Wikipedia is the go-to site for people seeking information on various subjects. Despite its disputed accuracy, it is still one of the top 10 most visited sites. This means that although people do not see it as having reliable information, it is still the first place people stop to get their information.
Wikipedia has become a fixture in our lives and used by many professionals, including doctors, as a starting point for educating ourselves on various topics. With Wikipedia being such a valuable resource, it is imperative that it be as accurate as possible in order to not give people the wrong information they are seeking. This requires more editors than currently volunteer on Wikipedia.
Paid editing is nothing new with Wikipedia. In fact, even people working for the Wikimedia Foundation have been caught editing articles in exchange for compensation. While the Foundation says that it goes against the goal of the Wikipedia community, it has been unable to create a policy that bans paid editing altogether. As such, paid editing is still a viable profession and one that I was actually forced into a few years back. More on that later…
Infancy of Paid Editing
While paid editing has likely been around since Wikipedia was launched, the pioneer of the industry was actually a firm called MyWikiBiz. Created by Greg Kohs, it was the first known company that charged people to create entries on Wikipedia. Since that time, Wikipedia has taken the stance to ban everyone who is a paid editor. With the decrease in the number of volunteer editors correcting factual errors, the demand for paid editing has increased. Sitting around and waiting for a volunteer editor to stumble across an error is no longer a viable option and many people and companies have gone the route of paying someone to edit Wikipedia on their behalf.
Attacks, Blocks, and Bans
Nearly every paid editor that I know has been blocked or banned from Wikipedia. While editors use guidelines such as “sockpuppetry” to ban paid editors, the veiled reason for the blocks is because of paid editing. Despite Wikipedia not having a policy against paid editing, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has vowed to personally “block any cases [of paid editing] that [he is] shown.” As Jimbo is followed like a god by the Wikipedia community, editors have used Wales’ comments as a justifiable reason to block editors who are caught paid editing.
Since 2006, Wikipedia editors have been relentless in searching out and attacking paid editing. I receive dozens of emails each day from people asking for quotes on projects. Some of them are actually from editors on Wikipedia trying to get me to disclose my clients. As I know what is likely to happen if I disclose my clients, I refuse to do so. I have more of an obligation to protect my clients’ anonymity than I do to the Wikipedia community who makes it their purpose to attack people simply for being paid to write content.
Retaliation Against Paid Wikipedia Editors and Violation of Privacy
In January 2013, I wrote an article in the Business Insider about editing Wikipedia for pay. This article set off a spark in the Wikimedia Foundation and with the Wikipedia community. At the time, there was NOTHING prohibiting or limiting paid editing. Some editors claimed that paid editors had a conflict of interest, but this was subjective as each article and its contents would actually determine the extent of any conflict (if it is written in a neutral tone, then any conflict of interest argument would be moot). At the time of that writing, I was employed as a government regulator and edited Wikipedia part-time on a professional basis, both on my lunch time at work and my free time at home.
New Wikimedia Foundation Terms and Conditions
Wikipedia has become its own worst enemy in a number of cases, but most notably when it comes to paid editing. As Wikipedia guidelines are based on consensus, any policy that bans paid editing would need to be agreed upon by the community of editors as a whole. Editors have tried and failed a number of times to ban paid editing because they have been unable to get a consensus from editors. This means that enough editors on the website have determined that banning paid editing is either not necessary.
As a real life example, you can see the tone of a Wikipedia editor on an article written about promoting your business on Wikipedia. The comments are below and are just the tip of the iceberg. It shows you a glimpse of the minds of those who hate paid editing and how they feel about individuals who edit on behalf of themselves or the companies they represent:
“Write in a way that we can’t tell that you’re supporting your company, or we WILL find your edits and wipe ‘em off the face of the Internet! (Or, worse, we’ll publicly shame you for astroturfing, then add THAT to the article).”
In addition to various attacks as shown above, editors who do follow the terms and conditions by disclosing their conflict of interest are sticking their necks into the guillotine. From the image below, you can see how an editor disclosed their conflict of interest which another editor took too far. Not only did this editor make competing edits to the article in question, they also became condescending with the editor who disclosed, offering to split the money earned by the paid editor. While this was absolutely not something the editor would have actually done, there was no need to bite the hand of someone following the terms and conditions, but this is what you get when dealing with a Wikipedia community that hates paid editing.
Paid Editors Versus Professional Wikipedia Editors
I know that I use the term “paid” editor numerous times throughout this article, but there is a difference between paid editors and professional editors. I consider myself a professional and here is the difference. A paid editor is someone who posts content on behalf of their clients. This means that they take content that is already written or write content that is favorable to their client and in no way consider Wikipedia guidelines in the process. This often results in the content being removed or the entire article being deleted or tagged as spam or promotional.
A professional editor is someone who writes an article in a neutral tone and advises their clients on what can and cannot be posted on Wikipedia. Of all the project requests I receive, I actually take on between 10-20% as the other 80-90% do not meet notability guidelines. Clients respect when I advise them of things they cannot post as they want to adhere to Wikipedia guidelines and have an article that is neutral in all aspects (both positive and negative).
Paid Editing in Wikipedia Still Survives
Paid editing still thrives thanks to the countless number of policies and guidelines created by Wikipedia editors. Without having years of experience on Wikipedia, it is difficult to follow all of these guidelines and often results in backlash from the community against new editors. As such, I continue to stay in business, offering advice and Wikipedia editing services to clients throughout the world. I still refuse to disclose my clients to anyone and am always cautious when dealing with new clients. Until Wikipedia tackles the problem of biting anyone who comes in good faith to edit Wikipedia, I will continue to thrive as a professional Wikipedia editor.