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The Wikimedia Foundation has amended its terms of use to ban editing for pay without disclosing an employer or affiliation on any of its websites—including all Wikipedias and sister projects. The broad scope of these changes, which potentially go beyond regulating only paid advocacy, will force the WMF to selectively enforce them to avoid ensnaring well-meaning editors.

The new clause, "Paid contributions without disclosure", went into effect immediately. It is placed under "refraining from certain activities" and reads, in full:

The only major difference from the originally proposed amendment is an opt-out clause, which came about in an extensive community discussion. It allows WMF projects to adopt an alternative disclosure policy if there is clear community consensus for it, similar to the licensing policy's exemption doctrine policy for fair-use content. The WMF-led vote was inspired in part by English Wikipedia editor Martinp. WMF legal counsel Stephen LaPorte stated that the goal was to create a "simple" process when "a project has consensus on a better alternative."

This image, already used in six Wikipedias, was uploaded to Commons by professional photographer Stefan Krause. His homepage is two clicks from all of his upload description pages, which we linked to from our coverage of his win in this year's Commons Picture of the Year competition.
The language of this paragraph is already being put to use by Wikimedia Commons, whose users are currently voting in large numbers to void the effect of the default rule on the site. According to the proposer, the "very special nature" of the Commons means that they need to "adopt a policy that allows paid contributions without any disclosure whatsoever. / ... content submitted by users who receive compensation for it ... is often of excellent quality and educational value."

Aside from this single clause, the broadness of the overall terms-of-use update has survived from the opening proposal—the WMF's first major move against paid editing—rather than just paid advocacy. Under the English Wikipedia's policies, 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", but this is not always a negative action: "transparency and neutrality are key".

Objections to the amendment have been raised on the talk page designated to discussing it. Andy Mabbett commented that "If I am paid to deliver that training, and make edits during it, such as posting welcome templates, or fixing formatting errors in trainees' edits to articles, I now have to declare that I've been employed to do so. I even have to declare if I'm simply provided with lunch ("an exchange of money, goods, or services"; no exceptions are listed.) Ditto an editathon participant who is given a copy of the GLAM's guidebook, or a free pass to an attraction for which there is usually a charge." Luis Villa, the WMF's deputy general counsel, replied: "the purpose of the terms is not to catch users who make occasional good-faith mistakes; we think most users, most of the time, will do the right thing. At the same time, since this is a general terms of use, we can’t lay out every potential case ahead of time."

Editors have also raised objections to altering the Wikimedia-wide terms of use to address what they see as an English-Wikipedia-specific problem. The Commons proposal directly states that "the issue of paid contributions isn't ... as touchy for us as it is on (the English) Wikipedia", since "we do not, for instance, require our content to be neutral, and highly value original works created by our own users." On the Wikimedia-l mailing list, Risker skewered the change:

These Wikipedias include the fourth-largest and fast-growing Swedish Wikipedia.

The logo of the former Wiki-PR.

It appears that the WMF is crafting the amendment in broad terms to avoid another Wiki-PR situation, in which a public relations company created, edited, or maintained several thousand Wikipedia articles for paying clients using a sophisticated array of concealed user accounts. While the WMF insisted that Wiki-PR had breached the Foundation's terms of use (and Wiki-PR privately admitted to doing so), this relied on the "engaging in false statements, impersonation, or fraud" clause, specifically referring to part of the third bullet-point: "misrepresenting your affiliation with any individual or entity, or using the username of another user with the intent to deceive". It does not directly refer to paid editing or advocacy.

The wide scope of this amendment will cover a large number of good-faith editors—but it also grants the WMF's legal team a weapon that they will selectively enforce against bad-faith actors, such as the former Wiki-PR.

