Wiki-PR was created in 2010 by Darius Fisher, its current chief operating officer, and Jordan French, its current chief executive officer. Confirmed clients include Priceline and Emad Rahim, and suspected clients include Viacom, among many others. The firm claimed to have Wikipedia administrator access enabling it to manage the Wikipedia presence of more than 12,000 clients. Wiki-PR has been reported to use "aggressive email marketing" to acquire new customers.
Investigation and company reaction
An investigation of sockpuppet accounts on Wikipedia that began in 2012 implicated hundreds of accounts. Wiki-PR's involvement was confirmed after four customers of Wiki-PR spoke anonymously to The Daily Dot journalist Simon Owens, and two others, Priceline.com and Emad Rahim, spoke to Vice journalist Martin Robbins. In addition to violating rules against sockpuppeting, Wiki-PR violated Wikipedia rules by citing articles that were planted on business content farms and various other websites that accept contributions from any Internet user as sources for Wikipedia entries, creating a false impression of credibility. The same websites were used repeatedly, and their presence in various Wikipedia articles aided investigators in identifying articles the company had worked on.
The investigation led to the Wikipedia community blocking hundreds of paid Wikipedia editing accounts believed to be connected to Wiki-PR that had edited contrary to Wikipedia's rules.
[Wiki-PR] uses a lot of people, with different identities, to edit pages for paying customers and to manage those pages. The paid sock puppets are ready to pounce on edits that don't adhere to the client's vision.
In The Wall Street Journal, French was quoted as saying that Wiki-PR is a research and writing firm, counseling clients on "how to adhere to Wikipedia's rules". French said that its paid work is part of the "fabric" of Wikipedia, complementing the work of unpaid volunteers. French acknowledged that Wiki-PR had sometimes made "bad calls" on the notability of articles. He also said that "We do pay hundreds of other editors for their work—they're real people and not sockpuppets." Instead, as was reported by the International Business Times, Wiki-PR had been involved in "meatpuppetry"—a practice in which editors illegitimately encourage other individuals to edit in support of their position—in addition to planting articles online to try to garner better potential notability for its clients.
Wikipedia and Wikimedia's reaction
As of October 25, 2013[update], Wiki-PR, including all of its employees, contractors, and owners, were banned from editing Wikipedia. Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, stated that the Foundation was "exploring our options". On November 19, 2013, Wikimedia's law firm, Cooley LLP, emailed a cease-and-desist letter to Wiki-PR.[a] French told The Guardian that Wiki-PR "is working with the Wikimedia Foundation and its counsel to sort this out", and hoped to have further information in a week's time. The Wikimedia Foundation acknowledged communicating with Wiki-PR, but the Foundation rejected any implication that they were negotiating with Wiki-PR, saying that if Wiki-PR wanted to continue editing, Wiki-PR must turn to Wikipedia's community.
- Status Labs, another company founded by Fisher and French
- The cease-and-desist letter, titled "C&D letter to WikiPR from Cooley", is here.
- "Wiki-PR: Wikipedia Writers For Hire". Wiki-PR.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2021. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
- "Wikipedia probe into paid-for 'sockpuppet' entries". BBC News. October 21, 2013. Archived from the original on November 5, 2021. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
- "Leadership". Wiki-PR website. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
- Robbins, Martin (October 18, 2013). "Is the PR Industry Buying Influence Over Wikipedia?". Vice. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
- Mullin, Joe (October 22, 2013). "Wikipedia editors, locked in battle with PR firm, delete 250 accounts". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on June 9, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
- Elder, Jeff (June 16, 2014). "Wikipedia Strengthens Rules Against Undisclosed Editing". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on June 18, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
- Levy, Rachael (December 13, 2019). "How the 1% Scrubs Its Image Online". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
- Robbins, Martin (October 20, 2013). "Is Wikipedia for Sale?". motherboard.vice.com. Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
We'll both directly edit your page using our network of established Wikipedia editors and admins
- "Wiki-PR". Wiki-PR. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved November 14, 2013. archived November 14, 2013
- Owens, Simon (October 8, 2013). "The battle to destroy Wikipedia's biggest sockpuppet army". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
- Robbins, Martin (October 19, 2013). "Is the PR Industry Buying Influence Over Wikipedia?". Vice. Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Stampler, Laura (October 21, 2013). "Wikipedia Bans 250 Users for Posting Paid, Promotional Entries". Time. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
- Newman, Judith (January 8, 2014). "Wikipedia-Mania: Wikipedia, What Does Judith Newman Have to Do to Get a Page?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 23, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- Fowler, Geoffrey (October 21, 2013). "Wikipedia Probes Suspicious Promotional Articles". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on November 24, 2013. Retrieved November 17, 2013.
- Halleck, Thomas (November 8, 2013). "Wikipedia and Paid Edits: Companies Pay Top Dollar to Firms Willing to 'Fix' Their Entries". Archived from the original on January 31, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
- Burrell, Ian (October 21, 2013). "Wikipedia: We have blocked 250 'sock puppets' for biased editing of our pages". The Independent. Archived from the original on September 21, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- Fowler, Geoffrey (November 19, 2013). "Wikimedia Steps Up "Sockpuppet" Fight". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- Halleck, Thomas (November 22, 2013). "Wikipedia Sends Paid Editors Cease-And-Desist: Sockpuppet Account Morning277, Not Wiki-PR". International Business Times. Archived from the original on April 22, 2021. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
- Arthur, Charles (November 21, 2013). "Wikipedia sends cease-and-desist letter to PR firm offering paid edits to site". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 10, 2016. Retrieved November 22, 2013.
- Burrell, Ian (November 20, 2013). "Wikipedia names Texas PR firm over false manipulation of site entries". The Independent. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- Geigner, Timothy (June 14, 2013). "Group Of Major PR Firms Pledge To Play Nice On Wikipedia". Tech Dirt. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
- Official website
- "Extensive network of clandestine paid advocacy exposed", The Signpost, October 9, 2013.
- Is the PR industry Buying Influence Over Wikipedia? October 19, 2013 Vice.com
- Is Wikipedia for Sale? Archived October 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine October 19, 2013 Vice.com Motherboard