Making The Case For PR Pros Editing Wikipedia

from the is-it-really-notable dept

Obscured amidst the hysteria over anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA has been a valuable discussion bubbling up within public relations about PR people editing clients’ Wikipedia entries.

It’s a topic that has been debated for years. From Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales stating in 2006 that “PR firms editing Wikipedia is something that we frown upon very, very strongly” to last year’s Bell Pottinger lobbying scandal, where it emerged that the firm was surreptitiously manipulating client’s Wikipedia entries — raising the ire of Mr. Wales and his Wikipedia acolytes — it’s a discussion that seemingly knows no end.

PR people have long been frustrated by the complexities of the Wikipedia editing process. Colleagues tell us they feel rebuffed by what they believe is an arcane system meant to ostracize them whenever they attempt to correct inaccurate or outdated employer or client entries.

The issue over edits made on Wikipedia is one that affects more than just the public relations profession. It has implications for every business, organization and institution around the world, given Wikipedia’s widespread use as an information resource.

The matter gained particular prominence recently when Phil Gomes, an executive at Edelman Digital, began to peel back the layers of distrust and confusion between PR people and Wikipedians with a blog post and Facebook group aimed at bringing together the sparring parties.

Gomes’ initiative, dubbed the Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, is based on four pillars:

  1. Corporate communicators want to do the right thing.
  2. Communicators engaged in ethical practice have a lot to contribute.
  3. Current Wikipedia policy does not fully understand Nos. 1 and 2, owing to the activities of some bad actors and a general misunderstanding of public relations in general.
  4. Accurate Wikipedia entries are in the public interest.

It’s a noble effort and one that my organization, the Public Relations Society of America, wholeheartedly supports.

Techdirt further examined the issue when Mike Masnick asked, rather pointedly, whether PR people should be “able to edit otherwise ignored Wikipedia pages of their clients to correct errors?” He focused on some fairly glaring issues that we believe Wikipedia has yet to adequately address. Among them: Where do professionals turn to if their efforts to go through the proper channels to request edits to inaccurate or outdated information are either rebuffed or ignored?

That question has been overlooked for far too long. As Mr. Gomes pointed out in the comments of Mr. Masnick’s Techdirt post, “Some of us are working together to help [the] PR [profession] do the right thing by the Wikipedia community, especially considering that guidance is at times contradictory.”

The Case for PR Pros Editing Wikipedia

We believe there is a case to be made for PR professionals to responsibly edit client Wikipedia entries in an ethical and transparent manner.

At its most basic level, it is a matter of serving the public interest.

An accurate Wikipedia entry serves the public interest far better than inaccurate entries that are allowed to languish with errors because Wikipedia editors refuse to allow “paid advocates” to make necessary, accurate changes. A disclosure of one’s professional affiliation with a business should not automatically exempt him or her from being allowed to responsibly edit Wikipedia entries.

Greater accuracy and transparency within Wikipedia entries should be the basis of how Wikipedia goes about its practices. It should not matter who edits a page, so long as the information is accurate, unbiased and properly sourced.

PRSA certainly does not condone behavior on the part of public relations people or PR firms that is unethical or dishonest in respect to their editing of clients’ Wikipedia entries. To be sure, there are some who wish to abuse the system. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking otherwise. But on the whole, we believe that PR professionals, particularly those whose work adheres to the PRSA Code of Ethics, are responsible and respectful of the online communities in which they engage and seek to influence.

We’re encouraged by efforts in the U.K., where the Chartered Institute of Public Relations is establishing guidelines on how the PR profession deals with Wikipedia. We hope to do the same in the U.S. by working with Wikipedia to develop rigorous and explicit editing guidelines that can be used throughout the profession.

Our position on this matter is simple: it’s wrong for the PR profession to think it can run roughshod over the established Wikipedia community. PR professionals must engage with it in a reasonable manner that respects the community’s rules and protocols, while also ensuring they are acting in their clients’ best interests. But the engagement should be a two-way street in which Wikipedia is willing to see and accommodate both sides of the issue. At the moment, we do not believe that to be the case.

Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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Comments on “Making The Case For PR Pros Editing Wikipedia”

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Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

COI on Wikipedia

Having gone through a similar experience myself, I’ve found that in navigating the potential “Conflict of Interest” waters on Wikipedia, it is important to know the rules as well, if not better than, the editors who revert even positive and accurate changes that rely on secondary sources. I got into it with a few editors less than a week after joining. This was over an entry that was accurate, but had little information citable to a 3rd party, and I found a few things to be VERY helpful in dealing with the overall atmosphere:

1. Pick a user name that is arbitrary, and not related to your business or clients.
2. Whenever possible, find a source to cite to that is not a property owned by the topic of the article.
3. Watch the article’s talk page.
4. If anyone raises concerns, pay attention to their talk page, and the talk page of any other users that get involved.
5. When the ONLY source is the subject’s own information, only mention those things that would have no impact on the subject’s perception either way (ie, boring facts).
6. Know WP:VERIFY (especially WP:SOURCES and WP:ABOUTSELF) and be very aware of WP:COI.

Keith Trivitt (profile) says:

Re: COI on Wikipedia

Good topics, Marcus. I think your first tip (“Pick a user name that is arbitrary, and not related to your business or clients.”) is perhaps the most basic but most often overlooked by those trying to edit Wikipedia. What people often forget is that Wikipedia isn’t a corporate blog or a forum where their company is being discusses and it’s almost expected that a corporate representative will come on and rebut certain points or facts. Instead, as you all know, Wikipedia is supposed to be a neutral encyclopedia for the people and edited by the people. And that requires a far more deft touch and a certain level of responsibility and patience, from a corporate comms/PR perspective, when working with that community.

Keith Trivitt
Associate Director

kleuske (profile) says:

WP:NPOV, Neutrality

Being an avid contributor and vandalfighter I do have an opinion on this one. One of the most important, no, the most important things in wikipedia is neutrality. It is nice to think that lobbyists want to ethically contribute, but it’s clear from the outset that they cannot neutrally contribute. Either they’re not doing their jobs or they are not neutral. I think pro’s should be banned for that reason.

Michael Ho (profile) says:

Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

As the first comment almost suggests, however, professional PR people could just as easily create a semi-anonymous username and edit away without revealing anything about their role as a lobbyist or their non-neutral biases.

I think PR pros should be encouraged to be transparent — if only to make it easier to identify and re-edit their contributions after they’ve made them.

kleuske (profile) says:

Re: Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

They can, but that’s not the issue.PR-folk, if they want to be ethical, should not contribute at all. Contributions are bound to be non-neutral and transparancy does not help that issue one bit.

Another objection is that these professionals get payed for doing what they do, and hence can easily afford to spend the entire workday working the article, thus putting the occasional contributor, i.e. one that does have (an) other job(s) to tend to at a disadvantage.

The result will be that

a) sensitive articles will be dominated by PR-people getting payed to make it reflect the companies POV (and let’s not forget, that is what they are payed to do)
b) WP:NPOV and the public perception of WP’s neutrality will go to the dogs.

And I know the practice you describe is commonplace. I’ve reverted or nominated quite a few PR-pieces and, since the PR people are PAYED and TRAINED to get their point across, it almost inevitably results in a lengthy debate on (oftentimes) silly or trivial points, killing the joy of being a wikipedia editor.

Then there’s the issue of astroturfing. If you cannot be sure which articles were written to provide information and wich articles were written by professionals to reflect the POV of company X, wikipedia is useless. It will be no more than an advertisement venue, a lobbyists paradise.

In order to keep the playing field level, professional PR-people should be banned indefinately.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

It is *already* impossible to be “sure” of which articles were written to provide information and which articles were written by professionals to reflect the POV of company X.

