This statement is also available online:
Statement from Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation,
in response to paid advocacy editing and sockpuppetry
Editors on the English Wikipedia are currently investigating allegations of
suspicious edits and sockpuppetry (i.e. using online identities for
purposes of deception). At this point, as reported, it looks like a number
of user accounts -- perhaps as many as several hundred -- may have been
paid to write articles on Wikipedia promoting organizations or products,
and have been violating numerous site policies and guidelines, including
prohibitions against sockpuppetry and undisclosed conflicts of interest. As
a result, Wikipedians aiming to protect the projects against non-neutral
editing have blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts.
The Wikimedia Foundation takes this issue seriously and has been following
With a half a billion readers, Wikipedia is an important informational
resource for people all over the world. 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. Our
goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and
anything that threatens that is a serious problem. We are actively
examining this situation and exploring our options.
In the wake of the investigation, editors have expressed shock and dismay.
We understand their reaction and share their concerns. We are grateful to
the editors who've been doing the difficult, painstaking work of trying to
figure out what's happening here.
Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years,
particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature. Unlike a
university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise,
paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call
it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a "black hat" practice. Paid
advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so
valuable for so many people.
What is clear to everyone is that all material on Wikipedia needs to adhere
to Wikipedia's editorial policies, including those on neutrality and
verifiability. It is also clear that companies that engage in unethical
practices on Wikipedia risk seriously damaging their own reputations. In
general, companies engaging in self-promotional activities on Wikipedia
have come under heavy criticism from the press and the general public, with
their actions widely viewed as inconsistent with Wikipedia's educational
Being deceptive in your editing by using sockpuppets or misrepresenting
your affiliation with a company is against Wikipedia policy and is
ethically, to be transparent about what they're doing on Wikipedia, and to
adhere to all site policies and practices.
The Wikimedia Foundation is closely monitoring this ongoing investigation
and we are currently assessing all the options at our disposal. We will
have more to say in the coming weeks.
About the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. According to comScore Media Metrix,
Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation
receive 500 million unique visitors per month, making them the fifth-most
popular web property world-wide (comScore, August 2013). Available in 287
languages, Wikipedia contains more than 29 million articles contributed by
a global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people. Based in San
Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is an audited, 501(c)(3)
charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.
Global Communications Manager
Tel. +1 415-839-6885 x6635
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