Monday, April 1, 2019

Paying to Whitewash Wikipedia Pages

Ashley Feinberg (via Hacker News):

The vast majority of the people who propose and make changes to Wikipedia are volunteers. A few people, however, have figured out how to manipulate Wikipedia’s supposedly neutral system to turn a profit.

That’s Sussman’s business. And in just the past few years, companies including Axios, NBC, Nextdoor and Facebook’s PR firm have all paid him to manipulate public perception using a tool most people would never think to check.


One of Wikipedia’s more well-known rules is its prohibition on editing pages that you have any sort of direct connection to. This, along with the fact that it’s humiliating to get caught editing your own Wikipedia page, is usually enough of a deterrent to companies and public figures looking to inject a positive spin. But those looking to get around the site’s conflict of interest rules aren’t totally without options. Anyone, even someone financially tied to the subject in question, is allowed to merely suggest edits in the hopes that a less conflicted editor might come by, agree, and implement the changes for them. This is where a paid editor like Sussman comes in.


He often replies to nearly every single bit of pushback with walls of text arguing his case. Trying to get through even a fraction of it is exhausting, and because Wikipedia editors are unpaid, there’s little motivation to continue dealing with Sussman’s arguments. So he usually gets his way.

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So the guy understands typical online debating technique? Never back down, just keep hitting people with wave after wave of text walls. I am so glad this is actually a business opportunity for him. /s

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