Wikipedia asks editing services firm to stop changes to Wikipedia

Wiki-PR allegedly authors articles for money and passes them off as written by unbiased sources

Wikimedia Foundation has asked editing services firm Wiki-PR to cease and desist editing the Wikipedia site for allegedly authoring articles for money and passing them off as written by unbiased sources.

The foundation hosts Wikipedia and other sites, supported by a community of volunteers. Its terms of use warn against "Attempting to impersonate another user or individual, misrepresenting your affiliation with any individual or entity, or using the username of another user with the intent to deceive..."

"Wiki-PR is working with the Wikimedia foundation and its counsel to sort this out," said Wiki-PR CEO Jordan French in an email. He indicated that the issue could get resolved by the middle of next week.

On its website, Wiki-PR offers Wikipedia page creation, monitoring and translation services, though it states that it never directly edits Wikipedia.

Editors of the English version of Wikipedia have started investigating into allegations of suspicious edits and sockpuppetry, the practice of using online identities for purposes of deception, Sue Gardner, executive director of Wikimedia, wrote last month in a blog post.

Wikipedia blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts, as it appeared that probably several hundred accounts may have been paid to write articles on Wikipedia promoting organizations or products, in violation of website policies and guidelines, Gardner wrote.

The online encyclopedia has been struggling with a credibility issue after reports that companies and some individuals have edited the site to promote their companies, products and viewpoints. "Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature," Gardner wrote.

In October, Wiki-PR and its agents, who derive financial benefit from the editing, were banned by the Wikimedia community of independent volunteers from editing the English version of Wikipedia, according to the letter to French on Tuesday from Wikimedia's lawyer.

Wiki-PR is said to have stated its intention to work with the community to get the ban lifted, yet admitted on Monday that it has continued to "actively market paid advocacy editing services," despite the ban, according to the letter. Wikimedia said it had discovered evidence independently that Wiki-PR was continuing its paid advocacy.

The Wikimedia Foundation has demanded that Wiki-PR cease and desist from further editing of Wikipedia unless and until it has complied fully with the community terms and conditions. It said it would consider legal action if Wiki-PR does not comply.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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