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 practices may also prohibit contributing to crowd-sourced websites on behalf of an un-disclosed commercial interest.

The Consequences
Wikipedians may place a public badge of shame on pages that were secretly written for a non-disclosed commercial interest. This can happen even when the company did not know the wiki firm they hired was not complying with the rules. 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 create the appearance of impropriety, especially on controversial subjects. It can lead to your edits being reversed, contentious editing from angry Wikipedians, tags or cuts, or uncooperative editors that are frustrated with your conduct.

How to Tell
Click on the "Talk" button near the upper-left corner of the page. Look through the discussions (if any) for some kind of communication disclosing their affiliation to the subject of the page and sharing proposed changes.

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 advocating exclusively for your position and including harmful information or opinions that are a part of a balanced warts-and-all historical narrative.

The Consequences
Most saavy editors can tell when wiki content glazes over information that is off-brand, critical, or makes the article-subject uncomfortable. This can cause editors to avoid collaborating with someone that doesn't "get it." Additionally, once omissions or misrepresentations are discovered, this betrayal of Wikipedia's trust can result in media scrutiny or burned bridges with the editors that control the 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.