill (already employed, or working on contract) from attempting to edit, whether live or through COI assistance programmes.

Volunteers get forgiven a multitude of sins, because they come here to give me something I can't give myself: working along side other free people on an encyclopaedia. Shillery, in particular shills who lack the capacity to author or edit encyclopaedic content, come here to steal my gift and get paid. Unlike commercialisers of our eventual content, shills intrude on my immediate experience of editing. And shills have no capacity to claim the collegiality I give freely—they bring nothing collegial to the encyclopaedia.

So I am very interested in this FAQ question, and its unanswered status. I don't believe we should answer it, because I don't believe we should accept the fundamentally non-collegial and unencyclopaedic nature of the shill's "involvement" in our community of encyclopaedists. Fifelfoo (talk) 10:10, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

Hi I've come along because Fifelfoo posted on my talk page, and I'm happy to do so. I generally agree with Fifelfoo's comments. But what I would really like to do is to propose that a short questionnaire should be sent to all the WikiProjects, asking if they experience significant volumes of paid advocacy/COI, and for views on what can be done about it. WikiProject Universities, for example, has advisory text on "academic boosterism", and still we get the PR people coming along to add content that is usually really bad, and does nothing to enhance the institution's reputation. Itsmejudith (talk) 12:46, 28 May 2012 (UTC)
First off, can you please stop using the word shills? It's essentially a personal attack against a number of editors and you're certainly using it that way. Oh, and let me also add that those editors with the "irreconcileable interests, views and politics" would also be shills, if you understood what the term meant.
Second, you have to explain this "lack of collegiality" thing to me, Fifelfoo. Paid editors have just as much of a shared responsibility to improving the articles they come across and most of them try to do so in the proper ways, far, far more than the fan boy or the political hardliner. There are very, very few editors that would actually fall under your definition of encyclopaedists. Almost everyone here is here to have their own interests be exemplified and, many, are here to make sure their viewpoint is the one that is being presented. I would hazard even saying that a number of what would be considered our "top" editors edit in regards to articles showing their own viewpoint on matters. As for paid editing, it is going to invariably crop up in Wikiproject Companies and maybe a few other areas, but that's where the interest is, so I don't see your suggestion as going to be particularly fruitful, Itsmejudith. And i'm quite sure that "they come here to give me something I can't give myself" directly applies to paid editors too, Fifelfoo.
Might you have a story, Fifelfoo, to explain why this intense dislike for paid editing? It has to be based on something, because there's been numerous examples of paid editing that has been done properly and there is a push now for all paid editors, within that very community, to edit Wikipedia properly and you seem to be against that. SilverserenC 17:40, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

Something to look at[edit]

From: User:DDG's talk page,

I have created a rough draft of what could become WP:EASYMONEY at User:Dennis Brown/EASYMONEY for the purpose of helping COI editors actually understand what they are doing wrong, how to fix it, and how to actually become a contributor instead of a liability. I'm trying to avoid all the adhoc speeches given to the growing number of PR and marketing firms that are joining us, and at the same time avoid taking a stand on the policy or politics of the issue. I am interested in your opinion of the wisdom of this. If you like the concept, please feel free to participate or modify in any way you choose. I'm not married to any format or details in this, it is just a rough draft at this point. I will drop this same note to a few other editors whom I feel would be beneficial in considering this page. Dennis Brown - © 14:42, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

