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Wikipedia hits sockpuppet PR firm with cease-and-desist notice

Wiki-PR is not affiliated with Wikipedia, and Wikipedia wants to make that clear.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Nov 19, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 1:34 am CDT

Wikipedia has finally had enough with a public relations company it accuses of hiring fake editors to alter articles on the world’s largest encyclopedia in its clients’ favor.

So Wikimedia, Wikipedia’s parent company, has sent a public cease and desist letter to Wiki-PR, threatening to “take any necessary legal action.”

Despite its name, Wiki-PR has no relation to Wikimedia. That in fact belies the site’s biggest complaint: That the firm blurs the line between those legions of Wikipedia editors who spend hours trying to make the site objective and truthful, and a public relations firm that wants to make a buck by altering articles to make its clients look better.

Clients who hire Wiki-PR have previously told the Daily Dot that they were unsatisfied with their service. Their company pages would go down after a Wikipedia editor discovered it and deleted it for not being newsworthy, they said, and though Wiki-PR would promise to have it right back up, that often wasn’t the case.

Soon after news broke of Wiki-PR’s practices—often referred to as “sockpuppetry”— Wikimedia released a statement condemning the firm’s actions. On October 25, it formally banned “anyone who derives financial benefit from editing the English Wikipedia on behalf of or its founders.”

But it appears that message didn’t take. Wikimedia took another stepTuesday, having its chief lawyer send a cease and desist letter and publishing that letter on its site. It states, in part:

As we have discussed with you previously, we have come to the opinion that, based on the evidence that we have to date, that agent(s) of your company have engaged in sockpuppetry. […] As we have explained to you, this practice violates the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use[…] This practice also gives rise to a number of potential legal claims, including statutory and common law fraud, unfair business practices, breach of contract, and trespass to chattels.

Further, it adds, Wiki-PR hasn’t responded to two previous letters charging that it infringes on Wikipedia’s trademark.

Wikimedia gave Wiki-PR until Friday to acknowledge the cease and desist, with the clear implication it plans to press charges if the site doesn’t comply.

Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Nov 19, 2013, 10:22 pm CST