It should come to no surprise that when companies have their pages in Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia edited by people, that their communications departments have a chance to play, too.
Wikiscanner, made by Virgil Griffith, has enabled a way for users to research the history and activity of the edits made to various articles, including the IP addresses who edited them.
Wired’s Threat Level ran the story and let their readers find rather interesting edits made among many companies for their financial interests. NY Times has now raised their eyebrow to this questionable activity, too. Maybe soon, Wikipedia will be taken more seriously.
Can’t we all just get along?
I’m probably the last person that would be defending Exxon or the MPAA for editing their own pages, but these companies have a corporate responsibility to play fair when it comes to user-generated communications. While at face value, they are “correcting wrong information,” their own financial and/or political interests end up corrupting Wikipedia. If you don’t like what someone has to say, participate in the talk section.
However, users shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that a company’s IP automatically means the edit is just propaganda. All information has to be questioned and verified, not just a company. Maybe there was more to a story than a former contributor once thought, this is where a company’s comm. department can help fill in the blanks and confusion.
If a company’s PR team is sweating, there’s really no need to. Just behave and understand that Wikipedia is a fully-disclosed entity, since that preserves the quality in their content. Maybe it’s been said before, but your own Wikipedia page should be read as if it was from an encyclopedia, not an advertisement. Using superlatives are the easiest sign that flags bias. However, using them in conjunction with quoted material is generally acceptable.
Is it just me, or do you think PR folks sometimes don’t understand the Web?