Responding to the news that 381 members had been suspended for their roles in a massive fraud and extortion scheme, the Wikimedia Foundation continued its damage control efforts today.
The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization behind the open source online encyclopedia we all use, and today it updated its blog with an FAQ that lays out some ground rules on the conduct that outsiders should expect from Wikipedia editors.
Noting that the FAQ reflects the position of the English-language Wikipedia editors and not the Foundation, the article starts with answering questions like:
I received an email from Wikipedia offering to create and monitor my article for a monthly fee. What should I do?
Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation should never send you an email advertising paid editing services. The Wikimedia Foundation does not offer Wikipedia editing services of any kind in exchange for fees, although it does seek charitable donations to keep Wikipedia running. Although some individual editors may engage in editing services in exchange for money, they must follow Wikipedia’s rules (more on that below), and their activity is not endorsed by the community of volunteer Wikipedia editors or the Wikimedia Foundation.
The FAQ goes on to muddy the waters by explaining the Foundation's policies (that paid editing must be disclosed) and expands upon that policy with the explanation that "English Wikipedia policies also require that all content, paid or otherwise, be neutral, not promotional, not violate rules about living individuals, and be supported by reliable sources, such as reputable newspapers, magazines, or academic literature."
That policy is echoed in the several other-language Wikipedia I checked, but it's noteworthy that the policies are not universal. The Wikimedia Foundation must foresee that one day there will be conflict between what different groups of editors would describe as ethical behavior.
Or do you suppose that day has already arrived?
That would explain why paid editors are allowed, so long as they disclose the relationship and maintain certain standards.
Company reps are accepted in many online communities; they just have to be clear about their ties and motivation. Those that don't disclose their commercial connections run the risk of getting banned like the 381 Wikipedia editors mentioned above.
Attempting to hide a company connection could even lead to a public shaming, as Ectaco learned to its dismay in 2013. That company had been perpetrating a five year long sockpuppet campaign in MobileRead Forum before it was caught, and since then its name as been mud in the ereader community.
Wikipedia has also publicly expelled editors working for PR firms, causing damage to the firms' professional reputations.
image by Mypouss