The Wikimedia Foundation announced a rule change this week. Anyone who’s been paid to edit a wikipedia page (public relations firms, for instance) is now required to disclose that on the site.
Founder Jimmy Wales had wanted stronger restrictions -- he thought that paid PR people shouldn’t be allowed to edit the Wikipedia entries for their clients, which seems reasonable. Instead, the Foundation settled on requiring transparency.
This rule change is a reaction to a purge last fall, when 250 editor accounts belonging to PR professionals were deleted by Wikipedia editors.
Of course, the problem of Wikipedia astroturfing is likely to stay with us. As long as Wikipedia is free and open to anyone, they’ll have to police bad actors, and some of them will slip under the radar. Plus, the trickiness of the site’s interface and editing culture means that there’s always going to be people who would like their pages corrected / burnished who don’t have the technical knowhow to do so.
One clear sign of the difficulty of solving this? Wiki-PR, a Wikipedia editing PR company targeted in the Fall ban, is still open for business.