Many Wikipedia editors – who have no identity or information available about who they are – use the site to earn thousands of dollars every month.
If you put in the search term “Wikipedia services” then you will get more than 100 million results on Google and even ads where little known companies are boasting about how they can create and edit Wikipedia pages for a fee. It’s a black market worth millions of dollars as paid editing is explicitly banned on Wikipedia.
Every day, Wikipedia bans editors accused of paid editing but the numbers of these small-time firms keep increasing. If you pay good money, you can get your page created on Wikipedia.
But creation of Wikipedia profiles (pages) isn’t the primary revenue source for these Wikipedia firms. The real money comes from “cleaning up services” where editors remove those information from Wiki profiles that the client doesn’t like.
This black market of Wikipedia editing is an open secret among Wikipedia editors. The way it works, is very interesting.
When a scandal or a crisis breaks out, celebrities and companies immediately go into damage control mode. Wikipedia editors are generally very quick to “update” the scandal on the Wikipedia pages.
The corporates or the celebrities then issue clarifications in the media but the same isn’t allowed to reflect properly on the Wikipedia page by a cabal of editors.
Out of desperation, some people or companies are forced to hire these Wikipedia services firms to clean up their pages. Once money is paid, the senior editors get into the act. They engage in intense conversations with junior editors to justify why some information should be reversed or “updated”.
If that strategy works, great. If it doesn’t, then senior editors and administrators (known Sysops) get into the act. They “lock” the page for junior editors and roll back some of their edits.
Administrators enjoy unlimited power on Wikipedia – they can be the judge on what stays and what goes. So, they allow certain editors to make changes and debar others.
In the end, the information about the scandal stays but it is diluted with references from the Public Relations pushback initiated by the celebrity or the company. Finally, the wiki section looks more like a clarification than information on the scandal or the crisis.
The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has used this tactic in the past, to gain the trust of a lady journalist and start an affair with her.
The story begins in 2006, when journalist Rachel Marsden sent an email to Jimmy Wales to inform that her Wikipedia profile contains libellous information and she wants him to remove them.
Jimmy agreed to work for her.
He then used the opportunity to start a conversation with her.
To gain her trust, he purged some information that was disturbing her with the help of a group of Wikipedia editors who were closely working with him.
According to Jimmy, using his super access to Wikipedia for sexual gratification, isn’t conflict of interest even though he admits that he changed and edited Rachel’s profile when they started flirting with each other.
“Rachel Marsden first approached me via email two years ago with complaints about her (Wikipedia) bio. I subsequently reviewed her bio and I found it not to be up to our standards. My involvement in cases like this is completely routine, and I am proud of it,” said Jimmy Wales. (Source)
The affair lasted for little more than a year, apparently.
On February 29, 2008, Valleywag published a leaked transcript of a steamy chat between Rachel and Jimmy where they were discussing about a sexual encounter. Below is a part of the transcript.
The very next day, on March 1, 2008, Jimmy Wales dumped her by declaring on his Wikipedia user page that they have broken up. The problem is: He never told Rachel about it.
The scorned woman – who was previously convicted of harassing her boyfriend – reacted with rage.
She collected clothes of Jimmy, that was lying in her apartment and put them on e-bay for sale. To promote the sale, she modelled a black tee which had inexplicable white marks on them.
“Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia,” Rachel Marsden wrote in the eBay description, while showing off the white stains.
“It was such a classy move that I was inspired to do something equally classy myself, so I’m selling a couple of items of clothing he left behind here in my NYC apartment, on eBay. Jimbo (Jimmy Wales) was supposed to come visit me in a couple of weeks and pick up some of his stuff, but obviously that won’t be happening now,” she wrote on eBay. (Source)
Jimmy later said that he had divulged to his team about his involvement with Rachel and recused himself from editing her page. But at the same time, he admitted that a team from Wikipedia, who worked closely with him, continued to work on Rachel’s Wikipedia page. (Source)
Despite damning evidence and a public admission by Jimmy, the Board of Trustees at Wikipedia, decided that there was no violation of their policies. Not only that, the Board decided not to question or even ask for an explanation from Jimmy.
Jay Walsh, the then Wikimedia Foundation’s head of communications, told the San Jose Mercury News that Wales’ actions “was within his routine role” and it won’t affect his official position on the Board of Wikipedia. (Source)
These allegations coincided with another set of charges of financial misappropriation when a former Wikimedia Foundation employee wrote a blog post alleging that Jimmy Wales was spending Wikipedia’s money for his personal expenses and even asked for a reimbursement for a dinner and bottles of wine at an upscale restaurant.
Wikipedia took away Jimmy’s corporate credit card after it was revealed that “Jimmy owed the Foundation some $30,000 in receipts”. (Source)
Again, the Foundation or the Board of Trustees at Wikipedia never took Jimmy to task about it.
Now, if you are wondering about why corruption among Wikipedia editors are so rampant, you now know that it’s the legacy of its founder, Jimmy Wales.