Corporate editing lands in Dutch media

As demonstrated again last week, Wikipedia editions in other languages encounter similar challenges and confront common problems much like the English version. This time the Dutch Wikipedia was apparently the scene of corporate PR staff trying to modify an article in its favor, a discovery that made it into the national media there.

The company involved was Trafigura, a multinational company involved in trading and shipment of petroleum as well as base metals. The parent company is based in the Netherlands. It has connections to controversial commodities trader Marc Rich and was previously implicated in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, although Trafigura denied culpability and blamed another company involved in the deal.

On this occasion the matter involved illegal dumping of toxic waste last year in Côte d'Ivoire. The dumping by the Probo Koala, a ship chartered by Trafigura, led to a February settlement in which the company paid nearly $200 million to the Ivorian government to settle its claims and secure the release of three Trafigura employees being held in connection with the incident. On the Dutch Wikipedia, the Probo Koala has its own article (in English, it currently redirects to the article on the dumping incident) and it was there that the story played out.

The Dutch Probo Koala article had been untouched since January when on 15 May, an account named Press Office T NL began editing it. Based on the editor's statements, the T does in fact stand for Trafigura. The edits to the Probo Koala article tried to tone down the article and emphasize the company's efforts to comply with international regulations in handling the toxic waste.

After some back-and-forth with other contributors turned to reverting, the article was protected a little more than two hours later. The story was then reported in the Volkskrant, a Dutch national daily. Meanwhile, the article has been significantly expanded and is now unprotected again.

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