back to article Wikimedia wants forced disclosures of paid edits

The Wikimedia Foundation will attempt to alter its terms of service so that users who create articles or make edits as part of their jobs or a paid engagement must disclose their affiliation. Paid edits and articles are often considered to be astroturfing – the marketing technique of making something look like a grass roots …


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why not mark the actual edit

Instead of burying the disclosure in the edit(or)'s metadata, why not have a footnote to the actual entry? The footnote could disclose the editor's funding organization.


Enforcement matters?

I voted in favor of that proposal, but also for strengthening it. Two easy suggestions:

(1) Any article that includes paid contributions should have a tag at the top. I think this is likely to be quite prevalent for articles with any commercial impact, and in that sense it's just a reminder to be sensible about things.

(2) Any article that is involved in an infraction should get a permanent and indelible tag to that effect. In other words, your company can permanently taint your corporate reputation by trying to cheat. In contrast to Suggestion (1), for which you could remove that tag by just deleting all of the contributions from the paid contributor, this should be a permanent letter of the scarlet type. After all, if you've tried to cheat in the past, you're liable to cheat in the future. Maybe you think there should be a statute of limitations here, but I disagree. Even the permanent mark of shame isn't strong enough for my taste. It's not that I think Wikipedia's reputation is that magnificent, but I'd like them to aim high, and they do have a pretty good reputation so far.

(3) Is a messy suggestion that is probably beyond the scope of current technology, but... I think they should try to analyze contributions for patterns that suggest bias, especially bias of the motivated commercial sort. I think that commercial bias may actually be easier to detect. Unfortunately, this goes back to the notion of identity, which is NOT one of Wikipedia's strengths. Just to provide the obvious example, it might be easy to detect that a particular user is consistently criticizing (tilting articles against) several companies except for one that he is always praising (tilting in favor of), but not so easy if he uses separate accounts. Have you ever seen both of them logged into the same room at the same time, as the joke goes?


Well, they need to do something.

Wikipedia is generally good -- but not when it comes to subjects which are politically sensitive in the US. That the bios of politicians and talking heads always get astroturfed is one thing, but subjects such as evolution, abortion, finance, gun regulation, even history, also get political makeovers.

The big problem isn't the footsoldiers, the writers, but cliques of "activist editors". Wikipedia has no effective means of dealing with them, and trying to appeal the edits of a destructive, activist (or just plain idiot) editor is pointless.

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Re: Well, they need to do something.

I have to agree. When it comes to a number of subjects I simply don't bother going to Wikipedia.

Anything to do with military history is going to be mangled to present a strange form of history; I am surprised that the events of the War of the Roses haven't yet been modified in favour of the US . And forget facts on early pagan religions; the rubbish on Wikipedia is astounding. If there are any discussions on, for example, how Christianity borrowed ffom earlier religions then this gets deleted or modified.

Most of the problems I have come across as small often uninformed pressure groups who can't see anything any other way but what they have been programmed to believe.


Good idea.

But, unfortunately, a waste of effort.

The fact that these 'oganisations' publish wiki articles WITHOUT disclosing their motive or origin is because they fear this will, in some way, detract from the message they are trying to get across.

If every Tea Party statement would need to carry an statutory warning along the lines of 'this message was in large part paid for by the Koch brothers' they would very soon loose their perceived 'grass roots' image. (This is just an example, of course).

So it will not be long before the writers of such articles will simply claim they have written them 'in their own name' and claim their right of freedom of expression, strenuously denying any financial (or other) encouragement.

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Here we are again

Once more, in the diffusely-connected, global, opinionated and pseudonymous reaches of cyberspace, it comes down to who you should trust. The Encyclopædia That Anyone Can Edit was always going to have a problem in that respect. Dead tree encyclopædias print the names of their editorial boards, and their contributors, and if you cared enough you could research their biases (for we all have them). Wikipædia ought to require real name disclosure, and it should be easier for users to find sock puppetry in action. At the moment, all we can do is have a healthy distrust for anything in WP which is anything like controversial.

The same issue, to go off-topic for a moment, underlies all the 'social network' ideas, like Facebook Likes, Google Plusses, even the up and down arrows which appear underneath this. I don't necessarily trust my circle of friends, acquaintances and cyberpals to be founts of reliable knowledge.

I also think that companies and politicians will have little difficulty in finding activist editors who will colour their wiki pages favourably without being paid so directly that this disclosure regulation will apply.


Re: Here we are again

Wikipædia ought to require real name disclosure...

Wikipædia?? I think you're using that 'æ' incorrectly, no?


Re: Here we are again

The most faulty assumption is that it is commercial activities which most taint wiki fiddling pages. I'd put up my salary for a month that most of the fiddling comes from unpaid activists.

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