You can likely find hundreds of pages right now with suspect motivation behind them and ongoing discussions about how to improve them. Maybe they were just poorly edited, or maybe they were edited by biased parties. You’ll never know in all cases.

Are you claiming Wikipedia is already useless then? I think not.

kleuske (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 WP:NPOV, Neutrality

Ok. Nice tactics. Responding to a minor point and making that the issue. No, you’re right. At the moment we can only be reasonably sure.

If you can “likely” (mind the qualifier) find hundreds of articles amongst 3.000.000 plus on alone, you can _still_ be reasonably sure.

If the floodgates are opened, we _can_ be sure PR-firms will jump on it and wikipedia _will_ be useless.

KeithTrivitt (profile) says:

Re: Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

Michael – You are spot-on in your assessment: transparency is key, no matter if you are a PR professional, a doctor or any other regular person. We believe that to effectively and responsibly work with Wikipedia, PR professionals must be transparent in disclosing their relationships to clients and motivations, PRIOR to attempting to make any edits. Any obfuscation of their identity is not only a disservice to the Wikipedia community, but it is unethical and damaging to the profession’s credibility and value.

Keith Trivitt

Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

Re: Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

That’s actually not what I’m suggesting. I can point you to several instances where a contributor is immediately assumed to be a shill just because of their user name. This sometimes happens when a new user sees a problem with the article, and since that is what is on their mind, they incorporate that topic into their user name. The result is that anything they do is immediately assumed to be done for the purpose of advancing the POV of the topic of the article, and the reaction is fast and harsh (and where the user gets another chance, it is often demanded by wikipedia editors that they change their user name to be something less tied to any possible topic). In my last recommendation, I actually made quite clear that I think it’s important to be very aware of WP:COI, which has specific recommendations for when and how to disclose your relationship to a topic.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

Your comments typify, in a nutshell, what ?prejudice? means: pre-judging something even before you know the facts.

Why cannot contributions be judged by their content, not by who makes them? After all, if Jimmy Wales can edit his own page and not be immediately banned and have his edits rolled back, what right do you have to judge others who don?t hold such a position of power over Wikipedia?

kleuske (profile) says:

Re: Re: WP:NPOV, Neutrality

And the conclusion i don’t know “the facts” is based on what, exactly? Your post seems a perfect example of an “ad hominem” attack.

You do not adress _any_ of the points made, but directly label my comments as “prejudiced”. Well, please spell out which of my statements was prejudiced, not based on fact or otherwise incorrect.

Contributions _are_ judged on their content and i am one of the (many) people doing just that. I don’t reason from an abstract idea, but from very concrete experience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 WP:NPOV, Neutrality

Except I don’t believe that at all. Once again, your arguments are based on faulty logic.

Again: If you want to advocate banning PR-people, that’s fine. But you can’t simultaneously pretend that you want to judge contributions on their content, because you don’t.

kleuske (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 WP:NPOV, Neutrality

Nice one… Claim your opponent is delusional instead of bringing any actual arguments.

I’m under no delusions that dirty tricks aren’t employed now, mosty because i reverted quite a few of them, Like the attempt of an employee of a major entertainment company trying to have another user blocked for unwelcome edits. I’ve gotten a haughty mail from a VP of PR of anothe major company after reverting his edits which turned the article into an advertorial, a college professor playing dummy and pretending not to understand the concept of selfpromotion…. etc ad nauseam. I think i know what im talking about, and i havent even started on guys like Miroslav Magola. See

So, as far as i’m concerned, the only good PR-guys are banned PR-guys. I don’t care what POV you’re payed to represent, it ain’t NPOV.

Ceiling Jimmy Wales is watching you play with your says:

I’m unaware really of how the process goes when there is dispute. But when it comes to the presence incorrect information, the source of incorrect information must be challenged. If it is unsourced, it can be requested for removal.

