Wikipedia has blocked 381 user accounts for ‘black hat’ editing in what it believes was a coordinated spam campaign carried out by a single group.
The scam Wikipedia editors who have allegedly blackmailing small businesses and celebrities for money to update their Wikipedia pages. Victims include a former Britain’s Got Talent contestant and a wedding photographer from Dorset.
The BBC reported that some of the pages may have been created as the result of a scam that saw people claim to be from Wikipedia and ask for a fee of £260 to make entries and changes to pages on the site.
The series of bans follow an investigation, called Orange Moody that began in July.
Wikipedia issued a blog post explaining the action it has taken, saying that it believed the accounts were being paid to promote people and businesses that were not relevant to the site.
“The editors issued these blocks as part of their commitment to ensuring Wikipedia is an accurate, reliable and neutral knowledge resource for everyone,” said Ed Erhart, editorial associate of the Wikimedia Foundation.
“Most of these articles, which were related to businesses, business people or artists, were generally promotional in nature, and often included biased or skewed information, unattributed material and potential copyright violations.”
The organisation also issued an image (below) showing the close links between the accounts and the IP addresses associated with them, which suggests a close coordination, possibly being run by the same person.
“No one should ever have to pay to create or maintain a Wikipedia article. Wikimedia volunteers are vigilant, and articles created by paid advocates will be identified in due time,” Wikipedia added.
It pointed out that paying people to edit Wikipedia pages is not against the site’s terms and conditions entirely, provided this is made explicit and done in a fair and balanced way.
“Not all paid editing is a violation of Wikipedia policies. Many museum and university employees from around the world edit by disclosing their official affiliations, and several prominent public relations firms have signed an agreement to abide by Wikipedia’s paid editing guidelines.”