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June 12, 2009

Wikipedia editors for hire

Posted: 09:18 AM ET

Wikipedia may be 'The Free Encyclopedia,' but that's not stopping some editors from making a few bucks.

Tuesday, Wikipedia's community began a discussion to address the practice of paid editors, or editors who are hired by outside sources to alter content on the site. There are no specific rules that forbid Wikipedia editors from accepting payment and, currently, editors-for-hire are allowed to dance around Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) policy. But if the Wikipedia community decides that paid editing deserves no part in their free society, these entrepreneurial editors may find themselves out of a job.

Wikipedia's arbitration committee voted last month to block edits from the Church of Scientology after editors from within the church revised articles to reflect a pro-Scientology viewpoint.  Critics of paid editing see a similar violation of Wikipedia's COI policy occurring with financially motivated posts and believe they could damage the site's credibility. Wikipedia contributor Hmwith writes in the open discussion:

When it comes to reliability, Wikipedia already has a poor reputation as it is, and this would only further harm its public image. Paid editing is something that Wikipedia should neither encourage nor condone.

Though most participants in the discussion disapprove of using Wikipedia for financial gain, they stop short of condemning paid editing or calling for a ban. Alanyst writes:

If an article can go through the review processes and become featured, in the end it doesn't matter what the motivations were of the person who wrote it - whether out of nationalist pride, personal fulfillment, a vendetta, or the prospect of income.

How do you feel about paid editing? Can paid contributors maintain a neutral point of view - and if not, is Wikipedia's process of peer review enough to protect its integrity?

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Filed under: Internet • online news

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chris   June 14th, 2009 12:35 am ET

I like the idea. It might bring some with an extensive education or research in a particular field to the site. The motivation for degree holding college students who are good at research and writing could benefit the site immensely!

Mac Kobza   June 14th, 2009 9:29 am ET

It is unethical. However, as an open-community forum, other non-paid contributors should be able offer competing input that contrasts paid-contributions. Paid contributors are basically advertisers, and their input only serves the welfare of the check writer. This issue could become the downfall of WIkipedia.

jeff   June 14th, 2009 12:38 pm ET

There needs to be full disclosure if the writer is paid or not....and then the content needs to be fully reviewed for content of truth.

Mike   June 14th, 2009 1:23 pm ET

They're not being paid to "edit," but to produce spin favoring the company that pays them. That's like calling a lobbyist a "consultant." I don't know, frankly, how Wikipedia can successfully exclude these leaches and still maintain its historic openness, but if it doesn't find a way, this hijacking will spread and will badly damage the site's credibility, perhaps fatally.

Mike Rough   June 14th, 2009 2:39 pm ET

I have been an internet marketer for 10 years, and have seen "Spam" go from annoying email and robotic sounding text to intelligent hand crafted promotional material. Wherever there is opportunity to increase positioning within search results or prominence within a highly browsed information resource, ethics take a backseat to the allmighty dollar. The porous and anonymous nature of the web facilitates the abuse of the system for monitary gain. The only way to combat this is to have a broad user base who have more power in determining what is valuable to them. Even this method may be abused but it is less likely than when individual editors are involved.

A system like one being tested in Google where you are able to rate information on an individual posting or perhaps paragraph for its usefulness and accuracy would help keep the information honest.

Derik   June 15th, 2009 11:35 am ET

I find it bizarre that the pubic media is now keeping tabs on Wikipedia's internal arbitration system.
Not wrong per-se... just biz are.

Coaster   June 15th, 2009 6:34 pm ET

Even this srticle is biased by the writers viewpoint. It's inevitable when you only have one contributor that you only have one voice. To keep Wikipedia as the repository of information that it has become, they have to keep the broad spectrum of input. Once you hire advertisers to write articles (and what else is it, really?) then you lose the unbiased open truth and are fed only the truth they want you to see. I'm sure many people will still use the site, unknowing that they are reading a filtered version of the facts, and eventually, those opinions will become the general public's truth.

Marcus Vinicius Pinto Schtruk   June 15th, 2009 11:20 pm ET

Liability, disclosure and assurance are key words.

Gregory Kohs   June 16th, 2009 6:47 am ET

I am perplexed that an author writing a story about paid editing on Wikipedia would not have consulted me, the founder of the first fully-disclosed paid editing service on Wikipedia -, circa June 2006.

When I am under contract with a person or corporation to write an article about said person or corporation, I have very, very, very little interest in presenting an "advocacy" position on behalf of that entity. Rather, success is measured in durability of the article within Wikipedia, so my highest priority is...

How do I write (and publish) this article in such a way that it passes WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:RS, and all the other WP:things, while simultaneously NOT DRAWING THE ATTENTION of someone intent on deleting paid promotional puff pieces?

Guess what? The articles that result are pretty bland, not puff pieces, quite encyclopedic, and (ever since I learned this technique) 100% durable within Wikipedia - with surprisingly little follow-up maintenance, and likewise lasting appreciation of my clients.

I enjoy watching the comments of people who wring their hands about "spin" and "PR" and "shills". They will always be detected, if anyone's paying any attention. The true paid encyclopedists aren't spinning their content.

jbevans   June 16th, 2009 7:35 am ET

There really is no place for paid editing on Wikipedia. However it is not always crystal clear who is being paid. For example, a secretary directed by her boss to make his article more attractive is also a paid editor although not quite the same as someone otherwise unrelated to the company.

It may be unethical but I am not sure it can be stopped.