In brief

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Discuss this story

In the recent furore over the Yank Barry page, it is noticeable that a number of single purpose accounts (SPAs) appeared, at first blush, solely to puff the subject of the article. These accounts are of course blocked. Given that a number of editors are potentially subject to suit by Barry, it would be interesting to see how the new policy will help identify if these SPAs were paid advocates, and if so whether this evidence can be usefully employed in defending the ideals of the community. All the best: Rich Farmbrough01:34, 22 June 2014 (UTC).

TLD .wiki

One disadvantage of assigning the top-level domain ".wiki" specifically to Wikipedia is that it could worsen public confusion between "wiki" and "Wikipedia". Please see User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 99#Wikipedia, a wiki (February and March 2012).
Wavelength (talk) 02:31, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Just to clarify, the .wiki TLD is not specifically being "assigned" to Wikipedia, and it should help increase awareness of non-WMF wikis. --Another Believer (Talk) 14:57, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
In the context of two-letter language codes, yes it is. Why should go to German Wikipedia and not, say, German Wikivoyage or German Wikibooks? Powers T 18:06, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Please don't! Wikis are a page type. There's non-MediaWiki wikis, there's Wikia, etc. The .wiki domain shouldn't be a property of the foundation. --NaBUru38 (talk) 14:03, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
For (), there can be fr:wikt:wiki/piano. For (), there can be fr:w:wiki/Piano. A table of Wikimedia wikis (with Wikimedia project codes and ISO 639 language codes) is at There can still be many web addresses available on .wiki for non-MediaWiki wikis, but the Wikimedia Foundation would need to think carefully about what to reserve for possible future expansion (in Wikimedia projects and in languages).
Wavelength (talk) 19:42, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
No one has suggested that. Kaldari (talk) 03:27, 26 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
I think pointing to German Wikivoyage would be a bit silly. German Wikipedia is a much higher profile project by orders of magnitude. Would you really prefer for it it point to German Wikivoyage or German Wikibooks? Kaldari (talk) 03:27, 26 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
No, I'd prefer not to assume which type of reference material the reader is looking for, rather than assume he or she is looking for an encyclopedia. Powers T 14:21, 26 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
I'd also like to point out that the Wikipedias' status as the more often sought resource would only be compounded by this change, making the argument you present self-reinforcing. Powers T 14:22, 26 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

POV, but paid, editors

I notice that the new conditions on paid advocacy and paid editors do not explicitly state conditions on their adherence to the Neutral Point of View. How is this condition to be integrated with paid advocacy. It goes without saying that the moral strength derived from editors who work for their love of the subject will not mix well with a community of paid advocates unless some conditions or rules of engagement are well known to all to those who edit. For those who read only, it's going to be all the same to them. How are the rules for objective contributors going to mix with this new policy? Those who edit for money will initially be riding on the goodwill created in the first 10 years of this encyclopedia. Ill-thought-through terms and conditions will damage the encyclopedia.

There is a precedent: employees of Wikimedia Foundation log-on with user names + (WMF). Are there going to be safeguards like this precedent? --Ancheta Wis   (talk | contribs) 03:08, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

