I will never disclose my clients as it exposes them to the nonsense associated with Wikipedia. If volunteer editors didn’t act in such childish ways, disclosure of paid edits would be more likely within the community. However, their conduct has forced me to put my client’s anonymity ahead of the community’s want to kill paid editing.
Volunteer editors who seek to eliminate paid editing are more disruptive than all other editors out there. This is why I will never disclose my clients. As soon as they decide to play by the rules (the rules they implemented), then so will I.
I have never disclosed my paid editing on Wikipedia. This has caused people from the Wikipedia community to call me a “hack,” “spammer,” “pr-pusher,” and several other names I don’t really care to mention. However, it has caused the thousands of my clients to thank me. After all, it is their anonymity I am here to protect, not appease Wikipedia editors who are out to kill paid editing at all costs.
So, is there a rule against paid editing on Wikipedia? The short answer is NO! Some Wikipedia editors will lead you to believe that there is. They will cite conflict of interest guidelines and parse the meaning of it until they themselves are convinced. However, there has never been an official policy or guideline implemented that bans paid editing. Many have been proposed, but the community as a whole does not support a ban. The closest it has come is to have the Wikimedia Foundation implement a condition of editing that states paid editing must be disclosed.
Less than a year ago, The Wikimedia Foundation implemented new terms and conditions that state editors who have a financial interest (i.e., they are paid by anyone to edit Wikipedia) must disclose that financial interest. It can be done on the talk page of the article or on the user page of the person editing. The idea behind the disclosure is for the community to identify paid editors and articles they edit in order to ensure that the edits they make are neutral. However, the Wikimedia Foundation failed to see (and what I predicted) would happen next.
The disclosure of paid editing on Wikipedia is like sticking your head in a guillotine. While it seems okay on the surface, it can only cause issues for the person making the disclosure.
Khaliah Rose and Wikipedia Editing
While I never heard of this person previously, I am going to assume that she had no intention of spamming Wikipedia. Regardless, someone with knowledge of her music career (maybe even herself, a manager, pr person, etc.) decided to pay to create her biography on Wikipedia.
In keeping with the terms and conditions of the Wikimedia Foundation (as stated above), the editor disclosed on the article’s talk page that they had a conflict of interest. While all seems that this was the right thing to do in accordance with the terms and conditions, what happened next wasn’t.
The article was quickly recommended for deletion. The reason? “Fails [music biography guidelines] and is a promotional article written by a paid editor.” (emphasis added). While the topic is borderline notable, both sides could easily make their case for notability (or “non”).
Despite the topic’s notability, there is no such guideline that allows for deletion of an article if it is a “promotional article written by a paid editor.” The deletion discussion that followed the nomination shows how volunteer editors on Wikipedia can be more disruptive than someone spamming Wikipedia.
While some decided to stick to guidelines, commenting on the notability, others jumped on the paid editing bandwagon. Here are some of the comments:
– “promo crap that belongs elsewhere – there’s plenty of ways to “advertise” a singer and this sure as hell isn’t one of them.”
– “paid spam of the absolute worst kind. Wikipedia is not a means of advertising.”
– “promotional article by promotional editor who is continuing her promotional campaign here (and attempting a canvassing campaign as well).
The “canvassing” campaign as mentioned above was for the creating editor who left a message on the talk page of a user requesting help. The comment was rather friendly and simply asked for help, stating that they disclosed their COI and asked what was promotional about the page.
The response? No help at all.
In fact, it was one of the most condescending comments I have seen in eight plus years of editing. “How much were you paid to write the article? I’ll split the money with you.” Not exactly a helpful comment for someone who has followed the guidelines and tried to elicit help to make the article conform to the community’s expectations.
Wikipedia Editor Threats over Paid Editing
It has been known for years that editors do not like paid editing. Ever since Jimbo Wales stated that no one can make money from Wikipedia (which is absolutely false as I am here doing just that), editors have taken a hardline stance against it. However, the community has also made it so difficult to edit Wikipedia that people who want to be included in the encyclopedia must look for outside help.
Many threats have come from the Wikipedia community against those who edit for pay. One came from Jimbo himself who stated that he will personally block any paid editor that is brought to his attention. While this has happened many times, Jimbo has not always made good on his threat.
The community itself has also made threats, most recently in a blog post comment to yours truly. “Write in a way that we can’t tell that you’re supporting your company, or we WILL find your edits and wipe ‘em all off the face of the Internet! (Or, worse, we’ll publicly shame you for astroturfing, then add THAT to the article.”
So, while these threats are only a sampling of what is out there in the way of editors wanting to eliminate paid editing. It is a glimpse into the mentality behind the editors trying to force the issue.
Badges of Shame (Wikipedia Maintenance Tags)
Let’s sum up what needs to happen in the event of a conflict of interest. In accordance with Wikipedia guidelines, a conflict of interest can lead to an article that does not have a neutral point of view. As such, any article identified as being created by a user with a conflict of interest (in this case let’s assume a paid editor who wrote a promotional article) needs to be checked for neutrality.
If the article is not neutral, the article should be edited so that it is. That simple. Instead, editors like to give paid articles “badges of shame.”
From the image above, you can see how the talk page of the article was marked as it being a paid-for article. The editor in question didn’t take any time to clean up the article and instead decided to leave a message for everyone to see.
The above is one of my favorites. Not sure if this one is paid editing, but from one of the tags, an editor feels that the creator has a “close connection” with the topic (another tag used to identify paid editing). So, instead of simply cleaning up the article, the editor decides to leave NINE (9) total tags on the article. The section at the top containing the tags is almost as long as the entire article.
So, instead of simply trying to clean up anything that seems promotional, editors would rather try to put a badge of shame on an article as a punitive measure for the person who paid to create the article. Very disruptive in my opinion and definitely against Wikipedia’s purpose which is to act like an encyclopedia, not a display case for badges of shame.
Final Thoughts on Paid Editing in Wikipedia
While paid editing is not against policy on Wikipedia, editors are trying to do everything they can to stop it. However, by making policy more strict, it is only forcing the hands of those who want (and deserve) a Wikipedia article but don’t know how to jump through the hoops to write one.
In the end, disclosing that an article has been paid for is only good for article suicide. Volunteer editors who seek to eliminate paid editing are more disruptive than any other editor out there and will look for disclosures of paid editing so that they can hack away at the articles involved.
While I will never advise someone to violate Wikipedia’s terms and conditions, I will gladly write about what happens when you abide by them. This is why I will never disclose my clients. As soon as vigilante Wikipedia editors decide to play by the rules (the rules they implemented), then so will I.