I’m against giving anybody special writing priviledges to Wikipedia based on anything other than Wikipedia’s own contributor ranking system. That priviledge does not come free, it comes at the cost of contributing to the improvement of the quality of the information in Wikipedia. That means citing good sources of information, pointing out inaccuracies, challenging bad or biased sources, as well as unsourced information.

Also, understand that Wikipedia’s goal is not truth, but verifiability. If you can’t get good sources for the information you’re hoping to correct or add, that information should probably not be over there.

Finally, there is a discouragement of writing about yourself in Wikipedia. The reason for that is that if information about you is relevant to anybody else, it will eventually show up there. Just like having your work pirated is an indicator that your work is appreciated by somebody.

Respect the protocol. :3

KeithTrivitt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You say that you are “against giving anybody special writing privileges to Wikipedia based on anything other than Wikipedia’s own contributor ranking system.” As are we, which is exactly why the PR profession is calling for a more equitable editing system within Wikipedia. The fact is, the vast majority of us very much want to work with Wikipedia, within its editing parameters and protocols. But to be outright banned, as though there is a special class of privilege for some people, is, we believe, against the very nature of Wikipedia’s open community.

We’re not asking for PR pros to be afforded special editing privileges. All we ask is that an automatic and outright ban of a person not be put in place merely because they have a professional affiliation with a business or individual. One could argue that Jimmy Wales editing of his Wikipedia entry is tantamount to an advocate of Wikipedia editing an entry that directly affects the organization. By the unwritten rules that Wales himself has set out for edits made by “paid advocates” should he not be allowed to do so?

Keith Trivitt

Dan nivaux says:

Re: Response to: Ceiling Jimmy Wales is watching you play with your on Feb 2nd, 2012 @ 11:37pm

My position is that there are many flaws with Wikipedia, even if it had made enormous contribution to mankind. One of the problem is broken links. The other, even if the source is good, one must make great effort to locate the citation in the source. User interface is horrible and outdated. No Ajax, no comet. No categories, synonyms, and other shortcomings.

Beech (profile) says:

1. Corporate communicators want to do the right thing.

Well, there’s your problem right there. This pillar is all wrong. First, not all “corporate communicators” want to do the right thing. I’m sure that there are some who do, but for every honest guy there will be several dishonest ones.

Second, define the “right” thing. Their job is making their client look good, so doing that may be the right thing.

Third, these people are professional spin doctors. Pick a company that has a big controversy or few under it’s belt. Having that on wikipedia looks bad. PR guy spends all of his time trying to twist and turn and manipulate the facts and details to make the controversy look like just a silly misunderstanding or something. When he sees information on wikipedia that doesn’t support his slant, of course he’ll think its wrong! Let’s go over the top and pick righthaven for an example. “What?! My client didn’t ‘wildly sue people without the proper rights’ they were just ‘zealously defending the copyrights of their clients in a hostile legal climate to save american jobs and to keep terrorists from using news stories.”

Point is, if a company is a bunch of douchebags, i want to be able to find out about it in plain english, not slog through a bunch of PR speak. I say let the PR people can edit whatever they want on any webpage their client owns, but keep yer grubby mitts off my wiki.

Justin Observation says:

Re: Edits or Addendums?

Does Wikipedia keep the origional information as reference and provide links to that? It just seems that would be the best way to provide the best understanding. A supposed correction or edit to a corporation’s interest by that corporation’s PR will always be slanted, albeit sometimes right or correct.

There is very strong anti-corporate sentiment, sometimes deservedly so when madly, high profit driven corporations excersize their muscle over the public’s greater interests, driving American policies and politics. Please Do Not Edit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why is this even an issue? You don’t have to give a real name to get a Wikipedia account. If there are so many problems in articles, just fix them already. As long as you’re not an idiot and keep WP:NPOV in mind, you won’t get reverted.

