On August 31, 2015, the English Wikipedia community discovered 381 sockpuppet accounts operating an undisclosed paid editing ring. Participants in the ring extorted money from mid-sized businesses who had articles about themselves rejected by the encyclopedia's "Articles for Creation" process, in which drafts are submitted for approval to experienced editors. The ring was nicknamed "Operation Orangemoody" after the first account uncovered in the sockpuppet investigation and was Wikipedia's biggest conflict-of-interest scandal as of June 2021,[1][2] exceeding the scope of the Wiki-PR editing of Wikipedia incident in which approximately 250 sockpuppets were found and blocked in 2013.

The story was reported by many English language and non-English language news sources, including Komsomolskaya Pravda, Le Temps,[3] Le Monde and Die Zeit.[4][5][6] The editing was described by various media as "black hat" editors (TechCrunch),[7] "dishonest editing" (PC World),[8] "extortion"[9] (Wired),[10] a "blackmail scam" (The Independent),[11] and an "extensive cybercrime syndicate" (ThinkProgress).[12]


In 2015, administrators of the English Wikipedia blocked 381 accounts,[13][14] many of them suspected of being sockpuppets of the same group of people, after a two-month investigation launched by Wikipedia editors.[15] More than 200 Wikipedia articles created from the accounts were deleted.[16]

Wikipedia's resulting investigation, named "Orangemoody" after the first account uncovered, found that sockpuppets had searched the site for deleted or rejected articles about businesses and individuals.[17] Many of the articles had been deleted because of excessive promotional content. The editors, some posing as Wikipedia administrators, would then extort[18] payment from the businesses to publish and protect the articles. Besides businesses, individuals were targeted, including Cuban musician Dayramir Gonzalez.[18][19] The scammers themselves may have been involved in the deletion of some articles.[11]


  1. ^ Moyer, Justin Wm. "Wikipedia sting snares hundreds of accounts used for paid editing". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  2. ^ "Wikipedia's biggest scandal: Industrial-scale blackmail". The Register. September 3, 2015.
  3. ^ "Victime de fraude et d'extorsion, Wikipédia ferme 381 comptes de faux contributeurs". Le Temps (in French). Switzerland. September 1, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  4. ^ Саша ПЯТНИЦКАЯ (Sasha Pyatnitskaya) (September 1, 2015). "Англоязычная Wikipedia заблокировала более 380 редакторов за "корыстные" правки" [The English Wikipedia has blocked more than 380 editors for "selfish" edits]. Komsomolskaya Pravda (in Russian).
  5. ^ "381 comptes de Wikipédia bannis pour extorsion". Le Monde (in French). Paris. September 2, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  6. ^ "Wikipedia: Schutzgelderpressung in der Online-Enzyklopädie" [Wikipedia: protection racket in the online encyclopedia]. Zeit Online (in German). Die Zeit. September 1, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Perez, Sarah (September 1, 2015), "Wikipedia Bans Hundreds Of "Black Hat" Paid Editors Who Created Promotional Pages On Its Site", TechCrunch, retrieved September 6, 2015
  8. ^ Ribeiro, John (September 1, 2015). "Wikipedia bans 381 user accounts for dishonest editing". PC World. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Chiel, Ethan (September 1, 2015). "Wikipedia editors just banned 381 accounts over a huge fraud and extortion scandal". Fusion TV. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Cuplan, Daniel (September 1, 2015). "381 Wikipedia "sockpuppet" accounts banned for paid promotion". Wired (UK). Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Merrill, Jamie (September 2, 2015). "Wikipedia 'rogue editors' have targeted hundreds of people in a blackmail scam". The Independent. Archived from the original on September 13, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2017 – via WebCite.
  12. ^ Williams, Lauren C. (September 4, 2015). "Wikipedia Editors Uncover Extortion Scam And Extensive Cybercrime Syndicate". ThinkProgress. Archived from the original on July 26, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Pearson, Jordan (September 1, 2015). "Hundreds of Wikipedia Accounts Got Banned for Secretly Promoting Brands". Vice. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  14. ^ Kravets, David (September 1, 2015). "Wikipedia blocks hundreds of linked accounts for suspect editing". Ars Technica. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  15. ^ Moyer, Justin Wm (September 2, 2015). "Wikipedia sting snares hundreds of accounts used for paid editing". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  16. ^ Dredge, Stuart (6 September 2015). "Wikipedia founder backs site's systems after extortion scam". The Guardian. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  17. ^ King, Robin Levinson (September 2, 2015). "Wikipedia bans users for not disclosing they got paid to edit articles". The Toronto Star. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Weaver, Matthew (2 September 2015). "Wikipedia blocks editor accounts linked to extortion scam". The Guardian. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  19. ^ Coolman, Robert (September 5, 2015). "I Was Shaken Down by Wikipedia's Blackmail Bandits". The Daily Beast. Retrieved September 6, 2015.

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