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Foundation takes aim at undisclosed paid editing; Greek Wikipedia editor faces down legal challenge

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By The ed17

WMF moves on undisclosed paid editing

The Wikimedia Foundation has proposed to modify the Wikimedia projects' Terms of use to specifically ban undisclosed paid editing. This is the Foundation's first major move against the much wider category of paid editing, rather than advocacy, putting it all in the category of "deceptive activities". Paid advocacy occurs when someone is "paid to promote something or someone on Wikipedia". Paid editing encompasses all of that and more, being broadly defined as "accepting money to edit Wikipedia", which the English Wikipedia's policy notes is not necessarily an issue as long as "transparency and neutrality are key."

The amendment would add the following clause to the end of section four of the global terms of use:

Paid contributions without disclosure

These Terms of Use prohibit engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation, impersonation, and fraud. To ensure compliance with these obligations, you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution to any Wikimedia Projects for which you receive compensation. You must make that disclosure in at least one of the following:

  • a statement on your user page,
  • a statement on the talk page accompanying any paid contributions, or
  • a statement in the edit summary accompanying any paid contributions.

Applicable law, or community and Foundation policies, such as those addressing conflicts of interest, may further limit paid contributions or require more detailed disclosure. For more information, please read our background note on disclosure of paid contributions.

As of publishing time, comments on the talk page have gone beyond 50 sections, and a referendum on the amendment has a majority in support—though an unusual number of votes have been posted without a signature.

With "compensation"—for the purposes of the amendment—being defined as "an exchange of money, goods, or services", some sections, such as hypothetical (but not all that hypothetical) examples for discussion or non-hypothetical example, have focused on the vagaries in the Foundation's proposal. For example, the former discusses borderline scenarios, including:

Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Templates/Paid advocacy 2012–14

Example 1:
I am an experienced Wikipedia editor, perhaps an administrator. A friend is an author who has published several novels that are still in print. He does not have a Wikipedia article, and would like to have one. Knowing that I'm active on Wikipedia, he asks me to create an article for him. He gives me information about his background and books to include in the article. There is no question in my mind that the author meets the applicable notability guideline. May I write the article? Do I have to disclose anything if I do write the article? If my friend offers to take me to dinner to thank me for agreeing to write the article, may I accept?
Example 2:
I work at a university library. The library contains archival and manuscript collections of the personal papers of dozens of historical and literary figures, which are of interest to scholars. Our collections are underutilized, and we would like to have more visitors use them. I want to add a short paragraph to the Wikipedia article of each person whose papers our library holds, mentioning that his or her papers are at our facility and providing a link to the online finding aid. May I do so?

Example two takes on even greater importance when considering the growing GLAM-Wiki movement, which promotes galleries, libraries, archives, and museums and now has its first official user group (the GLAM-Wiki US Consortium); it boasts a number of successes, most notably in content uploads to the Wikimedia Commons.

The other linked discussion raises the question of whether participating in an on-wiki contest with a cash prize, such as the Core Contest or the Tyop Contest, would require disclosure.

The practice of paid advocacy has been a public problem on the English Wikipedia since October, when a clandestine ring of editors working for the public relations agency Wiki-PR (now Status Labs Image Management) was exposed by the Signpost and several other news outlets. The Foundation quickly moved against the firm, issuing a surprisingly strong statement from executive director Sue Gardner the same month and an order to "cease and desist" in November.

Although the English Wikipedia is the largest and most visible of the various Wikimedia projects, its paid editing policies have no effect on other Wikimedia projects. The German Wikipedia and its local support team keep a register of official institutional editor accounts. It has a "user verification" system in place that attempts to prevent unauthorized people from operating from what would appear to be an official account for a business or individual. The process is simple, involving an email from a company domain sent to Wikimedia's OTRS system. The result is editors like Benutzer:Coca-Cola De, an account for the Coca-Cola Company.

The Swedish Wikipedia also welcomes paid editors. Anders Wennersten wrote in January that the paid editing problem "is a privilege that only the biggest version [the English Wikipedia] can have" and as long as paid advocates play by the basic rules, they are key stakeholders in ensuring that the Swedish Wikipedia continually improves in "value and quality", despite its small core of active editors. He continued on this track in a more recent mailing list post, saying that the "fruitful cooperation" between paid and unpaid editors was a driver of quality content on the site. The proposed amendment, in Wennersten's eyes, would be helpful as a guideline—but as a mandatory part of the Terms of use, would "actually hurt our community and work."

So, too, does the Norwegian Wikipedia. Erlend Bjørtvedt, the Vice Chairman and Treasurer of Wikimedia Norway, said that a major discussion among the site's administrators concluded that a straight ban on paid editors was wholly impractical, as it would also ban editors who were working for public institutions. Edits from third parties paid to edit for a commercial entity and non-neutral editing for pay are frowned on, but the site attempts to judge editors on their actions, not affiliation. In fact, according to Bjørtvedt, employees' editing their employers' articles "is not only tolerated, but quite common" on the site. Bjørtvedt is an example of this: he is a Vice President of Telenor, a global telecommunications company, and he has edited the company's article 233 times, while the next two contributors combined have a total of 27 edits.

