The volunteer editors of English Wikipedia blocked hundreds of accounts engaged in “black hat” editing after conducting a weeks-long investigation.

wikipedia NSA

In a blog post on Wikimedia Foundation Editorial Associate Ed Erhart and Senior Communications Manager Juliet Barbara said 381 user accounts for black hat editing were removed from the English Wikipedia.

Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia. Its mission is to bring free educational content to the world.

Users violated Wikimedia terms of use

Erhart and Barbara explained that they blocked the accounts of the 381 users on Wikipedia because they were “engaged in undisclosed paid advocacy.” These users failed to disclose their affiliation and are “accepting or charging money to promote external interest on Wikipedia.” Their actions violate the terms of use implemented by Wikimedia.

The terms of use of Wikimedia prohibits “engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation, impersonation, and fraud. As part of these obligations, you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive or expect to receive, compensation.”

The action of the volunteer editors is part of their commitment to ensuring that the English Wikipedia provides accurate, neutral, and reliable information to everyone.

“The community of volunteers who maintain and edit Wikipedia vigilantly defend the Wikimedia sites to ensure that content meets high editorial standards,” wrote Erhart and Barbara.

“Neutrality is the key to ensuring Wikipedia’s quality. Although it does not happen often, undisclosed paid advocacy editing may represent a serious conflict of interest and could compromise the quality of content on Wikipedia. The practice is in conflict with some English Wikipedia’s policies, including neutrality and conflict of interest, and is a violation of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use,” added Erhart and Barbara.

Wikipedia also deleted 210 promotional articles

Aside from the 381 “sockpuppet” accounts, the Wikipedia editors also deleted 210 articles created by these accounts. Sockpuppet is a term that refers to multiple accounts used in deceptive or misleading practices.

According to Erhart and Barbara, the deleted the articles were designed to promote businesses, business people or artists, which were often bias with unattributed material and potential copyright violations.

“The edits made by the sockpuppets are similar enough that the community believes were perpetrated by one coordinated group,” explained Erhart and Barbara.

Furthermore, they emphasized that “not all paid editing is a violation of Wikipedia policies.” They emphasized that several public relations firms signed an agreement with Wikipedia to comply with its paid editing guidelines.