New Terms of Use Requires Wikipedia Editors to Disclose if They Are Being Paid for Posts

Posted by at 9:37 am on June 16, 2014

wikipediaWikipedia is attempting to improve the transparency and overall accuracy of the online encyclopedia, by taking a stance against companies paying for edits. A change to the Terms of Use now requires for any contributors on the site to disclose if any company or organization compensates them for editing existing or creating new posts, as such posts could introduce bias to materials offered to visitors.

The revised to the Terms of Use asks that paid editors must disclose any relationship through their profile page, the talk page alongside the edit, or as part of the edit summary, reports The Next Web. Paid editors may also be subject to other rules beyond the Terms of Use, including “specific policies on individual Wikimedia projects, or relevant laws,” such as those prohibiting fraudulent advertising, and may require further disclosure.

This would in effect dissuade companies from making changes beneficial to themselves or damaging to other manufacturers, a practice employees from Microsoft, Dell, and Apple allegedly took part in a number of years ago.

“This amendment intends to provide guidance and information for good-faith editors; to assist the community and Foundation in evaluating and handling paid advocacy editing; and to allow responsiveness to local conditions and needs,” notes the accompanying Letter from the Board.

While volunteer editors are not subject to the changes, it does affect employees of a gallery, library, archive, museum (GLAM) or any similar institution in instances where the edit is about the institution itself. Such employees, which can include professors, can continue to make contributions in their area of expertise without restriction, but must declare their employer for edits relating to them. “The amendment is not intended to impact participants in GLAM projects, or professors, when they are writing about topics of general interest on their own, rather than writing about their own institutions while being compensated directly quid pro quo, for example” states the board.

“Given the complexity of the issue, the Wikimedia Foundation will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the amendment, and remain open to changes as necessary to improve it.”

While the request for editors to disclose financial interests in edits, Wikipedia is attempting to take a moral high ground stance. Ultimately, it is down to the users to police other editors on the site, and does little to prevent editors from simply lying about any received payments.

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