Hundreds of Wikipedia editors have been banned from the online encyclopaedia after being found promoting products and brands within articles for pay. Wikipedia’s CheckUser team has been investigating suspected brand promotion for a number of months, and banned 381 editors between April and August, with suspicions that companies had been paying for sock puppet accounts to push products and service over Wikipedia for a long time.
Rather than being instigated by companies, however, it was the editors themselves who were the masterminds behind the scheme. They were effectively extorting the businesses they were advertising, creating articles populated with promotional links, then approaching companies for a $30 monthly fee to keep the articles active.
Wikipedia has deleted any article deemed to have been created for promotional purposes by the offending sock puppet accounts, but it still in the process of investigating other suspected cases of paid-for advertising.
A statement on Wikipedia’s administrator board reads:
The list of articles created by the socks is located at Wikipedia:Long-term abuse/Orangemoody/Articles. This list is not considered complete; due to time constraints, there may be additional articles created by these socks that are not included here. Most articles relate to businesses, businesspeople, or “artists”.
Review of this list of articles reveals that the overwhelming majority of them would qualify for deletion under one or more speedy deletion criteria. In this specific case, however, in order to prevent article subjects from continued shakedowns by bad actors who are causing significant harm to the reputation of this project, the articles are all being deleted. It is important to break the cycle of payment demands, and to make it clear that the Wikipedia community, and not a small group of paid editor accounts, controls the content of this project. This mass deletion is without prejudice to recreation by experienced Wikipedians who believe that the subject is sufficiently notable for an article. We emphasize again that all indications are that the editing was not solicited by the article subjects.
Because so many of the articles contain unattributed material and/or copyvios, administrators are urged NOT to undelete articles or move them to userspace.
Thank you Vice Motherboard for providing us with this information.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.