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Wikipedia suspends 10 accounts linked to Bell Pottinger

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By John Glenday, Reporter

December 8, 2011 | 2 min read

Ten user accounts linked to controversial PR agency Bell Pottinger have been suspended by Wikipedia after they were caught rewriting clients entries on the crowd sourced encyclopaedia.

The Independent reports that the firm had made “hundreds of alterations” to Wikipedia entries relating to its clients last year, including adding favourable comments and removing negative content.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales personally intervened in the case, citing dismay at the “ethical blindness” of the firm which employed staff to manipulate the site using pseudonyms.

One Bell Pottinger account, “Biggleswiki”, saw references to a drugs conviction of one client and details of commercial bribery against another removed.

James Thomlinson, head of digital at Bell Pottinger, said: "Biggleswiki is one of a number of accounts that the digital team have used to edit Wikipedia articles. I would like to point out that while we have worked for a number of clients we have never done anything illegal.

“We have never added something that is a lie or hasn't been published elsewhere and we have never tried to 'astroturf', ie create fake positive reviews to sell a product. If we have been asked to include things about clients that are untrue we have always said no and pointed to Wikipedia's strict guidelines.”

"We have also ensured that for every change that we have made we have sought the approval of the wider Wikipedia community first."

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