Digital Transformation

Profiteering 'Black Hat' Wikipedia edit group culled from site

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By John McCarthy | Media editor

September 2, 2015 | 3 min read

Wikipedia has culled hundreds of accounts allegedly taking undisclosed payments to adapt pages with bias and unsubstantiated views.

A single “co-ordinated group” of ‘black hat’ editors operating 381 now-deleted user accounts took payments to handle the PR of certain companies, business people, or artists.

Wikimedia Foundation employees editorial associate Ed Erhart and senipr comms manager Juliet Barbara, said in a blog post that these individuals were generating revenue by adding “biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations” to the site.

The pair added: “The community of volunteers who maintain and edit Wikipedia vigilantly defend the Wikimedia sites to ensure that content meets high editorial standards.

“Neutrality is key to ensuring Wikipedia’s quality. Although it does not happen often, undisclosed paid advocacy editing may represent a serious conflict of interest and could compromise the quality of content on Wikipedia.”

The network of accounts was found to be ‘sockpuppets’ - one of many accounts utilised by a single editor or groups. They breached Wikimedia neutrality and conflict of interest rules .

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A graphic also showed the organised network of accounts used to perpetrate the edits. Each account is linked by either username or IP address.

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