Mark   June 16th, 2009 9:25 am ET

I am amused that the Wikipedia community feels that people getting paid to write articles or edit them will somehow sully it's reputation – it's reputation is terrable, nobody I know promtes Wikipedia as a site to get accurate information on anything, interesting takes on an issue or topic, yes – accurate or even credable? No. It is not like any of these editors are asking Wikipedia to pay them, this is a private transaction between two people. I decide I want an articel about me on Wikipedia, but lack the skills to do it – I hire a writer to edit the entry for me, who got hurt? Who knows, perhaps a paid editor might even fact check – now that would destroy Wikipedia!

Sylesh Volla   June 16th, 2009 9:42 am ET

This is great! Wikipedia is getting better and better each year.

mertz   June 17th, 2009 2:06 am ET

i agree with jeff. if wiki is going to allow this to happen then they should also hire people to fact check what those paid editors/writers/non writers are eposuing about. or they should have a page that has a rolling list of links of articles that have most recently been updated. i also like the suggestion from another person about the digg kinda system/stars(msn)/ratings (google) kind of system that would help to reverify an article...entries should have the classifications that wiki currently has them in (doing a good job connecting stories to a w5h criteria). also they have have people who visit the site sign up for validated accounts so that the site can hold people accountable to the information that they disperese...or allow people an ownership stake in wikipedia if their entry gets the most ratings.

i will admit to using wiki, but it's not my primary source (never) and i always go and trace the origination of a source or corroborate the information with other research i have done. technology, it helps and taketh away all in one.

Question   June 22nd, 2009 11:33 pm ET

The problem is that Wikipedia is non-profit and doesn't have the money to hire any more people! Even the developers of the site, if I'm not mistaken, are volunteers.

Re reliability: sometimes I wonder. Have you seen or ?

joe   February 24th, 2010 12:57 am ET

SummerPhd is a good example of one of these paid for hire editors always touting corporate products

wikipedia writer   June 10th, 2011 1:33 pm ET


If anyone wants to hire a wikipedia writer, please contact us.


wikipedia writer   June 10th, 2011 1:34 pm ET

scott59405   August 12th, 2011 8:46 am ET

One solution would be to permit paid editing with the caveat that a specific and instantly recognizeable font be used for paid-for editing/ writing. What people are paying for may be legitimate (help in writing a wikipedia article) or gross (the undeserved veneer of credibility). The required use of a special font (while the article remains subject to all other wikipolicies) would separate the sheep from the goats.

Gregory Kohs   August 12th, 2011 9:27 am ET

scott59405, your idea for a different font for paid editing is interesting, but here's a problem with it. When some non-paid (or purportedly non-paid) volunteer editor comes along and modifies that content, does the modified text appear with "regular" font? Also, in practice the "paid font" would just turn into a slug-fest, where the low-wage, basement-dwelling, pro-socialist Wikipediots would just hunt for that font and disparage whatever the content was, regardless of quality. That's how Wikipedia works. Here's an example of "paid content" being reverted to even worse "unpaid" content by one such Wikipediot:

Somehow, the sentence "Big coal givers to [[West Virginia]] politicians includes Arch Coal PAC" was preferred because an unpaid editor had butchered it together in non-English. That a paid editor came along to improve its clarity was only a ticket to doom.

David King   December 1st, 2011 11:53 am ET

As a Wikipedian for hire, I can tell you that not all COI authors are the same.

I worked with one client that asked me to work on contingency because they had already hired THREE prior parties who were each unsuccessful at getting the Wiki to stay up, which had become locked by an admin.

I've seen CMOs publicly lambasted on the COI noticeboard, paid-for writers make covert, secret COI edits (arguably illegel RE FTC) and every kind of trouble you can imagine. Big corporations hire college kids or amateurs.

And we've all seen the headlines from corporations who make extremely inappropriate edits.

Wikipedia could benefit greatly from COI editors, but only the 5% of them who have the know-how, credibility and code of ethics to genuinely serve Wikipedia's goals.

A certification program would go miles in giving the Wikipedia community and clients a way to find qualified Wikipedians. Regulate instead of ignore.

Related post "Why Wikipedia Needs Marketers"

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John   September 7th, 2012 7:30 am ET


I have a renowned web property. I would like to add company profile on Some close competitors are listed there while my company exposure broader than them.

I will pay for the same if anyone could help me.
Write me at

thekohser2   September 7th, 2012 12:56 pm ET

John Thamus, by asking for assistance in such a clumsy, public manner, rather than privately searching out paid Wikipedia editors (hint: they can be found with Google search) and contacting them offline, now the Wikipedia anti-corporate patrollers know that you're looking to squeeze an article about L2S Hosting into Wikipedia. You've just made the job for that paid editor about 3 or 4 times more difficult than it would have been.

2gsmd   June 19th, 2013 2:24 pm ET

Hi everyone! It would be so nice as well as simple if you could trust everyone. But the simple fact is humans are too full of greed. I have a real hard time believing much of any thing. I think a person to be paid to write articles if fine and I believe would be a great thing for each person involved. For myself, the negative aspect that comes into play is not with the buisness per se but is ultimately with each individual. While many buisnesses are ran by trustworthy people, this does not say all employee's, contractors et cetra. In the same like, trustworthy individuals may be employeed by buisnesses, contractors and such. Then there are too, trustworthy individuals who are unaware for some reason or another that they in fact are participating in the ill ways of untrustworthiness. Finally trust worth humans that are forced (by personal needs, situations and so forth) to have to put on a different "person" for the sake of money. Goes to prove the old saying "if there is a way, there is a way". I think, note "I", people are more trusting than they should be, and using there own thinking skills less, has and is creating the end to freedom and privacy for humans here on earth. Which leave us all open for everything negative.

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