I was planning something with a roughly similar intent : "What is Promotionalism" It should complement what your've been doing. I want to keep it separate, because my part refers to much more than paid editing. The structural problem with yours is that you need early on to explain that there is a safe universally accepted way as specified at COI--asking for article creation or proposing a draft in userspace, and a less safe not universally accepted way, direct editing, which is what much of yours is directed to, though much applies to anyone. You also need to explain that policies and guidelines contain contradictions. And in the other direction, there are a few absolute NOs, such as don't remove uncomfortable facts, but use the talk page, & if necessary, OTRS. There's some wording changes needed; for example, the RS problem is as much pR-based sources as blogs, WP:N is not policy, but a guideline, and WP:BRD is an essay which not everyone agrees with--personally, I think it in practice a temptation to violate the policy WP:CIVIL--when I started I was astounded people were actually encouraged to work in that fashion. . A better title is also needed: "Editing for money" ? DGG ( talk ) 16:43, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
It was thrown together quickly this morning. If you are inclined, I would love to have your participation. I've asked only a few editors whom I know have different ideas about Wikipedia in general, as to get a balanced approach to it. It is targeted for PR/Marketing people who are new to Wikipedia, who very often get blocked right out of the gate, as you observe. This is one reason I invited Orangemike, as this might be a tool he would use via UAA concerns, Nobody Ent, Kim Dent-Brown, The Bushranger and others who have unique and valuable perspective and of course you, whose opinions I always appreciate. I'm hoping to get others to pitch in on the actual content, as I don't wish it to be solely my opinion and words, but clearly a community "help" guide. And I'm not married to the name either. Would like to hear other opinions on that at the talk page. With help, I don't think it would take a great deal of time to get this up to par since the scope is narrow enough. Dennis Brown - © 17:45, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

Discussion related to User:Will Beback ban and paid editing[edit]

User talk:Jimbo Wales/Paid Advocacy FAQ#Why should unpaid volunteers help deal with the flood of non-neutral, non-encyclopedic advocacy that advocates are being paid to overwhelm them with?[edit]

As I noted, my story is that wikipedia is a relief from acting as a wage slave, and in a context of wage slavery. Unpaid boosters bring themselves to the encyclopaedia, I may dislike them, but they bring something unique. Shills bring the maximisation of shareholder value, and attempt to reduce my encyclopaedic involvement to the maximisation of their shareholder's value. They come here to steal, to appropriate, and they bring no gift—they bring chains. Perhaps you don't find it deeply offensive to be reduced to the value form, the wide variety of human experience means that every form of bondage has its voluntary adherents, but quite frankly it offends my being for reasons ably restated since the 19th century. The difference between users who are here to expand content that interests them for free, and a shill, is monetary gain; the reason why the first is not offensive, and the latter is deeply offensive is that the first seeks to expand the encyclopaedia as it exists in whatever misguided way they can, the latter seeks to convert us in to an information commodity in the very process of producing knowledge. The incompetence of the first is a pedagogical problem, the incompetence (including in wikipedia governance) of the latter is a demand for unpaid professional services and the conversion of a community into an externality. Frankly, I am not here to be enclosed by incompetents. Fifelfoo (talk) 22:05, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, GandyDancer/[edit]

  • Whatever are we going to do about this corporate attempt to take over Wikipedia? You recently called it making Wikapedia safe for children's bedtime stories and I recently called it the corporate fairytale, but we are both wrong. Children have no problem with grasping that the evil stepmother or the witch are crafty and have little interest in the well-being of the children. How are we going to make our articles free of corporate spin's attempt to suger-coat and minimize the negatives while promoting and maximizing the positives? Gandydancer (talk) 19:05, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
    • Thanks GD. A profit-maximizing entity, including the top 5 oil/energy corporations, cannot afford not to patrol WP, esp. hot articles like the one we just commented on. Large payouts loom and public opinion can provide political pressure, for example, to reject a sweetheart settlement. Public relations (which of course used to be called "propaganda") is thus critical and, in fact, I have met pr firm professional whose main job focus is "social media" and on-line "branding" etc. Thus, we should expect that corporate pr flacks are here. The more reliable whitewashers, spinners and obfuscaters are the most likely suspects, although I cannot determine this for, let alone accuse, any individual editor. If I had the time, I would get software that can track the source of edits. In our corporate world, we need to accept that reality just as we have come to expect that the systems that support life on Earth are under major attack from several major industries. But the good news is that every good edit helps to inform people and is read by many people, even in instances in which it is ultimately run over by spinners and whitewashers. In the meantime, I see no alternative but to plug away and to keep improving WP articles by following the rules to keep adding content that the public deserves to know about regarding its collective situation. So we should focus our time on adding important info to articles that matter. Don't get mad or discouraged; get even by redoubling your efforts here.--NYCJosh (talk) 03:24, 10 April 2013 (UTC)


