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Wikipedia bans 381 accounts for paid advocacy

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The editors at English Wikipedia have blocked 381 user accounts for ‘black hat’ editing. The platform claims that these users were engaged in undisclosed paid advocacy, the practice of accepting or charging money to promote external interests on Wikipedia without revealing their affiliation, a violation of Wikipedia’s terms of use.

Other than deleting these accounts, Wikipedia editors also deleted 210 articles created by these accounts, most of which the platform claims were related to businesses, business people, artists and were generally promotional in nature. As these articles included skewed and biased information, potential copyright violations and unattributed material, they were deleted.

Interestingly, Wikipedia mentions these pages were created through ‘sockpuppet’ accounts (accounts that belong to a single group or individual using multiple identities), and believes the edits were made by a single agency.

Network of ‘sockpuppets: According to Wikipedia, these accounts worked together to revive articles that were declined as too promotional. An ‘article creation’ sock would first rewrite these articles which ‘helper’ socks would then make further edits to. These ‘helpers’ would also mark as reviewed this article, in order to be autoconfirmed for publishing.

When the article is in the draft, the article creators would make external contact with the subject of the article, and offer to publish the article for a fee. The creators would claims to be an administrator on Wiki, and charge the subject a monthly fee, upto $30/month in confirmed examples. Hilariously, ‘Vijay Shekhar Sharma’ and ‘Vijay Shekhar Sharma (entrepreneur)’ are listed as pages deleted, so we wonder if someone at Paytm got scammed into paying for this, or if they themselves were making unscrupulous edits.  

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Not all paid editing is banned:

Wikipedia mentions that not all paid editing is a violation of its policies. The agency cites the edits made by museum and university employees from around the world, after disclosing their official affiliations, as an example of acceptable edits made by paid users. It further elaborates that various public relations firms have also signed an agreement to abide by its paid editing guidelines.

What Wikipedia specifically bans is ‘the practice of accepting or charging money to promote external interests on Wikipedia without revealing their affiliation’. The agency additionally mentions that users that are in conflict of interest when editing themselves can instead bring the subject to a volunteer’s attention. According to Wikipedia, “No one should ever have to pay to create or maintain a Wikipedia article.”

Image source: Flickr user Cary Bass-Deschenes

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