Foundation takes aim at undisclosed paid editing; Greek Wikipedia editor faces down legal challenge
WMF moves on undisclosed paid editing
- Paid contributions without disclosure
- a statement on your user page,
- 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, such as those addressing conflicts of interest, may further limit paid contributions or require more detailed disclosure. For more information, please read our background note on disclosure of paid contributions.
As of publishing time, comments on the talk page have gone beyond 50 sections, and a referendum on the amendment has a majority in support—though an unusual number of votes have been posted without a signature.
With "compensation"—for the purposes of the amendment—being defined as "an exchange of money, goods, or services", some sections, such as hypothetical (but not all that hypothetical) examples for discussion or non-hypothetical example, have focused on the vagaries in the Foundation's proposal. For example, the former discusses borderline scenarios, including:
- Example 1:
- I am an experienced Wikipedia editor, perhaps an administrator. A friend is an author who has published several novels that are still in print. He does not have a Wikipedia article, and would like to have one. Knowing that I'm active on Wikipedia, he asks me to create an article for him. He gives me information about his background and books to include in the article. There is no question in my mind that the author meets the applicable notability guideline. May I write the article? Do I have to disclose anything if I do write the article? If my friend offers to take me to dinner to thank me for agreeing to write the article, may I accept?
- Example 2:
- I work at a university library. The library contains archival and manuscript collections of the personal papers of dozens of historical and literary figures, which are of interest to scholars. Our collections are underutilized, and we would like to have more visitors use them. I want to add a short paragraph to the Wikipedia article of each person whose papers our library holds, mentioning that his or her papers are at our facility and providing a link to the online finding aid. May I do so?
Example two takes on even greater importance when considering the growing GLAM-Wiki movement, which promotes galleries, libraries, archives, and museums and now has its first official user group (the GLAM-Wiki US Consortium); it boasts a number of successes, most notably in content uploads to the Wikimedia Commons.
The other linked discussion raises the question of whether participating in an on-wiki contest with a cash prize, such as the Core Contest or the Tyop Contest, would require disclosure.
The practice of paid advocacy has been a public problem on the English Wikipedia since October, when a clandestine ring of editors working for the public relations agency Wiki-PR (now Status Labs Image Management) was exposed by the Signpost and several other news outlets. The Foundation quickly moved against the firm, issuing a surprisingly strong statement from executive director Sue Gardner the same month and an order to "cease and desist" in November.
Although the English Wikipedia is the largest and most visible of the various Wikimedia projects, its paid editing policies have no effect on other Wikimedia projects. The German Wikipedia and its local support team keep a register of official institutional editor accounts. It has a "user verification" system in place that attempts to prevent unauthorized people from operating from what would appear to be an official account for a business or individual. The process is simple, involving an email from a company domain sent to Wikimedia's OTRS system. The result is editors like Benutzer:Coca-Cola De, an account for the Coca-Cola Company.
So, too, does the Norwegian Wikipedia. Erlend Bjørtvedt, the Vice Chairman and Treasurer of Wikimedia Norway, said that a major discussion among the site's administrators concluded that a straight ban on paid editors was wholly impractical, as it would also ban editors who were working for public institutions. Edits from third parties paid to edit for a commercial entity and non-neutral editing for pay are frowned on, but the site attempts to judge editors on their actions, not affiliation. In fact, according to Bjørtvedt, employees' editing their employers' articles "is not only tolerated, but quite common" on the site. Bjørtvedt is an example of this: he is a Vice President of Telenor, a global telecommunications company, and he has edited the company's article 233 times, while the next two contributors combined have a total of 27 edits.
Editor faces legal proceedings for Wikipedia edits
Dimitris Liourdis, a lawyer in training who moonlights as an administrator on the Greek Wikipedia, is embroiled in a legal dispute with Theodore Katsanevas, a Greek politician, over alleged edits made to his Wikipedia article. Liourdis, who edits Wikimedia sites as Diu, is likely to receive a heavy criminal sentence if convicted. His legal fees are being covered by the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates the various Wikimedia sister projects, through their Legal Fees Assistance Program.
Liourdis' predicament was first publicized on the Wikimedia blog, apparently in response to a legal setback—on 13 February, Liourdis was ordered to remove the offending statements from Katsanevas' Wikipedia article. Arstechnica, The Press Project, Nonprofit Quarterly, and the Washington Post's "Switch" blog, among others, quickly followed.
Legal proceedings were initiated on the basis of a single sentence added in one of Liourdis' 22 edits to the article, which reported that Katsanevas was castigated as a "disgrace" in the will of Andreas Papandreou, who at the time of his death in 1996 was Katsanevas' father-in-law. While Liourdis did not add any sources with this edit, at the time legal action was initiated, there were several reputable references. The English Wikipedia's new article on Katsanevas supports its own sentence with eight sources.
Katsanevas also sued the Greek Free/Open Source Software Society, apparently in the misguided belief that it runs Wikipedia.
Liourdis' hearing is set for 11 March. He is currently blocked on the Greek Wikipedia for edit warring while attempting to comply with the court's order. The end result, as of publishing time, is that the information is still in Katsanevas' Greek Wikipedia article, it has received thousands of views, and new articles have been created in English, Catalan, Polish, Yakut, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian.
- Policy drafts closed to community comments: The Foundation has closed three community consultations after a five-month consultation period. The discussions, on privacy, data retention, and Access to nonpublic information, will be codified into formal Wikimedia policies. The Wikimedia blog has more from the Foundation's Michelle Paulson here and here.
- Redesigning Wikipedia: A Swedish design firm has published a set of proposals that updates the site: "While big parts of the internet have gone through an amazing journey in terms of typography these last years, Wikipedia's reading experience is still stuck in the 90's. We wanted to take a few days and propose a direction through which Wikipedia could move forward, focusing on articles and reading without necessarily having to change too much of what it is and should continue to be."