Many vandalized Wikipedia articles about a person make the article's subject want to correct inaccuracies or outright lies. But editing one's own Wikipedia article has its pitfalls.
Wikipedia is a one-of-a-kind platform. The best way to describe it is a not-for-profit, collaborative encyclopedia. While there are many alternatives, Wikipedia is the most visible online encyclopedia. It gets a lot of attention, it ranks very high in search results, and it is used in the Google Knowledge Graph, so it's no surprise that people with a Wikipedia article would want to edit it themselves.
Wikipedia is so mighty because many writers anonymously and freely contribute their knowledge, which is checked and rechecked by other contributors, readers, and admins. Wikipedia is in constant churn, and editors check the work of others constantly. They call them out when they find something strange going on, like someone editing their own article.
Most editors are neutral on a subject, but as the subject of a Wikipedia article, you are not neutral. Humans are just built that way. Other Wikipedia editors can often sense that it was edited by someone too close to the subject or even the subject him or herself.
Some Wikipedia editors have tools to understand who may have made certain edits, but other telltale signs are present too. Here are some examples as to how editors can tell if someone edited their own Wikipedia article:
- Edits are made in a non-neutral way
- Promotional material is added to the article
- Information is added that the subject would know but others wouldn't
- The edits just feel "off" (subjective, I know)
When done correctly, Wikipedia editing can deliver a boost in corporate reputation, brand awareness, traffic, and revenue, but Wikipedia mistakes can be fatal. So it is easy to see why the subject of an article would want to edit it themselves.
Wikipedia has a name for it - Conflict of Interest editing.
Can you edit Wikipedia?
Yes, you can edit Wikipedia. Everyone can unless an article is "protected".
Editing is open to anyone and everyone with an internet connection. All you have to do is click the “edit this article” tab or “edit” next to the heading of the section you’d like to edit. The only requirement is that the content you post is verifiable and notable. You can also post a new article with the Article Wizard.
It helps to include citations from reputable sources with your edits.
Wikipedia’s administrators protect articles that are prone to vandalism, which they define as the addition of abusive language or falsehoods. So only registered users or administrators can edit the information on those articles.
It is also frowned upon (and punishable but not illegal) for users to edit articles of people, organizations, businesses, etc. that are personally or professionally connected to them. As mentioned above, this creates a conflict of interest and threatens the factual, unbiased objective of the platform.
People still try to get away with it
A large number of people who edit their own articles make mistakes. For instance, their IP address can be tracked if not logged in, or by special high-level editors. Sometimes the language of the edits is suspect, and when people edit their own articles they tend to be less than objective. Editors can often smell a conflict of interest edit.
What happens when edits are caught
When caught, the changes are reversed, the user may be banned (very rare). But the worse thing is that a big banner is placed at the top of the article telling the world about the Conflict of Interest edit.
Here is an example:
Because of the conflict of interest issue, it’s not worth it to edit your own article—but that doesn’t mean people don’t try to have others do it for them.
Who should edit a Wikipedia article?
Many businesses use reputation management companies to make sure their Wikipedia articles are complete and accurate.
A well-written, unbiased, complete, and accurate Wikipedia article for your business boosts your corporate reputation and brand awareness quickly and dramatically. Why? Because Wikipedia articles rank very highly on Google.
Wikipedia articles are on the first article of search results in 99% of searches. Some Wikipedia articles hit the first article within 24 hours of being posted.
Next to Google My Business for local SEO, Wikipedia has to be one of the most powerful SEO strategies on Google. It can also help drive a solid stream of traffic to your website with strategically-placed links and can enhance your credibility by generating perceived domain authority.
Should I create a Wikipedia article?
If you’re thinking of creating a biographical Wikipedia article about yourself, the answer is no.
As the Washington Post puts it, if you belonged there, you would be there. Again, it’s not about fame or publicity. It’s about being worthy of notice on a permanent level and having verifiable info.
It is not often that Reputation X is asked to create a Wikipedia article for someone that is actually notable enough. It does happen though.
A great example of a living person who qualifies for his own Wikipedia article is Elon Musk, whose achievements and innovations have had a significant and lasting impact on American and global society.
Wikipedia’s biographies of the dead include Duchess of Windsor, five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault, and a Canadian spree killer who avoided the death penalty with an insanity plea. These are all "notable" individuals - living or dead.
