Wikipedia is a global phenomenon; the openly-editable encyclopedia is the sixth most popular site in the world. So it’s not surprising that, every now and again, vested interests seek to manipulate its content. Not least in the American presidential race, where, for example, Mitt Romney’s Wikipedia page has been edited hundreds of times since the Republican primaries began.
Wikipedia’s community guidelines are all available on line and easy to find, but still, sometimes the best of us in the communications industry, or perhaps our colleagues, clients or friends… wonder whether it is a good idea to change an entry in their favour. In such cases, the following points (adapted from Wikipedia’s guidelines) should be followed, to avoid wasting your time creating / editing changes that are undone, or worse, cause severe embarrassment or legal consequences:
- All of your edits should be in line with the aim of Wikipedia, which is to produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia
- Wikipedia is not a battleground – you should not try to begin or engage in disputes via Wikipedia entries
- Avoid Conflict of Interest (COI) editing. This involves contributing to Wikipedia in order to promote your own interests or those of other individuals, companies, or groups. Where advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest
- This includes avoiding self-promotion: including advertising links, personal website links, personal or semi-personal photos, or other material that appears to promote the private or commercial interests of the editor, or their associates. Examples of these types of material include:
- Links that appear to promote products by pointing to obscure or not particularly relevant commercial sites (commercial links).
- Links that appear to promote otherwise obscure individuals by pointing to their personal pages.
- Biographical material that does not significantly add to the clarity or quality of the article.
- Promotional article production on behalf of clients Editors should not create articles which serve solely to promote their subject. All Wikipedia articles should contain useful information written as if from a neutral point of view. The writing of “puff pieces” and advertisements on Wikipedia is strictly prohibited. If you contribute to Wikipedia on behalf of clients, you owe it to both them and the encyclopedia to make very sure you understand the standards for content here, and do not insert promotional material.
- Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion or advertising. All information about companies and products are written in an objective and unbiased style. All article topics must be verifiable with independent, third-party sources, so articles about very small “garage” or local companies are typically unacceptable. See also Wikipedia:Notability (organizations and companies) for guidelines on corporate notability.
- Those promoting causes or events, or issuing public service announcements, even if noncommercial, should use a forum other than Wikipedia to do so.
If you are in a situation where you need or wish to try and adapt a Wikipedia page on behalf of an individual or institution on the grounds of accuracy, explain your case on the Wikipedia talk page that sits behind it – being transparent about how you would like the page to be edited and why, and including reference links.