What are these guys even asking for, anyway? The only thing I can think of is that they want to drum up public support for dumping typical press releases on Wikipedia, and then hope people will be too busy to fact-check them.
That wouldn’t work. The internet never runs out of anal-retentiveness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Absolutely not.

All PR people are professional liars: that’s their job. Telling the truth is easy and anyone can do it — but it takes a trained, practiced, skilled professional to lie convincingly.

Thus one of the completely reliable indicators that a company or politician or nonprofit or any other entity is lying is when they begin to hire a “spokesperson”. (Otherwise: why pay for one? Why not just speak for yourselves? And if you’re too illiterate or stupid or cowardly to do that, why the hell are you in charge of anything?)

So: no way. The last thing we need are these dysfunctional clowns getting their paws on Wikipedia. The latter has issues, sure, but at least it’s not infested by vermin who spend every working day doing their best to destroy the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Absolutely not.

Actually they are not liars so much as they are fanatics. They are highly skilled in believing what they say – not simply because their jobs rely on it, but because the ability to believe will make them more effective. Any marketing agent who can’t bring himself to believe in his clients won’t be able to do a good job and will never gain serious power.

That’s not to say they tell the truth, just that they don’t actually lie (at least from their perspective). Understanding how a marketing agent thinks doesn’t make any difference from a material perspective, but it helps when actually attempting to communicate with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Absolutely not.

I didn’t think I’d receive such a timely example of my point, but I did: go read the Komen Foundation’s press release announcing the reversal of its decision re Planned Parenthood. It’s a PR dream: full of lies, weasel-wording, and distortion.

Does it contain any truth? A little. But it’s clearly been crafted to obscure it as much as possible, exactly the sort of thing that professional liars are well-paid to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

As far as I’m concerned, PR people editing Wikipedia is completely fine as long as they follow the rules of Wikipedia. If something’s in the article, it must be backed up by a credible source. If someone removes a bunch of cited information, that’s vandalism, the edits should be reverted and, if the user in question continues, the user should be blocked from editing. The only conflict of interest comes from when they refuse to follow the rest of Wikipedia’s policies, which are already set up to prevent things like this from happening without needing an anti-PR rule. And yes, PR people can help add useful information to an otherwise lackluster article. I’m obviously not suggesting they have free reign, just that Wikipedia recognizes that its current anti-PR stance is redundant given that it has policies in place already that minimize or eliminate the damage while allowing any positive contributions.

You know, kinda how like how the MPAA wanted SOPA passed despite already having tools in place to shut down infringing websites without needing SOPA.

KeithTrivitt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. It should not matter who provides information or makes edits on Wikipedia so long as that information is factual and neutral.

An accurate Wikipedia entry serves the public interest far better than inaccurate entries that are allowed to languish with errors simply because Wikipedia editors refuse to allow ?paid advocates? to make necessary, accurate changes. A disclosure of one?s professional affiliation with a business should not automatically exempt him or her from being allowed to responsibly edit Wikipedia entries.

btrussell (profile) says:

“Obscured amidst the hysteria over anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA has been a valuable discussion bubbling up within public relations about PR people editing clients? Wikipedia entries.”

Yes, this takes precedent over bills that affect the freedoms of the world.
We must fuckus, sorry, focus on this.

I’m sure Sunrise Propane would like to edit anything possibly related to them as well. eg.
“Lawyers have pleaded not guilty to several charges on behalf of Sunrise Propane and hope to show the explosion was an accident, not negligence.”

But how can that be?
Truck to truck transfers are illegal in Ontario and they had been previously warned about it. But it was an accident, not negligence?

Sorry Dr. Fever, no dice.

Brian Schroth (profile) says:

I can make the case in much fewer words:

Everyone has personal biases, on all topics. PR pros are no different from the rest of us, in that respect. Wikipedia has existing processes for keeping their articles unbiased.

Since everyone is biased, bias is not a sufficient reason to block PR pros from editing Wikipedia. They should be treated the same as every other editor- and their biases should be handled by Wikipedia’s normal bias-handling procedures.