For your business
Whether or not you should create a article for your business depends on what information could potentially end up on your article. Once you create your article, anyone can edit it to include negative information that you may be trying to address or counteract.
Some business owners, after experiencing reputation damage, create Wikipedia articles hoping to pad the first article of search results and bump negative content to the second article. This tactic works quite well if the company is in fact notable to earn a Wikipedia article.
Any content linked from your Wikipedia article will receive a bit more visibility since it is referenced by so strong a site. But Wikipedia links are all "nofollow" meaning that Google and other search engines tend not to pass "authority" from Wikipedia.
Unfavorable Wikipedia content
If someone adds unfavorable information to your Wikipedia article with links to the negative content you were trying to suppress, that negative content will receive a similar boost in visibility. Wikipedia links are a double-edged sword. This can display the source of your reputation damage on the first article of search results, leaving you in a worse position than when you started.
As an example, Apple Inc.’s Wikipedia article has a section entitled Criticism and Controversies. If Apple was not such a global titan, the information in that section could have a serious impact on their reputation (by the facts themselves and by those facts pushing condemning articles into public view).
You should only consider creating a Wikipedia article for your business if you have a solid reputation management strategy in place to defend against reputation damage. If you’ve experienced a recent reputation crisis like a recall or security breach, or if you’re at risk of reputation damage from whistleblower activity, CSR issues, etc., you should avoid making a Wikipedia article until those reputation issues have been addressed and mitigated with a professional reputation management strategy. Why? Because the controversies may leak into your article.
Can you remove yourself from Wikipedia?
One of the reasons you have to be very careful when deciding whether to create a Wikipedia article for your business is that they are not easy to delete once they’re published with credible information.
You can request the deletion of a article, but it has to be approved by an admin or through a consensus voting process, which won’t happen without a valid reason.
Request the “speedy deletion” of a article by typing at the top of the article.
If you created the article, add 0 at the top of the article. You can remove content you added if it has not been changed or used as supporting information for other articles or other parts of the same article. And of course, you have to have a legitimate reason for removing content.
Why did my Wikipedia edit get removed?
There are several reasons your content might be removed from Wikipedia.
A new article might get deleted if it’s not notable, meaning there’s no independent, reliable source for the information. If you have a close connection with the topic, you should not be editing the article. That means you should not create or edit the article for your own business. If anyone knows or suspects that you have edited your own article, they can tag the article for “conflict of interest” and have the content or the entire article deleted.
Spamming articles with your website link can also get your content deleted and your URL permanently banned. If your article or edit is poorly formatted, other editors are going to notice and they’re going to analyze and change your content. If an editor recommends your article for deletion, you can defend your article on the talk article, correct identified issues, or participate in a consensus vote to keep or delete the article.
Can you get in trouble for editing Wikipedia?
Vandalism is what Wikipedia calls the act of editing a project with malicious or disruptive intent. Vandalism is relatively common on Wikipedia because anyone can edit most articles and because there aren’t many other sites that allow this kind of user participation.
Wikipedia uses ClueBot NG, a crawler that uses machine learning and Bayesian stats, to watch out for vandalism. The edit filter can also prevent vandalism itself by blocking edits that are not submitted by admin or confirmed users.
Titles on the MediaWiki blacklist extension can only be created or moved by administrators. articles that are created or vandalized repeatedly are typically added to this list.
There is also a spam blacklist that prevents external link spamming. New and unregistered users who want to add a link have to answer a CAPTCHA. Images have their own blacklist that disallows any listed photo from being used without explicit permission.
Wikipedia Editing FAQs
Do you need an account to edit Wikipedia?
Depending on the article you’re trying to edit, you might be required to make an account. Some articles are frequent targets of vandalism and Wikipedia works to suppress facetious and malicious posting by only allowing registered users to edit those articles. You should not need an account to edit less renowned or vulnerable articles.
Can Wikipedia be trusted?
Wikipedia itself tells you that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. This is because Wikipedia is run by volunteers who cannot always monitor all editing on all articles. There is an impressive amount of verification across the site, but at any given time, the article you’re looking at could have incomplete or inaccurate information.
Who edits Wikipedia?
While anyone can edit Wikipedia according to the guidelines, there are some contributors who edit more than others. In fact, one man has edited more Wikipedia articles than anyone else in the world. That man is Steven Pruitt, who has written nearly 35,000 original Wikipedia articles and has made almost 3 million accepted edits.