Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-10-09/MyWikiBiz

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The Wikipedia Signpost

Account used to create paid corporate entries shut down

By Michael Snow, 9 October 2006

The Wikipedia account of a business selling its services in creating Wikipedia articles was blocked by Jimbo Wales, after a truce over the ethical concerns involved broke down. User:MyWikiBiz has been blocked indefinitely, and Wales deleted two of the articles created as a result.

The company, the brainchild of Pennsylvania marketer Gregory Kohs, announced in August that it was offering to create Wikipedia articles for companies, at prices ranging from $49 to $99 (see archived story). This caught Wales's attention, leading him to block MyWikiBiz temporarily. He unblocked the account after a phone conversation in which they discussed the possibility of Kohs "creating" articles by posting them on his own website, licensed under the GFDL. Uninvolved Wikipedia editors could then decide independently whether to transfer the articles over.

The following week, MyWikiBiz was blocked for a week after leaving comments advertising his services on Articles for deletion discussions (the comments were followed by emoticons, and Kohs says they were tongue-in-cheek). A request for arbitration was also made by Cyde, who observed that MyWikiBiz was also actively nominating articles about businesses for deletion, raising the possibility of a different kind of conflict of interest. The Arbitration Committee rejected the case, however, and Wales suggested that it was premature, noting that the conflict of interest policy was still evolving.

In September, an article was created about (not by Kohs, however), leading inevitably to a debate over whether to delete that. MyWikiBiz did not create any more articles directly, although at least one was created after being posted on his website.

Back to square zero

At the time of the original incident, Erik Möller (since elected to the Wikimedia Foundation board) had proposed and started a Wikipedia:Conflicts of interest page. After considerable development, this was marked as a guideline on Wednesday by Radiant! This apparently triggered the reopening of the conflict.

Kohs soon posted to the talk page, questioning the action on the grounds that Wales had called the proposal "absolutely unacceptable" in private correspondence. Wales said he was addressing the form of the proposal at the time, and because his own suggestions had been incorporated, he supported it as "a starting point for discouraging" people from "writ[ing] articles on behalf of companies for money."

Wales charged that Kohs was "trying to stir up sentiment" against him and misrepresenting the situation. Accordingly, he left a stern warning on MyWikiBiz's talk page. Kohs responded by telling Wales, "you, Sir, are now misrepresenting your very own thoughts about the efforts of" Wales then promptly blocked the MyWikiBiz account indefinitely, replacing the user page with an explanation and a warning to its potential customers. (Kohs's personal account, User:Thekohser, had already been blocked earlier.)

In addition to blocking the account, Wales deleted two articles produced by MyWikiBiz that Kohs had mentioned in his reply. However, one of the articles deleted, Arch Coal, had been copied from by another editor. This led the issue to come up for deletion review. Wales agreed that the discussion could proceed, although he called the article "a travesty of NPOV." The article was ultimately kept after a ground-up rewrite. Meanwhile, several more of the articles posted on were copied over by other editors after the situation flared up again.