Nihiltres (profile) says:

More back-and-forth is needed

As a longtime Wikipedian, I’m finding this fascinating. There is a case for “PR pros” to edit Wikipedia, but it’s limited by the inherent clash of Wikipedia’s neutral point of view (NPOV) policy and PR interests.

I’ll break down some of the points I’ve seen in the article:

A disclosure of one?s professional affiliation with a business should not automatically exempt him or her from being allowed to responsibly edit Wikipedia entries.

Yes. This is reasonable. If the user edits responsibly, Wikipedians won’t generally have a problem with that user, whether PR pro or not.

[?] But on the whole, we believe that PR professionals, particularly those whose work adheres to the PRSA Code of Ethics, are responsible and respectful of the online communities in which they engage and seek to influence.

Engaging is good, but “seeking to influence”? This is precisely the sort of problem that those opposing PR pros suggest. A PR pro’s job is to exert an influence on public discussion in favour of their organization. Correcting errors is one thing, but the moment a PR pro is attempting to “influence” Wikipedia, there’s a slippery slope from correcting bias against the company towards introducing bias for the company, and I think that that slope is rather steep. To illustrate this, test yourself: can you tell which of these sentences is most neutral?

1. “Organization X (OX) is a leader in foobar innovation.”
2. “OX is noted for its innovations in the foobar field, despite not developing foobars itself.”
3. “OX has been praised for its work in foobars by the New York Times, Aperture Science, and Techdirt.”
4. “OX has been repeatedly criticized for the environmental impact of their foobar processing despite effective countermeasures against foobar leakage.”

(Answer key: 1 is blatantly bad, 2 is nearly as bad, 3 could be neutral, but needs to be referenced and in context, and 4 apologizes for the organization despite its negative tone. These were very simple examples.)

Our position on this matter is simple: it’s wrong for the PR profession to think it can run roughshod over the established Wikipedia community. PR professionals must engage with it in a reasonable manner that respects the community?s rules and protocols, while also ensuring they are acting in their clients’ best interests. But the engagement should be a two-way street in which Wikipedia is willing to see and accommodate both sides of the issue. At the moment, we do not believe that to be the case.

That’s a fair and simple position, but it begs the question: what can Wikipedia do to fairly accommodate fair and ethical editing by PR pros without allowing a free ride for those not acting in good faith? I have seen several comments and now an article by members of the PRSA (Keith Trivitt and Gerard Corbett) that have repeated this statement verbatim.

I realize that Wikipedians are often too quick to judge those in the PR industry: let’s not ignore that problem. However, if that problem could be defeated, what are the current barriers to PR pros editing? The current conflict of interest guidelines do not in any way prohibit people from editing with a conflict of interest, so long as those edits follow Wikipedia’s NPOV policy. PR pros have an outlet in the form of discussion pages, through which they can already make transparent suggestions for fixes to articles, and if they make a suggestion which is ignored, they can be justified in implementing the suggestion themselves on the basis that no one has objected. If the matter is sensitive, there are contact emails available through which concerns can be raised; these are dealt with confidentially by trusted volunteers authorized to use that email system (I am one). There are also many help channels available as well; I’ll personally recommend the #wikipedia-en-help channel on Freenode IRC as a source of instant editing help at any hour.

I’d like to know what the PRSA hopes to achieve, what they precisely mean when they ask for a “two-way street”. At present, the primary barriers to PR pro involvement are overzealous Wikipedians and the high level of skill and care required for them to edit ethically and effectively. The former is reasonably a problem, and the latter is the burden of care for the PR pro.

PRSA: is there anything I’ve missed? While I know that many have knee-jerk reactions to PR involvement, I’d like to extend a hand to anyone who’d like to promote an ethical, transparent involvement in Wikipedia. Feel free to contact me on Gmail: wiki dot nihiltres.

