Paid editing: We've been talking about paid editing forever
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Paid editing is a topic that comes to the forefront every six months or so, after the latest horrendous disclosures. This essay is part of our continuing series of influential essays on Wikipedia. Wikipedia:Paid editing (essay) was begun in January 2011 and 38 editors have contributed to it. - S

In paid editing, an editor is given consideration (usually money) in exchange for creating or editing a Wikipedia article for an individual or entity. This is the meaning of "paid editing" that is used through the rest of the piece. The goal of this essay is to provide advice on what to do when it comes to Paid Editing & Wikipedia.

Policies and guidelines

Per the WP:PAID policy, if you are being paid for your contributions to Wikipedia, you must declare who is paying you, who the client is, and any other relevant role or relationship. This is required by the Wikimedia Foundation's terms of use and by Wikipedia policy. You can do this on your user page, on the article talk page using the {{connected contributor (paid)}} template, and during any discussion about the topic elsewhere. You can also make a statement in the edit summary of any paid contribution.

Per the WP:COI guideline, you are very strongly discouraged from editing mainspace; instead you should post content proposals on the Talk pages of existing articles (with disclosure), and you should put new articles through WP:AFC (with disclosure) -- in each case, so that the content can be reviewed with your specific COI in mind, prior to the content being published.

Per the COI guideline, paid editors must respect the volunteer nature of the project and keep discussions concise.

And you are still obligated to follow all the content and behavior policies. Just disclosing and not editing directly, is not enough. You cannot be present at an article only to advocate for your client - you remain obligated to follow WP:PROMO, WP:NPOV, and the rest of the policies and guidelines.

Why is this done?

Love of money has been said to be "the root of all evil"

Corporations and certain individuals have special interest in Wikipedia for its marketability and popularity. SEOs, PR, & marketers love Wikipedia because on major search engines, it is usually (if not always) on the first page of a search, and they want to exploit that. They think that they can advertise on Wikipedia and believe that Wikipedia is no different than Facebook or Twitter. Of course, this is what Wikipedia is not, but more often than not they don't understand that there are rules and policies that Wikipedia has. They just fly by the notion that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Editors are usually employed either because the client or entity does not know how to edit Wikipedia, or need experienced editors to push their POV without scrutiny. Although, on the other hand, paid editing has been said to encourage people to edit pages that otherwise would be ignored.

Why you shouldn't do it

Paid editing is generally frowned upon in the community. There are also some editors who very strongly disapprove of paid editing, and others who do not care about it and focus only content.

But please be aware that the general sentiment is uncomfortable with paid editing, at best. It is tolerated. Rightly or wrongly, paid editors are often viewed with suspicion or even hostility by many members of the Wikipedia community. An established editor who makes the decision to edit articles for pay can expect to face a negative reaction once that is disclosed by the editor or by others.

Community trust

While there is no community policy on retaining advanced user rights while editing for pay, retaining some of those rights after you start editing for pay, or trying to obtain them if you already edit for pay, may be controversial, especially if those permissions involve new content such as the autopatrolled and new page reviewer user groups[1] or the ability to delete pages, as administrators can do.

Examples of people in positions of trust who received money for editing Wikipedia, which in turn generated controversy within Wikipedia and in the media, have included the Gibraltarpedia incident involving a trustee of WMF UK who used Wikipedia itself and WP:GLAM for public relations, and the Wifione matter, which involved an administrator. The community has debated whether administrators should be formally barred from editing for pay at least twice (once in 2015 and again in 2017), and has failed to reach consensus on this.

Real life consequences

Please keep in mind that WP:Wikipedia is in the real world. To the extent you have disclosed your real world identity, the controversies around paid editing in Wikipedia may attach to you. (Your identity remains strictly protected by WP:OUTING, just as everyone's is). Likewise, the reputation of your client may be affected. If you are not aware of it, please do see the article Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia, which describes coverage in the media of people and companies who tried to use Wikipedia to manage their reputations.

Please also be aware that paid editors sometimes don't get paid. This is a risk all freelancers run, of course.

Disruptive behavior

While editors who take pay (and other conflicted editors) can provide useful content, their behavior tends to become disruptive, since they are driven by their external interests to get the content they want into WP, and opposition to that effort feels worse than it would usually. You might find yourself acting badly in ways that would surprise even you, if you were not the person actually in the conflicted situation. Conflict of interest does this to people, without them being aware of it. So it is not just content that tends to gets skewed, but behavior as well. If you decide to edit for pay, please try to be extra self-aware and to be mindful of how you are dealing with other people.

If you do it, here is some advice

  1. Find out who specifically you are working for. Ask for the name of the individual, the name of the company he/she works for (if applicable), and what articles he/she wants you to edit/create. Ask if this individual is a registered user on Wikipedia, if so, make note (for compliance with wp:OUT and wp:COI purposes).
  2. Do not sign a non-disclosure agreement or work through a website that requires non-disclosure. Disclosure of your employer, client and affiliations is mandatory and you are prohibited from editing if you can't disclose these.
  3. Announce your intentions. See the recommendations in the Conflict of Interest guideline.

Things to note


We here at Wikipedia like transparency, honesty, and a neutral point of view. Here are some red flags to watch out for. If your contact --

-- do not accept the job. Instead, be a good editor and report at WP:ANI, and at the respective talk pages of article(s) in question, that someone is attempting to hire you for nontransparent editing. By doing this, you deter the shady individual or entity and help promote an unbiased and credible encyclopedia.

