By Ilan Nass, Fueled

Wikipedia paid editing is the practice where an individual receives financial compensation for creating or editing an article on the online encyclopedia. The practice has recently come under fire, with the community making efforts to ban it.

They argue that paid editing creates a conflict of interest between the aim of the site and the interests of the editor. To put it in perspective, a judge’s primary function is as a fair adjudicator. In the event that a defendant or plaintiff is his wife (external relationship), the primary function would be undermined. Wikipedia’s democratized platform is similarly being threatened by paid editing.

Why is paid editing popular?

In a word, money, both for the editors and the companies looking for some free PR. Since its creation, Wikipedia has become the go-to reference point for almost any subject or topic. Its credibility and popularity make it a well-loved and important tool in SEO.

The marketing aspect of Wikipedia comes into play because the site ranks number one in major search engines, a fact that makes it ripe for exploitation. A good page on Wikipedia can give great rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs).

So, is it too late to stop?

The notion of preventing paid edits on Wikipedia, while noble, is simultaneously quite ridiculous.

Consider this:

  • In the United States alone, there are an estimated 60 million visits to the site monthly.
  • There were 6 million edits and 30 million views to Michael Jackson’s page in the month that he died.
  • A recent investigation identified an editor named “morning 277” who had been found to have worked on or created over 6,000 paid articles.

Given such statistics, it’s clear that Wikipedia paid edits may be unmanageable simply due to the popularity of the site and the ease of editing. There’s no doubt that it’s an appealing SEO opportunity for many companies.

Wikimedia Foundation has recently blocked accounts over 250 accounts of editors, also known as sockpuppets, for engaging in this practice. Will that, however, be enough to stamp it out, or will new accounts just continue to be created everyday with the same purpose?

According to the online encyclopedia, paid editors are biased by default, and cannot possibly be neutral contributors. The Foundation’s Executive Director Sue Gardner believes paid editing completely acts against their ethos of being an unbiased, free encyclopedia. She says, “Unlike a university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise, paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a ‘black hat’ practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people.”

Some claim that, because Wikipedia seeks to impose a layer of editorial review on everything posted, this alters the notion that everyone has an equal right to edit articles, thereby going against its own ethos. Others, though, simply don’t care about the ethos or ethics and are going to continue reaping the benefits of paid page editing, which Wikipedia are going to find extremely difficult or near impossible to stop.

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