Jack O'Dwyer (profile) says:

PR people editing WP

Neither PR pros nor anyone should be able to edit or post new materials on WP. That is actually the case now since a “patrol” promptly erases anything with a hint of enthusiasm or partiality. All materials should go through editors conversant with the subject. The WP Foundation should be spending almost all of its $20 million in income in hiring such editors (nothing at present goes to the volunteer editors) and taking this job out of the hands of “amateurs.”
“Amateurs” would not be allowed in an operating room.
It is hypocritical for Gerard Corbett of the PR Society to ask WP to ask for a two-way street when the Society barred all press from its 2011 Assembly in Orlando for the first time in its history. It barred me from all the sessions and exhibit hall. Members have yet to get the minutes of the Assembly of Oct. 15, 2011. The Society believes in a “two-way” street for others, not itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is largely a non-issue. PR-Firms want to be able to advertise to their clients that they are wrangling Wikipedia for them. I don’t see a reason for Wikipedia to cater to that, but the problem is that Wikipedia is a donation-dependent enterprise. Fortunately, the founders are still rightly against this means of prostituting themselves, as they probably are aware that their reputation for neutrality is exactly why they are considered a great source of information.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


I believe that the NPOV (neutral point of view) is imperative for the long term legitimacy of Wikipedia. I also believe that the corporation or organization might want to have a horse in the race. So why not let them. Set the rules so that the main article is always NPOV, and the let the spin doctors have their say as an addendum which is clearly marked OPOV (organization point of view) with the contributing organization clearly identified. Users would then have the neutral in the main article, and any dissenting or supporting contributions, but with the contributors taking responsibility for their speech.

People tend to be intelligent and can decide for themselves if the spin is real or just spin.

I would go one step further. List each and every litigation that an organization loses or just settles. That way, the Wiki reader gets a fuller disclosure. The organizations won’t like this, but it seems a reasonable price to pay in order to get their POV posted.

KeithTrivitt (profile) says:


The idea of allowing organizations to edit their own entries by designating those edits in some way (say, as “OPOV,” as you suggest) is one that PR pros have brought up as a workable solution to Wikipedians. It’s been met with some skepticism, though there is a working group of PR pros that is trying to develop some type disclosure system such as this that we could then present to the community for a proposed solution.

Nihiltres (profile) says:


I don’t think that adding an “OPOV section” would work well.

The main motivation on the part of Wikipedians to add such a thing would be to reduce the motivation of black-hat (i.e. bad faith) PR pros to add their OPOV to the article that ought to be NPOV. If the OPOV is not at least as prominent as the main article, the motivation of black-hat PR pros to tamper with the NPOV article isn’t significantly reduced. If the OPOV is as prominent as the NPOV article, then that defeats the point of keeping the “main” article NPOV.

Adding an OPOV section also removes much of the potential benefit to Wikipedia of PR pros editing, since they would presumably add their updates to the “OPOV section” rather than fixing errors or otherwise helpfully updating the NPOV article.

Atkray (profile) says:

Their house their rules

It is Wikipedia. They have worked hard to build the site to be what it is. If you don’t like their rules build your own site. No one is making anyone participate.

As has been mentioned there are mechanisms in place for correcting articles. If you find something on there you absolutely cannot abide then create an account follow their rules and fix it. Don’t cry and scream that they need to adjust their rules to you.

People seriously need to get over the entitlement mentality.

AB says:

Programing solution

If this is as significant and issue as it seems, why doesn’t Wiki simply allow PR agents to make modifications the modifications on a temporary page which is place in a timed queue. The editors have 2 or 3 (or whatever) weeks to get around to checking and correcting the entry (or refusing it outright). If nobody bothers with it before the time elapses the updates are automatically put into place. This allows the reps to do the basic work (reducing the strain on the editors), while still keeping the pages under close supervision of the editors. It also ensures that a correction doesn’t simply get ignored or overlooked (a simple algorithm to compare pre- and post-edits could be used to assign a priority flag to each edit thus ensuring major changes get noticed).