The new ToU change doesn't either allow or ban paid editors, that's left up to the community to decide via other policies or guidelines. The only thing it does is say - if a paid editor edits, he must declare that the edit is paid for and give his employer, client, and affiliation. Given that the paid edit is declared unbiased editors can then check for NPOV, and violations of our prohibition on advertising, promotion, PR content, and marketing content. See WP:NOT.
I have to say again Ed that I think your coverage of the paid editing issue is biased. Your article focuses on what you perceive to be the negatives of the ToU change. What about the views of those who support the change? That's about 80% of the community as expressed at the month-long RfC which had 1389 !votes, with 1103 supporting required disclosures and only 286 opposing it.
Now do you really think that the rule on disclosing paid edits is going to be repealed when
  • 80% of the community wants disclosure
  • The WMF board has stated its opposition to paid editing
  • The laws in the US and EU and most other countries are against it
  • 11 major PR firms have declared that they'll follow our rules
  • PR associations such as the PRSA consider paid editing an ethical violation, and
  • there are many newspapers and other media just waiting to shame firms that hide their ads in our encyclopedia.
It's time for the PR pushers to accept reality.
BTW the link to the talk page where Andy M commented goes to the wrong place
Smallbones(smalltalk) 04:14, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Looks like balanced coverage to me. Just because one or two Wikimedians who point out possible difficulties are quoted doesn't capsize the balance overall. Tony (talk) 05:31, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Two comments from the 20% against + zero comments from the 80% for = bias. Smallbones(smalltalk) 11:25, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Smallbones, I run quotes that are interesting and on point. I don't always look to balance them with one positive and one negative. Do the last two paragraphs not explain the benefits of this approach well enough for you? Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 19:31, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Smallbones Who are the !voters? Do you really feel like it represents correctly all the diversity of all our communities ? I really don't, and it seems pretty obvious:
I really have the feeling it was an amendment for the English Wikipedia. It's not a problem per se, it's just not 80% of the communities, it's 80% of the !voters (with a huge bias).
Sincerely, --PierreSelim (talk) 08:42, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Unfortunately, Ancheta Wis makes the common error of conflating paid editing with "paid advocates". So long as this error persists, a sensible discussion abut paid editing (such as that also undertaken by Wikipedians in Residence, and other subject experts) is unlikely. I'd also like to know where the "moral strength derived from editors who work for their love of the subject" is, when unpaid editors are pushing their (quasi-) religious (e.g. Scientology), alt- medicine (e.g. homoeopathy) or anti-scientific (e.g. climate-change denial) agendas. It's nice to imagine that there are simple solutions to complex issues, but rarely effective to do so. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 09:59, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
A distinction that seems to be lost on the Foundation. As I wrote over at meta, I work as a contractor at a certain high-tech corporation all of you have heard of, but I cannot say that I work there due to IRS & NDA regulations. Usually I don't edit any articles on technology (it would feel too effing much like work, although I probably should share some of that knowledge), but when I do I run into the restrictions for the simple act trying to share some of the research in those fields for mostly altruistic reasons. It's the same issue were an academic to contribute to their field of expertise, even if her/his employer derives no direct benefit from it -- beyond advertising their expertise in that field. As a final comment, I really don't have any reason to obey this rule from the Foundation: if they want to ban me from Wikipedia for refusing to make this kind of disclosure, after a history of 12+ years contributing to Wikipedia in various ways, then they can deal with the fact they will look inexcusably foolish. -- llywrch (talk) 16:04, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
The way I read the ToU, it looks like you'd only have to disclose if editing Wikipedia was part of your job description. If you're doing it on your own time using your professional knowledge, but not actually getting paid to do the editing, you're clear. Powers T 18:07, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Llywrch, LtPowers is correct. Your company isn't paying you to edit about anything (I assume). Simply because you are an expert in something, and employed in the field, does not mean you have to disclose anything. It's only if you are directly employed to edit about your company, or a product, or what not. Lots of people, such as the academics you mention, edit in their field of expertise, which is often also their field of employment; that's not what the amendment is about. -- phoebe / (talk to me) 18:53, 30 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I'm fine with the disclosing rule. Paid editors just have to add a message in their user page.

Now, the rule doesn't really prohibit paid advocacy, and that's an issue. --NaBUru38 (talk) 14:07, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

No disclosure to the reader

While this move towards transparency is welcome, it kind of misses the point. We all know that many Wikipedia articles on minor companies and organisations are largely authored by principals, employees and agents of said companies and organisations. Per the German frankincense case (see Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2012-11-12/News_and_notes), EU (and possibly even US) law requires disclosure to the reader, who is after all – nominally at least – the beneficiary of the Foundation's charitable purpose. Did anyone ask readers whether they would like to know whether the articles they are reading are authored by their subjects (or their competitors or disgruntled employees, for that matter)?