A common counter-charge that is often used somewhere during the MANY discussions about COI or paid to edit situations is that those that oppose paid editing are a small but very vocal minority within the Wikipedia Community...just some fringe group whose position is out of date and easily ignored or discounted. Does that position have any basis in fact or is it just the stated wishes of Pro-Operative supporters? Is it possible that, in fact, WP reality is the opposite...that supporters of operative editing are in the minority but just more vocal? The vast Silent Majority is unaware of any problem. Has there been any poll or study done to provide some idea as to where the common editor of WP stands on the issue of Paid to Edit? ```Buster Seven Talk 13:38, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

As a practical matter, it's not really possible to gauge the level of support for a proposal among all Wikipedians. Project-space discussions attract a very small and self-selecting slice of the editorial population. Increasingly, we've got a lot of editors whose participation here is mostly or totally limited to arguing about project-level issues, without any meaningful participation in article-space (I could name a few names, but that would just piss people off, and I'm sure you can think of examples readily). Basically, we've been overrun by armchair quarterbacks, who happily lecture others on the meaning of various content policies without any actual experience in applying them. We even had a (now-ex-) Arbitrator who was prone to sanctimonious pontification about civility, but whose own civility rapidly disintegrated when he found himself involved in a content dispute. But I digress.

To answer your question, I don't think there's any way to truly assess "the community" stance on paid editing. I don't think it's safe to assume that there's a Silent Majority who actually take the issue seriously (although it's comforting to believe that there is). We're stuck with trying to convince the small minority of editors who actually spend their time arguing about project-space issues. Most are sort of a lost cause and make snap decisions based on various poorly-thought-out abstract principles or personal grudges, but there is a small but influential persuadable middle. For example, if I can't convince Risker that I'm right, then I usually start to question whether I am right, or at least whether my powers of articulation are failing me. And there are other people like her - people with whom I often disagree but who are intellectually honest and open to serious discussion. The trick is identifying them and ignoring people who are clearly operating on a knee-jerk, spinal-reflex level, and who contribute about 90% of the verbiage in project-space discussions. MastCell Talk 18:57, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

User Coretheapple on paid editing[edit]

Why disclose COI? Why not just work undercover? Because, as we've seen at the BP article, disclosure of COI is viewed with favor in the Wikipedia community, and is considered a sign of integrity and of being a straight shooter. You can be, as in this instance, a company that has been explicitly found by the U.S. government to "lack business integrity," and you will be defended by Wiki leaders.

Signpost Interviews about Paid Editing[edit]

March 12[edit]

April 16[edit]

April 23[edit]

April 30[edit]

July 2012[edit]


There really are ethical communications professionals who understand that I will crucify their clients in the media if they do not do the right thing. And there are those who do NOT get it, and banning them is the fastest and easiest thing to do."
Jimmy Wales, talk-page discussion

Cla's action has prompted extensive discussion on Jimmy Wales’s talk page ("It makes me sick to my stomach").

Ethics, transparency, disclosure, COI[edit]

From the talk page of Larry Sanger's Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales:

