Commons announced the results of the 2019 Picture of the Year contest. Congratulations to all winners and thanks to everyone who participated by submitting images to Wikimedia Commons, by evaluating Featured Picture Candidates throughout the year, and by voting in the selection process.
French Wikipedians announced on May 27 that they had shut down more than 200 accounts that had conducted undisclosed paid editing. Eighty of these accounts are believed to belong to several French language PR firms who specialize in Wikipedia editing. Most of these firms have also been blocked on the English-language Wikipedia. The remaining 120 accounts are likely single-purpose accounts working at company PR departments, which only wish to edit the articles about their own firm.
They were caught after two French admins posed as customers and asked for examples of past work. In an interview with The Signpost admin Jules* said "We have uncovered dozens of undeclared paid accounts, abuse of sockpuppets, patent lies, promotional additions (often relatively subtle), ballot box stuffing in Pages to delete, etc." They had collectively made around 19,000 edits.
Jules* did not believe that contacting the firms directly without fully disclosing their intentions was an issue since they did not impersonate anybody and the firms they were investigating purposely broke Wikipedia's rules by sockpuppeting and refusing to declare their paid status on-Wiki.
The French investigation was first reported on the English Wikipedia on the COI noticeboard by Bri based on a tip to The Signpost and was soon acted upon by MER-C, an administrator with a long-term interest in combatting undeclared paid editing. He soon blocked 85 accounts on the English Wikipedia, 41 of which had made an edit here. Many of the edits were to pages for French companies, such as Air Liquide and Ardian.
In 2018 French Wikipedians started a semi-annual event called "Mois anti-pub" (Anti-advertising month) to neutralize promotional pages. The same year they started the Wikiproject Antipub to fight the use of Wikipedia as an advertising tool.
They have since found undeclared paid edits (UPEs) on French Wikipedia (see Par le passé), "but this month was the first time we found paid edits on this scale. It's a bit like our own Wiki-PR scandal" according to Jules*.
In early April this year the two French admins, Jules* and 0x010C, decided to contact "e-reputation agencies" posing as potential customers interested in creating a Wikipedia page for a real company where one of the admins worked. When they asked for a price estimate, they also asked for examples of the paid-editing firm's previous work.
Jules* stated that "Using those examples, I started researching the page histories of the clients reported by the agencies. I spent dozens of hours and found many accounts, used by several agencies, including agencies we had contacted and agencies we had not contacted. Almost all of these accounts had not disclosed their paid editing and many of them also used several sockpuppets."
He said that the paid-editing firms know Wikipedia's rules in detail, as well as ways to avoid following the rules without attracting attention. "For example, one agency said to us it was not possible to remove well-sourced negative content because 'moderators' would just revert the removal. Instead they proposed 'hiding' the negative content inside newly added positive content." Some paid editing companies, though, did try to remove well-sourced content.
Jules* and 0x010C published their work on May 27th at the French sysop noticeboard, with detailed results in the subpage. The subpage shows that the same editors edited English Wikipedia as well, as seen in the "crosswiki" column. The French community is now reviewing the paid content here.
The French newspaper of record Le Monde covered the scandal, and spoke with François Jeanne-Beylot, founder of the PR companies Inmediatic and Troover, who had his accounts blocked following the investigation. He offered (in French) a strained defense of his work, arguing that his firm was only training companies to contribute, and that the contributions were therefore not paid.
"I find it brutal to suspend accounts without trying to understand our approach", he said in French. "It is difficult to convince Wikipedia administrators that companies also have their place".
MER-C, for his part, was not surprised by the announcement. This "may jolt the French, but we've seen a lot worse" at English Wikipedia, he said. He is waiting for more developments from the French Wikipedia, though he hasn't as yet had contact with French admins. He wants to establish "a cross-wiki version of COIN as a paid-editing noticeboard. Cross-wiki UPE is becoming increasingly problematic and the approach taken to counter it is very piecemeal."
The May GOCE copy editing drive ended today, marking ten years of GOCE drives. Their backlog reached zero – the previous drive reduced the backlog by 75%, with this one reducing it a further 209 articles to end at 156 articles, all of which were tagged during May. To learn more about the GOCE's work, you can read last month's Wikiproject Report.
While this drive has not been particularly different from most others in terms of copyedited articles, it has seen many new members helping out – this month saw an large influx of new members and new users participating. The result of of this was double-sided – on the one hand, many new editors are learning the ropes of copyediting, which in the long run will lead to better progress and performance, but in the short run leads to more experienced copyeditors checking the newer work instead of copyediting articles themselves. The Guild is conducting their twice yearly coordinator elections this June – all editors in good standing are welcome to participate, voting starts mid-month. Another Guild event beginning mid-June is a week-long copyediting blitz, focused mainly on reducing the increasingly large number of articles on the Requests page. -- P2