Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has suspended ten accounts, as it starts to investigate allegations of “bad faith” content manipulation by one of the UK’s largest PR firms.
Confirming the action, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales claimed that the firm, Bell Pottinger, had “embarrassed their clients”.
He went on to say that by not adhering to the ethical guidelines stipulated, a team had been commissioned to investigate possible breaches of conflict of interest.
Responding to the action, Bell Pottinger confirmed it had actively edited entries, but that there had been nothing illegal about it.
The firm has set up its own investigation into the affair however, though has stated they do not envisage any bad fall out for their customers.
The chairman of the parent company, Chime Communications, also said there had been previous occasions when Wikipedia client requests had been turned down, due to the guidelines in place.
The investigation was called for when an SEO consultant, Tim Ireland, became curious about the activity of user account “Biggleswiki”.
The account was said to be responsible for removing negative comments about Bell Pottinger clients, replacing them with positive ones, and asking for the edits to be protected from amendments.
Wikipedia is often the butt of jokes when it comes to the authenticity of its content. An open platform for anyone to edit, many pages have had erroneous facts and figures added. Though most of these are harmless entries, and unlikely to be relied on by people searching online.
This case does call into question the open nature though and, though the guidelines stipulate that entries where the editor has a personal or business interest should be left alone, it is hard to monitor.