Editor faces legal proceedings for Wikipedia edits

The will of Andreas Papandreou (pictured), a former prime minister of Greece, is the basis of legal proceedings brought against a Greek Wikipedian by Papandreou's former son-in-law, Theodore Katsanevas.

Dimitris Liourdis, a lawyer in training who moonlights as an administrator on the Greek Wikipedia, is embroiled in a legal dispute with Theodore Katsanevas, a Greek politician, over alleged edits made to his Wikipedia article. Liourdis, who edits Wikimedia sites as Diu, is likely to receive a heavy criminal sentence if convicted. His legal fees are being covered by the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates the various Wikimedia sister projects, through their Legal Fees Assistance Program.

Liourdis' predicament was first publicized on the Wikimedia blog, apparently in response to a legal setback—on 13 February, Liourdis was ordered to remove the offending statements from Katsanevas' Wikipedia article. Arstechnica, The Press Project, Nonprofit Quarterly, and the Washington Post's "Switch" blog, among others, quickly followed.

Legal proceedings were initiated on the basis of a single sentence added in one of Liourdis' 22 edits to the article, which reported that Katsanevas was castigated as a "disgrace" in the will of Andreas Papandreou, who at the time of his death in 1996 was Katsanevas' father-in-law. While Liourdis did not add any sources with this edit, at the time legal action was initiated, there were several reputable references. The English Wikipedia's new article on Katsanevas supports its own sentence with eight sources.

Katsanevas also sued the Greek Free/Open Source Software Society, apparently in the misguided belief that it runs Wikipedia.

Liourdis' hearing is set for 11 March. He is currently blocked on the Greek Wikipedia for edit warring while attempting to comply with the court's order. The end result, as of publishing time, is that the information is still in Katsanevas' Greek Wikipedia article, it has received thousands of views, and new articles have been created in English, Catalan, Polish, Yakut, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian.

In brief

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I'm sure someone will complain about "too much whitespace", but I absolutely love 1910's redesign of Wikipedia. It's definitely needing a better design, considering myself (and most other users) have simply become accustomed to ignoring the vast majority of space Wikipedia uses, e.g. the sidebar, copyright notifications, the footer, and smaller text underneath the edit box. Removing all the extras could improve Wikipedia a lot.

Their simplification of the most common tools from the sidebar and other parts of the interface is welcomed and looks fantastic, in my opinion. While I would support a sidebar extension for the "power users", the casual user simply doesn't need those tools. Analytics would undoubtedly support the idea that most actions remain unused by the vast majority of users, especially those who are simply browsing rather than editing.

I also wanted to compliment their choices of coloring. The shades of gray/white are vastly improved over those of the current Wikipedia. The web is moving away from gradients, and Wikipedia is a perfect candidate for a simplistic gray color scheme which focuses primarily on the content.

Great article this week! I'd love some more mentions of design in the future, even if they're just "In brief" like this one. --Nicereddy (talk) 02:57, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

  • Failed at the first hurdle: fairness. For the current look, they take a page with a very long first section, "plot". In all the later, "improved" versions, that section is suddenly gone, only showing sections which have an accompanying image or infobox on the right side, not showing how the plot section would become twice as long (vertically) with a huge chunk of empty whitespace to the right (a bit like the current Flow version). It suddenly wouldn't look so attractive anymore... No matter what merits the proposal might have, if you present it using such methods, you lose all credibility. Fram (talk) 12:40, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
As a Monobook user, I think those 'new' ideas look ghastly. I hate books or brochures with a little bit of text in the middle of a vast white or pale blue (don't mention pale pink...) space. I always think it's designed to cover up a lack of communication (or information...) along with a desire to be 'modern' at all costs. Having said this, I also don't like cramming, and avoidance of any white space on a colour page (people who say "We're paying for colour, so we're going to have colour!" need countering with the brightly coloured tiger and zebra disappearing into their backgrounds...). Peridon (talk) 15:31, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I like the overall redesign. Its simple. Its focus is on the content. It give prominence to the search bar. The sidebar is embedded in the header. I think it could be improved, e.g. have the text flow into the other columns when there is no picture, and not have quite so much whitespace inbetween sections... But other than that its an enormous improvement. Someone should make this happen. Int21h (talk) 17:03, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Don't fix what's not broken. The current design is timeless and doesn't need changed. I cringe every time a site announces a design change now, as most site-design changes in the last five years have been for the worse. This "1910 look" is typical of the designs that I don't care for. Wbm1058 (talk) 17:56, 22 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