What's the extent of our ethical duty to our readers re. political articles?
This is addressed to you personally, Mr. Wales. It is a request for you to express your personal views in this public forum. I respectfully request others here to resist the urge to preëmpt your reply - even though it has been said that your talk page is the equivalent of the Village Pump - and to engage in discussion only after you have made your comments, if any. [Emphasis added.]
As you know, Joe DeSantis - paid by Newt Gingrich to direct communications on his behalf - has ceased editing Gingrich-related articles here directly and now posts his desired inclusions and deletions at the article talk pages and at the talk pages of editors he selects to act as his proxy. As you appreciate, this is entirely within policy and guidelines. Furthermore DeSantis voluntarily appends Communications Director, Gingrich 2012 to his WP signature. You have applauded him for the transparency of these practices and cited him as an example to other paid political operatives.
My concern now is more for our readers than our editors. Readers who don't check out the talk pages will be unaware that the Gingrich articles are edited (now indirectly) by a communications professional employed by Gingrich to help persuade Americans that he should be their next president. (Templated notices of DeSantis's engagement with the articles are confined to the articles' talk pages; and a warning of "increased risk of biased editing" during Gingrich's run for office is only displayed on his personal article's talk page.)
Information - its persuasive presentation, control, manipulation and interpretation - is arguably the most powerful weapon in the armory of a political campaign. It goes almost without saying that there will be other paid political operatives who, unlike DeSantis, assiduously attend to their paymasters' articles without disclosing their affiliation. We know you would like to see them emulate DeSantis's transparency. Do you think the ethical duty of transparency extends to informing our readers that all articles that have to do with politicians running for office, and with their campaigns, are very likely to be edited, both directly and indirectly (where editors act as proxies), by users who are employed to do so by the individuals and entities concerned?
Is your concern limited entirely to WP:COI? Or do you feel we have a duty of transparency and disclosure to our readers that goes beyond COI, and also beyond templated notices on articles talk pages (which many readers may never see)? If the latter, what do you think about including notices on the article pages? Or do you have any other suggestions? Writegeist (talk) 20:22, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

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Although not posted in direct relation to the very specific issue raised in the original post above, this January 2012 comment from Wales at is of interest for its take on what paid advocates are paid to do:

"[P]eople who are acting as paid advocates do not make good editors. They insert puffery and spin. That's what they do because that it is what paid advocates do."

So should articles (i.e. not just talk pages) that have to do with politicians running for office alert readers to the almost certain involvement of paid political operatives in their editing? The question remains unanswered. Writegeist (talk) 02:21, 24 February 2012 (UTC)

Employer Satisfaction[edit]

Like any other job, an influenced by pay political operatives' continued employment is based on success. Patron satisfaction is the number one goal. A paid operative that is unable to sway article edits away from criticism of the candidate, that is unable to convince fellow editors to make unquestioned changes to the article, that is unable to prevent a duststorm of controversy over editing, that allows blemishes to remain visible within the article may not remain employed for the duration of the election. His paycheck and his capacity to pay his personal bills (Mortgage, multiple car payments, school loans, college funds, food, clothing, entertainment, etc.) depend on his ability to skirt neutrality, to conceal any bias, to appear impartial while favoring his employers views over all else.

Under the Radar[edit]

An important consideration of influenced by pay political operatives is to remain concealed and hidden, outside the notice of Wikipedia's readers/visitors/researchers/producers. Control and manipulation of article and talk page substance in order to enhance positives or conceal negatives is imperative for a successful paid operative career. "Their most important role is arguably the developement and production of Mass media" (see WP:Political consulting) such as TV, Direct Mail, Wikipedia and other much-visited Internet sites (facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.).

Get out the Vote[edit]

Getting the target voter to vote for the chosen candidate (and employer) is another important and primary paid political operatives duty. It is the basic reason for any campaign operative to be employed by a campaign. It's all about the vote. All the political campaign staff are dependant on the successful election of their candidate. Their jobs and future success depend on it. Envolvement in too many un-successful political campaigns will result in necessary career changes for those individuals. However, successful operatives that "get the job done' can often be earmarked for major positions within the new administration. With a myriad of positions to fill, the campaign staff is a logical and reasonable source of like-minded individuals who can function well within the new administration causing very little friction for the newly elected official. So, it is not just the pay. It is the future potential career.


Publicity about operatives covertly working on Wikipedia political articles[edit]

The issue of covert political editing was aired in 2006 in an article covering some examples current at the time, and also one from a year earlier.

