Wikipedia Ethics

Three Steps to Ethical Wikipedia Marketing

1. The Law

In a nutshell: Disclose your connection to the subject of the page before making or proposing changes.

Step 1: Comply with the Law

The Rules
Wikipedia's Terms of Use require that you disclose your affiliation to the subject of a page (such as a client or employer relationship) before contributing. Wikipedia's FAQ on the subject points out that many laws on covert marketing, unfair competition, or deceptive business practices may also prohibit contributing to crowd-sourced websites on behalf of an undisclosed commercial interest.

The Consequences
Wikipedians may place a badge of shame on pages that were written for a non-disclosed commercial interest. This and other sanctions can occur even when a Wikipedia firm edited the page covertly without their client's knowledge. In other instances, organizations have received a cease and desist letter from the Wikimedia Foundation or even been sued by a competitor.

How to Tell
Ask for a link to the user profile of the Wikipedia account that will be used. Look for a clear disclosure on that profile of who they work for and their commercial interest in Wikipedia.

2. Wikipedia Policy

In a nutshell: Rely primarily on discussion and collaboration, rather than directly editing articles.

Step 2: Follow Wikipedia Policy

The Rules
Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest Guideline very strongly discourages directly editing a page you have a vested interest in. Instead, it says to propose changes and share content, so independent, crowd-sourced editors have an opportunity to weigh in.

The Consequences
Directly editing the page may prompt editors to reverse your edits, add contentious content, tag the page, or make major cuts.

How to Tell
Click on the "Talk" button near the upper-left corner of the page. Look through the discussions for a discussion from the company or Wikipedia firm that wrote the content asking for changes or proposing content.

3. Wikipedia Ethos

In a nutshell: Attempt to make or propose the same edits an independent editor would.

Step 3: Adopt the Wikipedia Ethos

The Rules
The Arbitration Committee (the Supreme Court of Wikipedia) unanimously support the idea that editors with a connection to the subject of an article must comply with the "purpose," "intent," and "spirit," of Wikipedia's rules. This means avoiding advocacy and proposing the same changes an independent editor would.

The Consequences
Most saavy editors can tell when your content misrepresents the cited sources or glazes over negative information. This can be seen as a betrayal that prompts a contentious relationship with editors interested in your page.

How to Tell
Ask how controversial or critical information published by the media is handled, or see if the page is missing major issues you know have been written about in reputable news sources.