Hundreds of “black hat” English Wikipedia accounts blocked following investigation


Hundreds of ‘black hat’ accounts on English Wikipedia were found to be connected during the investigation. The usernames (green) and IP addresses (yellow) have been removed from the image. Graph by James Alexander, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 3.0.
After weeks of investigation, volunteer editors on the English Wikipedia announced today that they blocked 381 user accounts for “black hat” editing.[1] The accounts were engaged in undisclosed paid advocacy—the practice of accepting or charging money to promote external interests on Wikipedia without revealing their affiliation, in violation of Wikimedia’s Terms of Use. The editors issued these blocks as part of their commitment to ensuring Wikipedia is an accurate, reliable, and neutral knowledge resource for everyone.
The community of volunteers who maintain and edit Wikipedia vigilantly defend the Wikimedia sites to ensure that content meets high editorial standards. Every day, volunteer editors make thousands of edits to Wikipedia: they add reliable sources, introduce new topics, expand articles, add images, cover breaking news, fix inaccuracies, and resolve conflicts of interest. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit, and its open model makes it a rich and reliable resource for the world.
Neutrality is key to ensuring Wikipedia’s quality. Although it does not happen often, undisclosed paid advocacy editing may represent a serious conflict of interest and could compromise the quality of content on Wikipedia. The practice is in conflict with a number of English Wikipedia’s policies, including neutrality and conflict of interest, and is a violation of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.
With this action, volunteer editors have taken a strong stand against undisclosed paid advocacy. In addition to blocking the 381 “sockpuppet” accounts—a term that refers to multiple accounts used in misleading or deceptive ways—the editors deleted 210 articles created by these accounts. Most of these articles, which were related to businesses, business people, or artists, were generally promotional in nature, and often included biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations. The edits made by the sockpuppets are similar enough that the community believes they were perpetrated by one coordinated group.
Community opposition to undisclosed paid advocacy editing on English Wikipedia has a long history, reaching back to at least 2004 when the first conflict of interest guidelines were introduced. Since then, the English Wikipedia community has been vocal about its opposition to this practice. In October 2013, Wikipedia volunteers blocked hundreds of accounts related to the consulting firm Wiki-PR. The Wikimedia Foundation responded with a formal statement, which described undisclosed paid advocacy as “violating the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people,” and sent a cease and desist letter. The Foundation later amended its Terms of Use to clarify and strengthen its ban on the practice.
Not all paid editing is a violation of Wikipedia policies. Many museum and university employees from around the world edit by disclosing their official affiliations, and several prominent public relations firms have signed an agreement to abide by Wikipedia’s paid editing guidelines. Editing Wikipedia is completely free, and only requires compliance with the project’s editorial guidelines. If someone does have a conflict of interest or is uncomfortable editing the site directly, there are several other options to bring the subject to a volunteer’s attention.
Readers trust Wikipedia to offer accurate, neutral content, and undisclosed paid advocacy editing violates that trust. Sadly, it also deceives the subjects of articles, who may simply be unaware that they are in violation of the spirit and policies of Wikipedia. No one should ever have to pay to create or maintain a Wikipedia article. Wikimedia volunteers are vigilant, and articles created by paid advocates will be identified in due time. The Wikimedia Foundation stands with the Wikipedia community in their efforts to make reliable, accurate knowledge available for everyone.
More information about this case is available in the community announcement, and editor community discussion is ongoing.
Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Juliet Barbara, Senior Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation

[1] Wikipedia editors are referring to this case as “Orangemoody” after the first sockpuppet identified during the investigation.

This post has been updated to clarify that blackhat editing involves both accepting and charging money to promote external interests, as well as clarify our position that no one should ever have to pay to create or maintain a Wikipedia article.

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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Interesting I also have seen many spam articles on Wikipedia
they want to get quality links to their site

Focusing on the paid editing aspect is just a bone headed move here. No doubt that there are a bunch of shills that are doing damage to Wikipedia, but this isn’t any different than dozens of other potential conflict of interest situations that I’ve even been personally involved with regarding some pages I’ve written and contributed to. I admire the hard work that these admins have gone through to track down these horrible would-be editors to Wikipedia, and I’m not disputing that these accounts need to be shut down. There are dozens of Wikipedia policies they are violating, so it… Read more »

These paid editors have ALSO censored hundreds of articles that did not please their “sponsors”. The damage is then still there as only complacent articles have been examined. That’s a fight for being there, represented online – and like it or not – that was precisely the pitch of these Wikipedia editiors to sell their services to private companies.

I am deeply impressed by the graph. 😉 And i would be even more be impressed by a graph that i could understand without guessing. @ day #1 in the first lection of the first semester the professor said: “No graphs without labeling of the axes”.
By the way in the german wikipedia the exclusionists are even worse than the paid writers because they remove valuable articles and frustrate and discourage many motivated authors. A competent reader is able to rank a tendentious article but a missing article is useless.

Blackhat is everywhere. Politics, scince, education and media… The quality of humans is going down. And thats a result. The money religion seems to destroy him self.
Prdouce and sell more… Earn more. İf a small fish goes tu hunt a backlink for his customer or blog, then he’s a thief. Big fishes are more black haters…

Is it advisable to have black hats get your seo done? One black hat person is asking me to pay $3000 to get my seo done. Since my host went down for over 2 hours, my Google traffic has dropped.

About black hat SEO… Yeah it’s a little bit dramatic. There are not so many ways to get free quality links to a web site. Blog commentes, Forums, Porifles… High quality links are mostly paid. Google don’t like paid links. The result: More money, more buisness… Small buisness owners are in the corner. There should be other ways to promote small websites.

This is something different news, focusing on paid articles or sponsored details are nothing but a way of black hat.

[…] announcements included the disclosure that 381 accounts on the English Wikipedia had been blocked for so-called ‘black hat’ editing (#3), and the release of a new artificial intelligence service (“ORES”) that […]

[…] so-called “black hat” editing—or more specifically, undisclosed paid advocacy. As the Wikimedia Foundation’s blog post defined it, undisclosed paid advocacy is “the practice of accepting or charging money to […]

Wikipedia is a great project for our world. I think Wikipedia should more concentrate on translate articles to other languages.

[…] did not know how prescient his words would be. Just this week, seasoned Wikipedia administrators banned nearly 400 user accounts for “black hat” actions—or making promotional edits to articles, without disclosing […]

Blackhat is on everywhere yes, but we are feeding it. If nobody buy blackhat links, then nobody sells. Google hates blackhat world but why? This is the main question.

This blackhat is not good for true workers.

[…] Hundreds of ‘black hat’ accounts on English Wikipedia were found to be connected during the investigation. The usernames (green) and IP addresses (yellow) have been removed from the image. (credit: James Alexander) […]

[…] Hundreds of ‘black hat’ accounts on English Wikipedia were found to be connected during the investigation. The usernames (green) and IP addresses (yellow) have been removed from the image. (credit: James Alexander) […]

The content in the message above, that “undisclosed paid advocacy editing may represent a serious conflict of interest and could compromise the quality of content on Wikipedia. ” is bullshit. Undisclosed paid advocacy is – not “may represent” — a serious conflict of interest. And such editors almost always add badly sourced or unsourced promotional content, or remove negative content — writing “could compromise the quality of content” is ridiculous. I get it that PR people need to soft-pedal bad things but putting bullshit out there is just… bullshit, and not what any of who are part of the movement… Read more »