It was really only a matter of time. First, corporations twigged to the fact that they could edit Wikipedia, and so they did, leaving off embarrassing little factoids. Then WikiScanner busted them in the act, providing a valuable reminder that Wikipedia’s starry-eyed dream was not without its problems. Now, the inevitable has happened: A Wikipedia editor has been busted pushing his clients from a PR job he has in his real life.
And it serves as yet another reminder that the encyclopedia that anyone can edit has a massive flaw, in the sense that anyone can edit it.
The client-pimper in question is one Roger Bramkin, who has the rank of Chairman Trustee of Wikimedia UK, did this in about the cheesiest way possible:
Roger Bamkin, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation UK, whose LinkedIn page describes him as a high-return-earning PR consultant, appeared to be using Wikipedia’s main page “Did You Know” feature and the resources of Wikipedia’s GLAM WikiProject (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) initiative to pimp his client’s project.
Bamkin’s current client is the country of Gibraltar.
Dude… really? Did you also start a fan page on Facebook, and invite everybody you were friends with to Like it?
The real embarrassment, though, is the fact that Wikipedia’s toxic culture, something we’ve talked about before, made it nearly impossible for people who realized what was going on to stop it:
The Wikipedia community had decried the unsavory behavior and open profiteering — which most believe runs contrary to Wikipedia’s ethos — for months before public exposure prompted action. But because those at the the center of the paid-PR issues have the most editing power and clout, they appear to have dismissed discussion to the contrary.
Within Wikipedia, the issue seems to be far from over. Wikipedia’s community is still locked in an internal fight over whether there has been any wrongdoing, while those accused (and in support of the accused) maintain that even if there was a problem, it’s not really a problem.
Oh, we get it! Wikipedia is a dictatorship!
The real problem here is that who knows how far down this rabbit hole actually goes? If it’s possible for a high-ranking Wikipedia member to effectively silence his critics, and rabble rouse others to do his dirty work for him, what else is going on here?