This morning The Times ran a story about how staff at the public relations firm RLM Finsbury edited the Wikipedia article on Alisher Usmanov, including removing negative material. The Daily Telegraph also ran with the story online.
Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and as such its articles should be written with a neutral point of view. To maintain this neutrality we recommend that anyone with a conflict of interest, such as PR professionals, follows the guidelines we created with the CIPR. When PR professionals engage with the volunteer community via talk pages, we almost always see good results. If you need to seek an urgent correction, you can email info-at-wikimedia.org for assistance – there is a volunteer team on hand 24/7 to help.
We are pleased The Times notes that, while it took more than a month for the Wikipedia community to initially spot the changes and undo them, once they were changed again it only took seconds for this to be picked up on and undone once more. This shows that the Wikipedia community is active and that protecting articles from this kind of editing is taken seriously. This is important for Wikipedia’s credibility and for its readers and editors.
We also welcome the CIPR response to these reports. It is clear that the majority of PR professionals are willing to work with the Wikipedia community and to follow the community’s guidelines. Problems arise when PR professionals try to “fix” articles by directly editing them, as this story shows.
Wikimedia UK is always happy to engage with anyone, including PR professionals, about how Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects work. You can contact us by emailing info-at-wikimedia.org.uk or by calling our office on 020 7065 0993.