Friday, September 28, 2007

Companies Caught Editing Wikipedia

Thanks to Virgil Griffith, a Cal Tech grad student, anyone can now see how companies are editing their Wikipedia entries on the site Wikiscanner. This is possible because each edit is tracked by IP address, even those that originate in corporate offices.

In the past someone from Walmart has edited Wikipedia to put a positive spin on their employment practices. Someone at ExxonMobil did the same with an entry on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. An edit tracked from BustBuy changed a rivals name to Circuit "Noob" City. MySpace and other companies have completely deleted criticism.

They may have been trying to be proactive in cleaning up their online image, but ethics is doing the right thing when no one is looking. They must have had some inkling of the dubious nature of putting spin on an a public encyclopedia. We may never know who is guilty and how high in the organization these people were, but I think the good employees will refrain from using Wikipedia as a PR tool in the future.

2 comments:

Joel said...

What's wrong with reviewing what one of the most important Internet resources of information can say about your company?

Charles said...

Joel, you bring up a good a point. It is not black and white. Take for instance if someone vandalizes your site, can you correct your own site? It is argued that you should be able to fix errors. I would rather the community self correct the entry because they have proven to be unbelievably reliable. A company can not be unbiased and the conflict of interest can make a firm seem less trustworthy and create bad publicity. The examples show obvious manipulation of the information by individuals with a conflict of interest, so I think that is a violation of ethics.