Wikimedia Foundation Sends Cease & Desist To Wiki-PR

    November 19, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Last month, Sue Gardner, the outgoing executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, announced that over 250 Wikipedia accounts had been blocked or banned as editors investigated accusations of people being paid to edit and manage pages.

Wiki-PR is a company that has made a business out of doing just that. The firm was mentioned in Gardner’s post, but had appeared in various news reports (notably one from the Daily Dot) even before that.

Today, the Wikimedia Foundation announced that it has sent Wiki-PR a cease and desist letter. Matthew Roth, a spokesperson for the Foundation, wrote on its blog:

To assist in the assessment, the WMF retained Cooley LLP to review and investigate allegations that a company named Wiki-PR has been engaging in paid advocacy editing, in contravention of the Wikimedia Foundation’s website Terms of Use. While the WMF and Cooley were investigating this question, the Wikimedia community banned Wiki-PR and anyone receiving financial benefits from Wiki-PR from editing until certain conditions were met.

Today, Cooley LLP, on behalf of the WMF, sent the cease and desist letter below to the CEO of Wiki-PR, demanding that Wiki-PR “cease and desist from further editing the Wikipedia website unless and until [they] have fully complied with the terms and conditions outlined by the Wikimedia Community.”

In the letter, the Foundation tells Wiki-PR, “As we have discussed with you previously, we have come to the opinion that, based on evidence that we have to date, that agent(s) of your company have engaged in sockpuppetry or meatpuppetry to, among other things, make it appear as if certain articles are written by unbiased sources when in fact those articles are authored by Wiki-PR for money. As we have explained to you, this practice violates the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use…This practice also gives rise to a number of potential legal claims, including statutory and common law fraud, unfair business practices, breach of contract, and trespass to chattels.”

“In addition to these practices, our investigation has also uncovered evidence suggesting that Wiki-PR may have confused correspondent(s) concerning its relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation. This concerns us given that the Wikimedia Foundation has sent you two previous letters charging prior misuse of our trademark on your site.”

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

To this day, the title for the Wiki-PR homepage is “Wikipedia Writers For HIre”.

Image: Wiki-PR

  • http://www.Wikipediocracy.com Gregory Kohs

    Every Wikipedia article is “passed off” as an encyclopedia article. Over 30% of Wikipedia’s articles about businesses were either created by or heavily tended to by an editor with a conflict of interest with the business. The Wikimedia Foundation and Cooley LLP are unwittingly exposing Wikipedia to a credible Section 230 challenge, not to mention a SLAPP counter-action. You can’t run a non-profit “charity” that hosts an encyclopedia that “anyone can edit”, and then arbitrarily deny access to a class of contributors who are simply fulfilling the mission of the project. Nothing in the 501(c)(3)’s bylaws says that content must be “unpaid”.

  • http://www.WikiExperts.us Alex

    Uploading false info on Wikipedia or elsewhere is wrong, but it shall not be confused with legitimate Wikipedia visibility services.

    If some lawyer were caught committing fraud on the court, nobody would argue that all legal services shall be prohibited nationwide. Similarly, sockpuppeting and faking sources is NOT what legitimate Wikipedia visibility services are about.

    Wikipedia traffic is commerce-dominated nowadays. 21 out of the 25 highest-traffic articles on Wikipedia are related to commercial subjects: corporations, movies, books, TV series, etc. A Wikipedia profile can add or detract tens of millions of dollars from the value of a brand or market cap of a company, so it’s to be expected that companies seek to participate in shaping their Wikipedia profiles.

    It comes as a surprise to many, but: paid editing is NOT prohibited on Wikipedia; all efforts to ban it have failed, see the FAILED policy proposal at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Paid_editing_%28policy%29

    Not only it’s not prohibited, it’s massive: in a recent study conducted by the Public Relations Society of America, 40% of PR professionals admitted to having edited Wikipedia.(http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/study-wikipedia-errors-damage-brands-reputations_b73200) In other words, hundreds of thousands of PR pros do Wikipedia visibility work.

    The study also showed that “24% of company pages were created by a PR team”. I suspect that the true percentage is much higher, as many companies and PR pros do not admit editing Wikipedia fearing the backlash from those who equate PR with spreading lies. At WikiExperts, we have done ethical Wikipedia visibility work for some of the largest corporations in the world, never violating any Wikipedia rule.