Yes, it involves more than a little programing, but it would solve what seems like a pretty significant – and very annoying – issue.

Nihiltres (profile) says:

Re: Programing solution

Interestingly enough, most of the code that would be required for this is already written. I’m skeptical, however, that this would work well as a social solution to the problem: PR pros would then have to voluntarily submit to tighter inherent restrictions on editing.

Finding better social rules seems like a simpler system than (looser?) social rules plus technical infrastructure and yet another backlog to clear.

David King (user link) says:

Wikipedia Ethics

PR professionals already are allowed to make edits that are compliant with Wikipedia’s policies for neutrality, verification, disclosure and so on. There is an established community of Wikipedia consultants that help companies do this ethically.

The real problem is the knowledge-gap within the field on ethical best practices, processes and Wikipedia rules.

I would challenge any PR person who feels they were banned from Wikipedia because of their identity – and not because of their edits – to share their username and related editing history. Their editing history rarely tells the same story.

This is a problem with the PR field that can be answered with better education and expertise – not with Wikipedia – who already has an established and detailed set of rules for dealing with it.

-David King

inconsistency (profile) says:

I’m afraid I don’t see the point of this.

PR people can contribute, right now, registering a user name and ‘correcting ‘ any errors they come across.

If their corrections meet guidelines, they’ll be left in place.

If not, they’re reverted.

If they continue making biased edits they will be banned.

So far, so good.

There are only 2 reasons I can think of for wanting to change this to ‘allowing ‘ paid-for contributions:

1) this new category of contributors should have more ‘discretion ‘ in their ability to contribute (no thanks) ;
2) PR people want to be able to add their WP ‘contributions’ to their portfolio (no thanks)

Any company that has the cash to pay PR people should have enough money to put up their own web site, on which they can practically say whatever they like.

I realise that this would not allow them to co-opt WP’s credibility for their own benefit, but…

Oh, wait a minute

Jim Heaphy says:

working WITH Wikipedia

Wikipedia usernames that are promotional or indicate a group affiliation are simply not allowed. Editors who engage in COI or promotional editing without disclosing their COI will almost certainly be detected and may well be blocked from editing. There are many ways for ethical COI contributors to improve an article, and the best is to cooperate with established non-COI editors who have worked on that article. Speaking as an established editor, I think that the chance that the Wikipedia community will loosen the current restrictions on COI editing are negligible. Jimmy Wales knows now that he made a mistake editing his own article, and that was several years ago. And a biography of a living person has different standards than an article about a corporation. Jimmy Wales is not Wikipedia’s CEO, and these decisions are made by a large group of active and experienced editors, not from “on high”. Bottom line – play by our rules and you will do just fine. Disrupt and holler that we are wrong, and your privilege to edit will be removed.

brian K. (user link) says:

Wikipedia destroys Street Artist Banksy and American Photographer Spencer Tunick Chronology!

Wikipedia has determined that even though American Photographer Spencer Tunick said it happened and was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in March 2010, The Byron Bay Installation in 2000 which was Tunick’s first in Australia has been censored by them Wikipedia, and now can only be seen on the Australian generation x Artist James DeWeaver’s website, friend of both BANKSY(Google “BANKSY”S only blue rat with sign “) and TUNICK, and it’s the one that BANKSY is in, Wikipedia is crazy to do this as it isn’t a proper Chronolgy at all!
It’s in neither of their Wiki pages, CENSORED, CRAZY! UNCYCLOPEDIA HAS IT THOUGH!

Wizards of Wiki (profile) says:

Conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia has always been hard to explain. On one hand political editing is welcomed where people regularly try to make politicians looks good/bad depending on their allegiances. When a PR firm try to add the latest info about a company or client, they’re quickly undone and often banned. Its worrying for many people and why services like our Hire a Wikipedia writer exist.

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