Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wikimedia Foundation sends C-and-D letter to Wiki-PR over continued 'sockpuppetry'

Wikipedia's openness means that some articles are less than legitimate, and on Tuesday, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF, which runs Wikipedia) sent a letter to Wiki-PR, a public relations firm, telling it to cease-and-desist its activities on the site. Wikipedia has been battling the Wiki-PR for months; the firm purportedly sells paid editing services on Wikipedia.

The cease-and-desist letter follows an Oct. 21, 2013 statement from WMF executive director Sue Gardner condemning the "black hat practice of paid advocacy editing and sockpuppetry on Wikipedia" (a sockpuppet is an online ID created for deceptive purposes).

At that time, Gardner noted that the "Wikimedia Foundation is closely monitoring this ongoing investigation and we are currently assessing all the options at our disposal."

Since then, according to a press release issued on Wednesday,
To assist in the assessment, the WMF retained Cooley LLP to review and investigate allegations that Wiki-PR has been engaging in paid advocacy editing in violation of Wikipedia's Terms of Use. As the investigation progressed, the Wikipedia community banned Wiki-PR and anyone receiving financial benefits from Wiki-PR from editing Wikipedia until certain conditions were met.
It seems that ban was not enough. In the letter, one of the attorneys representing the WMF, Patrick Gunn, wrote:
In your communications with me and the Foundation, you have stated your intent to work with the community to satisfy its conditions for lifting the ban. Yet, yesterday, you admitted that Wiki-PR has continued to actively market paid advocacy editing services despite the ban—consistent with evidence that we have discovered independently. This is deeply troubling and suggests that Wiki-PR is circumventing the ban at the same time it professes to engage with the community about complying with it.
Ars has contacted Wiki-PR for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.

Should you fail to comply with the terms of this cease and desist letter, Wikimedia Foundation is prepared to take any necessary legal action to protect its rights.
Wikipedia articles are oft-cited, but they can be manipulated. In one famous example, TV's Stephen Colbert asked his viewers to go onto Wikipedia, and edit the article elephants so that it would say: "Elephant population in Africa has tripled over the past six months."

That, of course, was simply a joke, but this is far more serious.

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