Wikipedia Editing Case Study

This case study outlines how we helped a global company improve their Wikipedia page ethically.

Our client's Wikipedia page was the subject of a coordinated propaganda campaign. It was our job to set the record straight.

Our client had made mistakes many years before. They owned up to it and made dramatic changes to their services. But haters would only acknowledge the mistakes of the past, not how our client had improved. We brought balance back to their Wikipedia page by editing it to be more accurate and  neutral. 

 

Problem: Wikipedia editors with an agenda

Our client's Wikipedia page was rife with the following problems:

  • Factual inaccuracies
  • Non-neutral tone
  • Misrepresentation of references
  • Contextual inaccuracies
  • Out of date information

Sometimes Wikipedia editors go bad. On top of the above-named issues, the editors that had been controlling the page were extremely experienced -- in some cases, even Master Level Wikipedia editors. This made the challenge that much harder. 

Edits Over Time

Year Old Page

Month Project Duration

The Challenge

Factual inaccuracies on the Wikipedia page

"Wikipedia itself is not considered a reliable source."
- Source: Wikipedia

In many instances, previous editors had quoted hearsay and opinion rather than fact from a reputable source when they cherry-picked what information to base the page upon. Since most people don't research the source of Wikipedia edits thoroughly, it was not noticed. 

Non-neutral tone

npov

Wikipedia requires a neutral point of view. Aggressors had chosen only the worst and most damaging content to post. A good Wikipedia article presents both sides of an argument in a neutral way for the reader to interpret. This hadn't been the case for our client's page. 

Misrepresentation of references used

In a perfect world, Wikipedia editors provide references for every salient statement. In the case of our client's, page statements had been doubled up in a sentence with a reference pertaining to only one part of the statement. For example, the statement "Dogs have four legs and that makes them bad" is only partially true. A statement to a page supporting the statement that dogs have four legs would be used, while the second part of the statement, that dogs are bad, would not be included in the reference.

Cherrypicking: Contextual inaccuracies on the Wikipedia page

cherrypicking wikipedia entries

Detractors that had manipulated our client's Wikipedia page had purposefully taken statements out of context to support their agenda. 

Out of date information

Our client's Wikipedia page featured out of date information, and when new up-to-date information had been provided to replace it, activist Wikipedia editors had reversed the edits because the new information was positive. 

wiki-img
encyclopedia-wikipedia
wikipedia-editor

Fixing the Wikipedia page

Below are the steps we took to repair our client's Wikipedia page.

1. Careful research of the facts

Our first step was to carefully research the facts in order to identify what was true and what wasn't. We identified falsehoods and misrepresentations in the referenced material. We then identified the most accurate content to support a neutral point of view. 

2. Identification of non-neutral content

The Wikipedia page had been defaced by multiple editors over many years. Entire sections of the page appeared to have been developed solely to attack the company. 

3. Rewrite of key sections as a draft

We then created a draft to reflect what a better Wikipedia article would look like. The draft was not advertorial in nature, nor was it entirely positive. Doing so would have caused the changes to be reversed. But the draft was far more balanced, and therefore more positive, than the existing page. 

4. Develop supporting positive references

In order for a statement on a Wikipedia page to be valid, it must have a trustworthy third-party reference. Our client's online profile had holes in reference-able content. While the content existed on their main website, it could not be used because Wikipedia rules state that "Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. "

This meant that reliable third-party sources had to be created. We performed publisher outreach in order to identify the best publications on which to have content placed. We then began the process to get content creators to include our target facts in their publications. This would later lead to Wikipedia material that could be legitimately referenced. 

5. Wikipedia editor peer-review

We don't take our own word for it. We ask highly experienced Wikipedia editors to check our work before publication and edit the draft based on their recommendations. By including this step in our process, Reputation X has a much higher probability of publishing changes that stick.

6. Testing the waters

At this point, we began testing our changes to see how the existing editors would react. We asked editors we have relationships with to make small changes to certain areas of the page to see if they'd be reversed. This also informed us as to how active the existing editors were. Small changes were not reversed, nor should they have been as they improved the quality of the Wikipedia article. 

7. Reorganization of the page

The page was a mess. Our first step was to change the non-neutral section headings to a neutral point of view. At the same time, we moved information into their correct sections and removed duplication. We noted our changes clearly so other editors could see how the page had changed and why. We didn't delete anything unless it was duplicative. Then, we waited to see what would happen. 

8. Updating neutrality

The next step was to update neutrality problems within the body of the article. In most cases, this did not change the character count significantly and was done very slowly. Most of the edits were not challenged. 

9. Addition of balancing content

By now the third-party supporting references we'd begun months before were being published in reputable publications. Since we needed referenceable third-party publications to reference this took time. Once we could reference balancing content, we began to make these edits as well. Because the statements were well-referenced and adhered to Wikipedia guidelines, the vast majority of them stuck. 

10. Monitoring and defense

The entire process took nine months. During and after the edits, we monitored the page for changes and defended our changes when necessary. 

Outcome

90% of the changes we made continue to exist to this day. The page isn't a gleaming advertisement as to the perfection of our client - it isn't meant to be. But it's far more balanced. The negative information that was true remains but is much further down the page and far less visible. In addition, negative information that Google had been pulling from the Wikipedia page and placing it in our client's Knowledge Panel was replaced by positive content. The search results for their brand are no longer haunted by the past. 

 

NOTE: Reputation X is in no way affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation or any of its subsidiaries. Reputation X does not directly edit Wikipedia pages. Instead, we define strategy, provide referenceable material, and encourage well-regarded independent Wikipedia editors to make changes as they see fit. 

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