The best take so far on paid editing[edit]

From Jimbo Wales' talk page [2]:

Hi Jimbo, and whoever else may be interested,
First, I wanted to thank you, Jimbo, for your concerns with paid advocacy. I think you've taken a very helpful stance. I just wanted to follow with some thoughts; I'm sure others have written all this before, but anyway:
In academic publishing, if the author of a paper has received or will receive tangible benefits from someone who has a financial interest in the subject of the paper, this conflict of interest is supposed to be noted clearly within the paper. Not to do so is academic fraud. For encyclopedias this is not even an issue: Authors of entries are always supposed to be independent of conflict of interest for the subject of their entries. This is because encyclopedias are not supposed to be position or argumentative papers, but general, neutral accounts. Conflicts of interest have always been recognized in the academic world as undermining this neutrality to such an extent that it is rigorously avoided. For example, if it was discovered that Robert Duce accepted money from the aerosol industry in order to write the entry "Aerosols" in the Springer Encyclopedia of World Climatology, he would be rightly scandalized, and his department at Texas A&M would try to remove him as best as they could. We should keep this encyclopedia at the same high standard.
Paid advocacy editors have responded that Wikipedia already has policies to keep things neutral and that their edits— or those of the responsible ones among them at least —are kept within these policies. This response is a non-starter. Every academic encyclopedia has neutrality as an editorial standard, but their editors still do not accept authors with a conflict of interest. We should not fail to learn from the best practices of the academic world.
Paid advocacy editors cannot produce even a single example where an effective paid editor has produced an overall negative impression for the firm or a client of the firm which pays this editor. Of course this is the case: If such a paid editor is going to produce a negative impression of the benefactor, then the benefactor has no interest in paying out money for such a service. Overall unbiased editing from such paid editors is a contradiction. A necessary condition for the continued practice of paying editors to produce content about oneself or one's clients is that there be a systemic bias in the production of content. Neutral editors have no effective mechanism for dealing with this biased production apart from banning it: Neutral editors are volunteers who can only act in their free time, the paid editors have as much time as their pay can afford them.
Claims that the community here is divided on whether to maintain the high standards of academic publishing are suspicious. The community is that body of neutral editors who are here to write an encyclopedia collaboratively. The editors who are paid to produce content concerning a benefactor, insofar as they take that role, are not part of this community. As such they are not here to work collaboratively, but are rather here to benefit themselves. What percentage of those who want to allow, and indeed expand the number of, encyclopedia articles written with a conflict of interest are actually part of the community, and what percentage are themselves paid editors? That is hard to answer. Instead of counting votes on what practices to take up, we should look to the academic world, which has soundly rejected conflict-of-interest writing. Thanks for reading. --Atethnekos (Discussion, Contributions) 18:59, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Conversations at Jimbo's talk page and at ANI[edit]

Best practice is to suggest edits on the talk page with full disclosure of your conflict of interest, and then to escalate if you don't get a response. The main problem with even very neutral and boring factual edits is that they can give rise to an appearance of conflict of interest, and of course bad actors will always claim that their edits are simply neutral and boring factual edits. It's best to avoid the question altogether, particularly when in a position of some responsibility at a chapter!"
Jimbo Wales, 15 November 2013

Elsewhere on WP[edit]

WMF cease and desist letter 11/18/2013[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Metz, Cade (2009-06-12). "Jimbo Wales: No one can make money from Wikipedia... ...except me. And maybe this spammer". The Register. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  2. ^ a b "Should Microsoft Pay for Wikipedia Edits?". PCWorld. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference kohsmediaweek was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b "Gingrich spokesman defends Wikipedia edits – CNN Political Ticker - Blogs". 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  5. ^ a b c "Newt Gingrich communications director Joe DeSantis works Wikipedia". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  6. ^ a b "Joe DeSantis, Newt Gingrich's communications director, made over 60 changes to the GOP candidate's Wikipedia page". GlobalPost. 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  7. ^ "Staffs for US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama caught making questionable edits to Wikipedia". Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  8. ^ Noam Cohen (September 1, 2008). "Editing - and re-editing - Sarah Palin's Wikipedia Entry". Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ Robert Booth. "Titian, the Tory and Wikipedia: a modern morality tale | Politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  10. ^ Lanxon, Nate (2009-02-12). "Titiangate: Conservative party caught vandalising Wikipedia | CNET UK". Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  11. ^ a b c "'Fixer' cleans Wikipedia entries for senior business figures | PR & public relations news". PRWeek. 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  12. ^ "Rep. David Rivera's war with Wikipedia - Marin Cogan". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2012-02-13.