"stuck in the 90s" - but Wikipedia didn't even start until the 00s! (talk) 23:03, 22 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
@Wbm1058: "The current design is timeless". Regarding this, I would say that it's an inherently impossible for anything to be truly timeless. If you mean to say that you would reject any redesign of Wikipedia, I think that would simply invite stagnation, which I would think is hard to argue as a positive attribute of any website. I vehemently oppose the phrase "Don't fix what's not broken", as it implies that usability and efficiency are inherent qualities of functionality. Imagine if we remained complacent in the early 1900s and refused to adopt cars because "horses work fine"? Imagine if we said the same of cars with regards to the invention of planes, telegrams with regards to the telephone, or candles with regards to the lightbulb! While I can hardly draw definite parallels between such obvious improvements to technologies and the redesigning of a website, I don't think the comparison is wholly unreasonable.
We are not suggesting that we "fix" the home page, nor are we suggesting that it is in any way dysfunctional. At the same time, however, that is not to say that the design is perfect or has reached perceived "pinnacle" which we may never again reach, let alone surpass. A redesign would not be for the simple sake of change, but rather for the overall good of Wikipedia's usability and therefore longevity. What isn't broken, I hope you would agree, can still be improved upon, regardless of the form and functionality of the predecessor it attempts to overcome.
We must not remain stagnant. We can provide the world with an encyclopedia encapsulating the whole of human knowledge, but if the world finds its navigation difficult or its design an eye sore, the knowledge held within is rendered useless. And what's the point of an encyclopedia no one wants to read? --Nicereddy (talk) 02:32, 25 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Don't get me wrong. Wikipedia shouldn't remain stagnant and there are many areas where improvement is needed:
  • Better design for integrating all orphaned articles into the encyclopedia
  • Better design for keeping Wikipedia from being overrun with low-quality articles about marginally notable people and organizations
  • Better design for ensuring that articles don't have too many—or too few—images in the right and left margins (keep in mind that anyone can add or remove an image on pages that aren't protected)
  • Better design for ensuring articles are reliably sourced
  • Better design for helping novice editors (Visual Editor 2.0)
I'd rather focus on real improvements and not new front grilles and tailfins. Regards, Wbm1058 (talk) 03:25, 25 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
There are different Wikipedia:Skins readers and editors may choose to use, though I've never felt the need to use anything but the default skin. Wbm1058 (talk) 03:37, 25 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

See also Wikipedia:Redesign proof of concepts. --Atlasowa (talk) 08:05, 24 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Leave Wikipedia the way it is. If I am at a library or it has been 30 days since I last signed in, I don't like the way it looks. When I sign in, I do. So please keep this option.— Vchimpanzee · talk · contributions · 18:36, 26 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Compensated editing

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Swedish and German policies described in this article actually involve disclosure of the compensatory arrangement? I mean, surely de:Benutzer:Coca-Cola De wouldn't fall under the proposed change to the Terms of Use, since that change only requires disclosure? Powers T 03:18, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

You're quite correct—in trying to make a more interesting segue, I was very inaccurate. Thank you for your attention to detail! Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 03:39, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

The top section on paid editing is very biased. It only covers folks who are opposed to the change in the Terms of Use, folks who seem to say that it is a major problem if paid editors disclose their paid status.

The real situation on the talk page m:Talk:Terms of use/Paid contributions amendment is that the proposed change is overwhelmingly supported. There is a "voting section" at the top of the page, and as of now the vote is 135 in favor to 39 opposed. I do think that covering some of those (78%) in favor would reflect better on the the Signpost's neutrality. Smallbones(smalltalk) 20:54, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I view it a bit differently. The Signpost's job is not to agree with popular consensus, but to offer critical reporting of anything from wildly popular initiatives to critical failures. As a side note, since when have there been Wikimedia votes without signatures? Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:25, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the job you have taken on here is to provide neutral reporting on issues of concern to Wikipedians. Ignoring the 78% who favor the ToU change of requiring paid editors to disclose, and concentrating on the 22% who are not in favor is a major bias. Frankly, you owe an abject apology to the readers of Signpost for this biased coverage. Smallbones(smalltalk) 22:33, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
No, that's correct—I believe we're misunderstanding each other. We certainly aim to be a neutral news outlet, and while I'm not convinced that this is a biased treatment of the topic, I've added a sentence to note the numbers in support. Note, though, that I haven't added figures as the sentence is referring to "as of publishing time", and I felt obligated to note the unusual number of unsigned votes. While I think there would still be a majority, it's not a small number (only two of the first 22 have a relatively normal Wikimedia signature). Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:47, 21 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Greek suing action

“is likely to receive a heavy criminal sentence if convicted”

Like what ?

--Nnemo (talk) 19:05, 10 August 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Status Labs

Jeff here-- I run Status Labs Inc. out of Ch and SF. Totally different company from your Wikipedia stuff. Friends where I work keep asking me about it and I have no idea... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:50, 20 January 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Jeff, there appear to be two companies at work here. We're referring to the renamed Wiki-PR, a public relations firm now run out of Austin, New York, and São Paolo. That said, in an effor tto avoid any confusion, I've added a clarification to the original article; I am certainly not looking to disparage your company. Best, Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 19:21, 20 January 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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