BP Skirts Wikipedia Rules to Edit Content

Wikipedia-logoBritish Petroleum is accused of rewriting 44% of the company's Wikipedia entry, particularly about its environmental record. It's bad timing, as BP prepares for an April 5th federal hearing about potentially billions of dollars the company could owe in a class-action suit about the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Although the contributor explains his interests on his Wikipedia user page, "Arturo" has more influence than people  believe is appropriate. On his page, Arturo writes,

"I have established this account to help improve BP-related articles in line with Wikipedia standards and guidelines. In the interest of full transparency, I chose 'Arturo at BP' as my username so that my affiliation with BP is abundantly clear to all parties I may interact with on Wikipedia. Per WP:ORGNAME, I believe that this username is appropriate, and I should point out that I will be the only person to use this account.

"Out of respect for guidelines on conflict of interest and the importance of a neutral point of view, and in recognition of the ongoing debate regarding companies' involvement on Wikipedia, I will only be editing Talk pages and will not make any edits to encyclopedia articles. My primary goal in being active on Wikipedia through this account is to improve the overall quality of BP-related articles in line with Wikipedia guidelines."

True, Arturo does not directly edit Wikipedia pages about BP, but he does contribute content via his "Talk" page on Wikipedia. Apparently, this content is approved by BP executives. One logical concern is why Wikipedia editors are simply copying and pasting Arturo's entries.

On an editorial Wikipedia page, comments are flying about whether BP's actions are appropriate:

"A paid editor from BP is writing up material for the BP article and for the BP environmental section in particular.

"He does pay attention to the letter of the rules, but I don't think it is anywhere near the spirit, e.g. he checks with his higher-ups before responding to any questions."

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your view of BP's contributions: fair play, crossing a line, or something else?
  • How, if at all, does this news affect your image of Wikipedia as a reliable source?