Jimmy Wales sets the lawyers on meat-puppets
Marketing meatpuppets must desist from editing Wikipedia or face legal action, lawyers acting for the parent company of Wikipedia said last night, banning anyone in the Wikipedia editing company Wiki-PR from editing Wikipedia in any way.
Wikipedia has had Wiki-PR in its sightlines for years, but yesterday backed up an earlier ban on the company with a legal threat. The cease and desist letter from Wikimedia’s lawyers said this:
“agents 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 authoured by Wiki-PR for money.”
Sockpuppets – and meatpuppets – are people who pose as someone else on the internet. Usually for gain.
It is also investigating Wiki-PR for trademark misuse and even misleading customers to think that the PR firm was actually part of Wikipedia. Customers include Viacom and Priceline, according to this.
In order to lift the ban – Wiki-PR will have to agree to always out themselves as PRs when editing Wikipedia, and then only edit pages in a neutral way. Depending on future changes – they may not be allowed to edit Wikipedia for money at all. Which would of course ruin the business model of the whole company.
Wiki-PR is a US company that edits Wikipedia for clients. If you think you’re worthy of a Wikipedia page – they promise they can get you one, or they did at least. They also offer crisis management for when Wikipedia, helping you “engage with the back-end” when you’re being libelled..
At least 300 accounts are believed to be linked to Wiki-PR and have been suspended, since the account “Morning277” was found to be acting suspiciously. But in the meantime, they’ve made thousands of changes since 2008, this article claims.
James Hare, head of Wikimedia’s DC regional affiliate told Vice, “what makes the Wiki-PR case especially heinous” is the way their blatant reputational whitewashing demeans and frustrates the work of the Wikipedia community. “It’s how their success to date was made possible,” he claims.
But Wikipedia will have to get some people to edit something cause their numbers of volunteer editors have started to plateau. And the editor base – 90% male – are also entrenched against new change. For instance blocking recent attempts to make editing easier so that you don’t need to know html to contribute. That kind of editorship tends to mean that certain topics – Buffy, the Nazis – get better covered than other topics – fashion etc.
Still, you have to admire the volunteers who spend their time dealing with this kind of thing: