Wikipedia has banned more than 250 accounts amid an investigation that hundreds of users may have been paid to write articles promoting organizations, people, and products, a violation of the collaboratively edited online encyclopedia’s policies.
“With a half a billion readers, Wikipedia is an important informational resource for people all over the world,” Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director Sue Gardner wrote in a blog post Monday. Wikimedia is the nonprofit organization that oversees Wikipedia. “Our readers know Wikipedia’s not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way.”
Allegations of sockpuppetry, or using online identities for deception, came to light earlier this month after a user who goes by DocTree submitted five accounts for investigation for their edits of a page about an English security company. The Daily Dot, which reported the story, had noted that more than 300 user accounts were confirmed as sockpuppets on Wikipedia’s investigation talk page, with another 84 suspected accounts. Most of them had edited pages about companies and living persons, were promotional in nature, and cited articles that originated from websites that were easy to contribute to, such as CNN’s citizen-journalism site iReport.
“Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature,” Gardner wrote. “We consider it a ‘black hat’ practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people.”