Employees and contractors

See Vonage (talk) for an example of stealth COI edits, detected by a Reddit user.[2]

Public relations people are paid editors

Paid is paid. There have been efforts to establish a public-relations code of conduct for editing at Wikipedia.[Link?] While some PR staff or agencies may act in good faith, by disclosing their COI at their User or User talk pages, and discussing changes at specific articles, others have steadfastly failed to do so.

Lawyers are paid editors

Paid is paid. It is unknown if lawyers or law practices have even been approached about, or have discussed, a code of conduct for editing Wikipedia (efforts to reach out to attorneys have failed).

See SPI RRIESQ and Talk:Laura Kightlinger

See also


  1. ^ Wikipedia talk:New pages patrol/Reviewers, Conflict of Interest-of a different kind
  2. ^ "Did Vonage try to sterilize its Wikipedia article?". r/Wikipedia. Reddit. Retrieved July 9, 2015.

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@Smartse and Bilby: There seems to be a couple of misunderstandings in these latest comments.

Paid editing is a topic that comes to the forefront every six months or so, after the latest horrendous disclosures. This essay is part of our continuing series of influential essays on Wikipedia. It was begun in January 2011 and 38 editors have contributed to it. - S

It wouldn't do any good for me to edit this page - the essay itself would be unchanged. But, of course, you can change the essay itself, the same as anybody can.

Fair enough. A link would have helped and I hope you don't mind that I've added one. I've also changed this and the essay - while I can see where you are coming from, if anythiing is presented as "per a guideline" it seems logical that this should not misrepresent the guideline. As I mentioned before, whether this is what is done in practice is neither here nor there and this is probably not the place to decide whether it really should be forbidden or just strongly discouraged. SmartSE (talk) 16:39, 31 May 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The bright line rule is a dead letter

The Huffington Post ran an article about Wikipedia paid editing (I would suggest reading an archive to avoid giving creepy permissions). It led to an AN thread that led to nothing, even though I noted that the editor had been directly editing mainspace per his own interpretation that the policy only discourages changes to the "text", not the sources. The argument is that for paid editors to ask others to look over their work is a burden on them, and someone will say just go ahead and do it, and since the paid editing must go on, this means the bright line rule has to yield. I posted a request for clarification to the policy page that was archived without action nor comment after 24 days. So the "bright line rule" is so full of holes and so ignored as to be meaningless. Note that disclosure is also full of holes - the policy as written gave paid editors three different ways to announce their role, so that no one of them is genuinely guaranteed to spot all the influence even if everything is disclosed. And seriously, we're talking about a Wikipedia that proudly displays one Square Enix ad per every 180 days like clockwork as "Today's Featured Article" for the past decade. Who is kidding who here? The question is only how much complaining we can do about paid editing before the paid editors have us thrown off their site. Wnt (talk) 09:52, 1 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Wnt: While I'm perhaps naively optimistic that we can control paid editing, I have to say that you've defined the ultimate problem quite well in your last sentence. "The question is only how much complaining we can do about paid editing before the paid editors have us thrown off their site." An economic analysis of the situation would show that Wikipedia is worth billions to advertisers (in actual dollars) who will be willing to spend much of those billions to defend their position here. Of course Wikipedia is also worth billions to volunteer editors and to our readers - but this value is spread out among very many people. One individual can't do much about the situation, and most individuals don't have the money needed to defend their position. I'm sure somebody will come along and accuse me of "assuming bad faith." Not exactly - I'm just outlining what I believe is the standard economic analysis of situations like this. It does assume that most people are "economic men" (or people) who maximize their own utility - that assumption doesn't have much to do with "assuming good faith".
I don't think that paid editors would actually kick us off "their site." They would only assert near-complete control in the areas of business and biography. Having a real encyclopedia appended to the business/bio content would actually be good business for them most of the time. Of course sometimes having actual facts in articles like global warming, health and medicine, science in general, and surprisingly (in at least one case) mathematics gets in the way of business. So we'd have to bow down to business interests in these cases as well.
Smallbones(smalltalk) 12:58, 2 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We don't need Nostradamus to predict the direction paid editing has taken us. Many of us have already seen the writing on the wall at WP:NPP and WP:AfC. Our volunteer services are being sold by PR/Marketing/Advertising firms whose staff becomes the "overseers" of their clients business/corporate/BLP articles. Their only concern is looking out for the best interests of their clients and reducing friction/disruption the easiest way possible without compromising their clients. Such activity is already dipping into the coffers of the WMF but they don't realize it, yet - perhaps one day soon they will and only then will they attempt to put more safeguards into place before we find ourselves dealing with Wnt's prediction above. Perhaps it's already too late. Atsme Talk 📧 00:09, 4 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The data is amazing. I wonder how many IP addresses he used. My suggestion would far from cure everything but might might help at the edges. Xxanthippe (talk) 04:11, 6 June 2019 (UTC).Reply[reply]

I'd like to share experiences from the German language WP: We have a small number of companies, who regularly update data like revenue, employees, expansion to a new European country and the like according to their officially filed reports. I, personally, appreciate this, as I consider those (published) data uncontroversial and am grateful to them updating their articles, as no volunteer needs to spend his or her time on it. I watch some articles, where this happens more or less regularly so I can see an IP coming along and updating the article and I would interfere, if other - potentially controversial - content would be edited alongside. So far, they behave very well. --h-stt !? 13:15, 6 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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