For some people, editing Wikipedia is a vocation: something they feel called to do to make sure anyone with access to an internet connection has free, unbiased, accurate information at their fingertips. For others, it’s a way to mess with people – either for a lark or to be mean. And of course, it’s also a way for PR firms to manage their clients’ press by getting hundreds of staff members to edit articles about them while posing as unbiased members of the public. Isn’t that sort of… morally corrupt and completely against the rules, you say? Yep.
In December last year, the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, threatened a Texas company called Wiki-PR with legal action after discovering that they had set up over 300 accounts solely to remove potentially damaging (true) information about their clients. In the UK, The Independent previously reported that British company Bell Pottinger had claimed to be able to alter Wikipedia entries to minimise negative publicity. It’s widely believed that many other companies have had similarly shady schemes.
Now eleven PR agencies have promised to keep things above board, signing a new pledge that promises honest interaction with Wikipedia from here on out. They’ve promised to declare any conflict of interest before editing a page and to raise issues about client information with Wikipedia staff. They will also make sure all their staff and clients are aware of Wikipedia’s policies.
The companies signed up are: Beutler Ink, Edelman, Fleishman Hillard, Peppercomm, Ketchum, Burson-Marsteller, Porter Novelli, Voce Communications, Allison+Partners, Glover Park Group and Ogilvy & Mather (which should ring a bell if you’re a Mad Men fan like me).
Image via Wikimedia Commons.