Wikipedia Guards Against “Black Hat” Editors With Requirement To Disclose Paid Edits

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Last October, Wikipedia signaled that it was concerned about biased editing sneaking into its pages, specifically that people paid to edit Wikipedia entries were affecting the neutrality and reliability of the crowd-sourced encyclopedia.

So the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and its sister projects, started work on stronger rules to guard against “black hat” practices.

Naturally it turned to its community, and after a robust debate on the site “resulting in 320,000 words of discussion in various languages and 6.3 million views of the proposal,” the foundation today published updated terms of service that require disclosure of conflicts of interest.

The updated terms now require editors to “disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation” on a relevant user page, talk page or edit summary.

“This amendment intends to provide guidance and information for good-faith editors; to assist the community and Foundation in evaluating and handling paid advocacy editing; and to allow responsiveness to local conditions and needs,” wrote the Wikimedia Foundation Board in a post on the site. “It complements existing rules and policies that work together to maintain and improve the trustworthiness of Wikimedia content.

For example, the Terms of Use already prohibit deceitful activities, and this amendment helps explain how to represent one’s affiliation to avoid running afoul of those terms. In addition to legal requirements, many community policies require or strongly encourage disclosure of paid editing as a potential conflict of interest.”

At the same time,  the foundation doesn’t want to discourage first-time editors, those not familiar with terms and especially the kind of scholarly editor who works  for galleries, libraries, archives, museums (GLAM) and universities. The amendment isn’t “intended to impact participants in GLAM projects, or professors, when they are writing about topics of general interest on their own, rather than writing about their own institutions while being compensated directly quid pro quo, for example.”

Read more details about the change in Wikipedia’s FAQ.

 

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Top News | Wikipedia

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About The Author: is Third Door Media's Social Media Correspondent, reporting on the latest news for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. He spent 24 years with the Los Angeles Times, serving as social media and reader engagement editor from 2010-2014. A graduate of UC Irvine and the University of Missouri journalism school, Beck started started his career at the Times as a sportswriter and copy editor. Follow Martin on Twitter (@MartinBeck), Facebook and/or Google+.

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