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I WARNED WIKIPEDIA YEARS AGO THAT ALIAS EDITING WOULD RESULT IN SCANDAL

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CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/DYLAN PETROHILOS

Wikipedia cannot say that it was not warned long ago about the corrupt practices going on behind the scenes by some members of its volunteer army of supposedly unpaid editors; an unhealthy culture of manipulation, secrecy, bullying and censorship, driven mostly by the root of all evil: money

By John Donovan 

The Guardian newspaper has just published an article under the headline: Wikipedia founder backs site’s systems after extortion scam”

Once again, for commercial reasons, hundreds of Wikipedia “editors” have been exploiting the flaw that allows people to edit Wikipedia articles anonymously, hiding behind an alias. My guess is that it is actually thousands, not hundreds. It is destroying the integrity of Wikipedia articles.  

Some other current articles along the same lines:

Wikipedia’s struggle to save its soul: FT 4 Sept 2015

Wikipedia Editors Uncover Extortion Scam And Extensive Cybercrime Syndicate: THINKPROGRESS: 4 Sept 2015

Wikipedia Blocks 381 “Black Hat” Accounts: Science Times: 7 Sept 2015

I Was Shaken Down by Wikipedias Blackmail Bandits: Daily Beast: 4 Sept 2015

Wikipedia blocks editor accounts linked to extortion scam: Guardian: 2 Sept 2015

Like many other people, I am a great admirer of Wikipedia and use it frequently.

The Wikipedia organization is conducted on a non-profit making basis, has no subscription charges and does not allow advertising on Wikipedia articles.

It does, however, have a serious flaw in respect of Wikipedia articles about businesses.

I have rung alarm bells for several years that such articles are wide open to manipulation by anonymous parties with commercially driven motives.

I forecast that an editing scandal would inflict damage to the reputation of Wikipedia.

As is evident from extensive recent newspaper and magazine articles, this prediction has come to pass.

Consequently, Wikipedia cannot say that it was not warned long ago about the corrupt practices going on behind the scenes by some members of its volunteer army of supposedly unpaid editors; an unhealthy culture of manipulation, secrecy, bullying and censorship, driven mostly by the root of all evil: money.

The way the editing process is set up, it is absolutely wide open to manipulation because editors are allowed to operate without disclosing their identities or background; a recipe for pr disaster. It is known as sockpuppetry: an online identity used for purposes of deception. Articles about businesses can be laundered to provide a rosy, misleading picture to investors and the public.

I first became aware of sockpuppetry in the context of Wikipedia articles about Royal Dutch Shell that I was editing. They were constantly patrolled and sanitized of critical entries by anonymous parties hiding behind aliases. Having lawfully obtained Shell internal correspondence about me, I knew how concerned Shell was at the prospect of  information about its controversial activities being published on Wikipedia. Shell was obsessed with removing such information and Shell employees were actually caught (by Wikiscanner technology) editing Royal Dutch Shell Wikipedia articles from Shell premises. Shell is far from being alone in such activity.

Just some of the recent articles that have damaged the reputation of Wikipedia by undermining public trust in the credibility and integrity of such articles:

Click capitalism: PR firms cash in cleaning up clients Wikipedia pages: The Washington Times: 21 Oct 2013

Wikipedia Stunned That Companies Pay Users to Write Favorable Articles: PJ Media: 22 Oct 2013

Wikipedia: We have blocked 250 ‘sock puppets’ for biased editing of our pages: The Independent: 21 Oct 2013

Wikipedia Probes Suspicious Promotional Articles: The Wall Street Journal: 21 Oct 2013

Wikipedia editors report high numbers of paid-for articles: Digital Journal: 22 Oct 2013

Wikipedia probe into paid-for ‘sockpuppet’ entries: BBC News: 21 Oct 2013

Wikipedia Bans 250 Users for Posting Paid, Promotional Entries: Time Magazine: 21 Oct 2013

Wikipedia Is Struggling Because It Is Run So Poorly: Huffington Post: 22 Oct 2013

Wikipedia cracks down on ‘paid advocacy editing and sockpuppetry’: The Guardian: 22 Oct 2013

Is Wikipedia Still Reliable?: Time Magazine: 22 October 2013

Wikipedia wants to erase propaganda and bias from its pages: The Verge: 22 Oct 2013

Wikipedia: We have blocked 250 ‘sock puppets’ for biased editing of our pages: 22 Oct 2013

The decline of Wikipedia: MIT Technology Review: 22 October 2013

According to an article published a few days ago by New Scientist under the headline “THE END OF ANONYMITY”, it seems advances in technology may hopefully soon bring the dark age of sockpuppetry to an end.

MY  OWN WARNING ARTICLES ON THE SUBJECT

Controversies surrounding Royal Dutch Shell 29 October 2007

Royal Dutch Shell Wikipedia Machinations: 29 March 2010

Ku Klux Klan culture at Wikipedia: secrecy and censorship: 12 October 2010

Wikipedia Foundation non-profit status at risk?: 14 October 2010

Comment on Wikipedia controversy: 13 October 2010

Instant reaction on Wikipedia: 13 October 2010

Wikipedia Klan exposed: 13 October 2010

Integrity of Wikipedia corporate articles corrupted by editing scandal: 18 December 2011: 18 Dec 2011

BP a novice at manipulating Wikipedia compared with Shell: 17 April 2013

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