The reader is as much in the dark about the provenance of Wikipedia's articles as ever. In this sense, Wikipedia is not transparent, but remarkably opaque. Andreas JN466 08:47, 22 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Readers can access the talk page, page history and user pages just as well as anybody else. Indeed few people do so more thoroughly and often than the readers at Wikipediocracy. There are also the COI templates. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 09:14, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Wiki CRUK John, please refer to the Signpost article I linked in my post above. The court assumed, rightly in my view, that the average reader will not look at any of the back end of Wikipedia where such information might be available. I'll quote the relevant bit from the Signpost article:
The company in question had argued it had made its conflict of interest as a market competitor explicit through a comment on the article's talk page. However, the court struck down this argument, saying the average consumer who uses Wikipedia does not read the discussion pages. Significantly, the court did not distinguish between problematic and acceptable contributions. The judgment was explicitly based on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, valid throughout the European Union.
To comply with EU law, then, any article that a company or its representatives have worked on should be identified as such on the article page itself. To my knowledge, no Wikipedia project does that, even though almost all company and organisation articles are worked on by their subjects' principals, employees or agents, in many cases having been entirely written by them. Andreas JN466 11:54, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
In the opinion of a German regional court. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 14:37, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
I hope you're not seriously suggesting that the average reader does read the talk page. It's easily proved that they don't. All you have to do is look at page view stats. Andreas JN466 19:46, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Of course not - they don't want to (and may not know it exists). But nor do they want to see a load of clutter on the article itself. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 20:25, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
No need for clutter. Newspapers put "Advertisement" in small font. In Wikipedia, a dollar icon or similar symbol would be enough to create transparency. Andreas JN466 21:52, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Andreas is correct that the reader must be informed on the article page when a disclosure is necessary. For paid editors it is necessary for both the EU, and in the US, if knowledge that the information is from a paid endorser (editor) might affect his or her purchase decisions.

But he is absolutely incorrect if he thinks a little dollar sign at the top of the article is going to inform the reader of this. The FTC says:

"[A]dvertisers should .... assume that consumers don’t read an entire website or online

screen, just as they don’t read every word on a printed page. Disclosures should be placed as close as possible to the claim they qualify. Advertisers should keep in mind that having to scroll increases the risk that consumers will miss a disclosure.

In addition, it is important for advertisers to draw attention to the disclosure. Consumers may not be looking for — or expecting to find — disclosures. Advertisers are responsible for ensuring that their messages are truthful and not deceptive. Accordingly, disclosures must be communicated effectively so that consumers are likely to notice and understand them in connection with the representations that the disclosures modify. Simply making the disclosure available somewhere in the ad, where some consumers might find it, does not meet the clear and conspicuous standard.

If a disclosure is necessary to prevent an advertisement from being deceptive, unfair, or otherwise violative of a Commission rule, and if it is not possible to make the disclosure clear and conspicuous, then either the claim should be modified so the disclosure is not necessary or the ad should not be disseminated.

Moreover, if a particular platform does not provide an opportunity to make clear and conspicuous disclosures, it should not be used to disseminate advertisements that require such disclosures."


I think we're in the situation that a clear and conspicuous disclosure is required, but not possible, so no ads (paid edits from companies) are allowed. Smallbones(smalltalk) 02:32, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]

In the case of Twitter, the FTC recommends a hash tag like #paid or #ad. But you're right: in the case of Wikipedia, an icon at the top of a long article wouldn't be prominent enough. You'd have to do something like putting a box around the article, as newspapers do, or change the font colour.
Just imagine if you could see Wikipedia with all the text added by companies highlighted in pink ... I estimate that tens of thousands of Wikipedia articles on companies, organisations and business people have been written or substantially edited by single-purpose accounts, and that the vast majority of these SPAs are operated by company employees or agents. Andreas JN466 08:18, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
The following article may be of interest as well: Non-compliers to Wikipedia’s crackdown on bias unlikely to breach Australian law ( "Wikipedia is cracking down on bias, such as that caused by edits made on behalf of brands, with a new requirement for all paid editors to disclose their affiliations. But a local media lawyer says non-compliers are unlikely to breach Australian law. [...]" Andreas JN466 08:27, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
@Jayen466:There is going to be an RfC on the recent change in Terms of Use, driven by paid editing aficionados who are chomping at the bit to get the TOU round-filed. However, the TOU says specifically that individual projects can strengthen their individual disclosure policies if they wish. So, since the Foundation is too timid to deal with this adequately, at least an attempt can be made to do so here. Paid editing groupies are always saying that the great silent majority of Wikipedia is on its side, but the discussion at Meta proved otherwise and I think that might be put to the test. I suggest that you go to WT:COI where the RfC is being discussed. Coretheapple (talk) 16:41, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for the pointer. (Mind you, the discussion to date there looks typically chaotic.) Andreas JN466 22:57, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
It's had its moments of lunacy but things seem to be settling down a little. I raised the issue of disclosure to readers, but it is not a major theme there. It used to be a big hobbyhorse of mine until my interest in the general subject waned a few months ago. I've gotten more interested lately because of the operatic expressions of fear and loathing that I've seen coming from the paid editing fan club. This indicates to me that there is genuine concern that the community may curb the practice effectively. Coretheapple (talk) 00:31, 25 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Smallbones, Coretheapple, another article that contains relevant advice for companies from the FDA: Tweet This: FDA Finally Proposes Social Media Guidelines (Wall Street Journal, 17 June 2014). Quote:
For third-party websites, such as Wikipedia, the draft guidance suggests that companies should feel free to correct misinformation, but that any correction must include balanced information and the source of the revision or update must be noted, Abrams explains. This means a company or company employee or contractor should be credited with any additions.
“The information should not be promotional and should be factually correct. This is not an opportunity for a company to tout its drugs,” he says. “The information [being added or revised] should be consistent with the FDA-approved [product] labeling and for it to be effective, you want it posted right by the misinformation.”
I think this is the first time I have seen a US government authority tell companies it's okay to edit Wikipedia articles related to their products. Andreas JN466 09:34, 25 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
This is a valuable piece of advice from a authority. However, FDA and other authorities should keep in mind that the community decides things on Wikipedia, not the authorities (Note that I'm not implying FDA's advice here is incorrect). Therefore, we can collaborate with the authorities to improve the current policies and guidelines, and to add missing policies on special fields such as medicine and healthcare where authorities have more experience with. Zhaofeng Li [talk... contribs...] 15:24, 9 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]


  • Better for the headline to state that "the Wikimedia Foundation amends its terms of use. Corporations, even not-for-profits, are not people, and until we stop using personal pronouns to refer to organizations, no one is going to believe that.--~TPW 10:38, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    What are you talking about? "Their" is not specifically a personal pronoun; it's the plural of "his", "her", and "its" alike. Powers T 18:09, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    I'm inclined to agree with Powers here, plus I've already used "its" earlier in the headline. :-) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:00, 23 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    I agree with TPW. The Wimimedia Foundation is singular, why would anyone "their"? --NaBUru38 (talk) 14:05, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    Some varieties of English permit referring to an organization as plural, but at any rate, that's not what TPW's argument was; TPW was complaining about "their" being a "personal pronoun", which it isn't in this context. However, especially since 'its' was already used earlier in the headline, 'their' is definitely awkward. One should never mix singular and plural when referring to the same entity or group. Powers T 23:36, 24 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    We're stuck with BrEng enthusiasts and their pluralising of music bands, sporting teams, and sometimes even corporations (the last with an element of spin, IMO). Americans take an admirably simpler line. Unfortunately, New Hart's Rules is silent on the matter. Tony (talk) 15:18, 26 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]


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