Wikipedia cracks down on “black hat” paid editing

Wikipedia has set a cease-and-desist letter to a PR firm known for writing articles about clients on the site.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site, has asked Wiki-PR to halt its “black hat” editing practices until it can comply with Wikipedia’s editing rules.

The foundation suggested that it would take legal action if Wiki-PR didn’t comply.

The notice follows an ongoing investigation by the Wikimedia Foundation and its volunteer community into hundreds of “sockpuppet” accounts apparently created by Wiki-PR. Wiki-PR offers services such as the creation and management of Wikipedia pages on behalf of clients to help “manage” their image.

The investigation resulted in hundreds of accounts being blocked or banned by Wikipedia’s editors last month.

And according to the letter, it appears Wikipedia tried to resolve the situation with Wiki-PR directly to try and lift the ban.

“In your communications with me and the Foundation, you have stated your intent to work with the community to satisfy its conditions for lifting the ban,” wrote Cooley LLP lawyer Patrick P. Gunn. “Yet yesterday you admitted that Wiki-PR has continued to actively market paid advocacy editing services despite the ban – consistent with evidence that we have discovered independently.”

“This is deeply troubling, and suggests that Wiki-PR is circumventing the ban at the same time it professes to engage with it with the community about complying with it,” Gunn added.

It isn’t clear what legal action the foundation would take if Wiki-PR continues to flout its rules, but the letter discusses “potential legal claims” relating to fraud and breach of contract.

Wiki-PR CEO Jordan French told the Wall Street Journal that his company was “working with the Wikimedia foundation and its counsel to sort this out”.

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