With over half a billion readers around the world, Wikipedia is feeling the pressure to crack down on biased information and editing, leading to a ban of over 250 user accounts this week.
In a statement this week, the Wikimedia Foundations said that a few hundred accounts that appeared to be producing sponsored, biased articles had been banned from the site. These paid pieces are used as promotion for products and organizations, and are all in violation of Wikimedia’s neutrality policies.
Such accounts are often called “sock puppets” and are considered a black hat marketing technique used by companies to attempt to improve their public image. Often these accounts form part of larger network of editors and administrators who offer are hired by businesses or individuals to create favorable Wikipedia pages.
This sudden bans by Wikipedia are unsurprising considering the problems faces by Yelp earlier this year after it was estimated that at least 20% of all on-site reviews were fraudulent content originating from the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe.
Although Wikipedia is not a perfect information outlet by far, it is relied on by its users as a source of objective information, meant to be educational rather than promotional. For this reason, Wikimedia are rallying with a “painstaking” effort to root out and ban false accounts in the hopes of putting a stop to this practice.