Wikipedia defends editing processes following Finsbury 'clean-up'

Wikipedia has hit back at criticism of its editing rules in the wake of news that Finsbury 'cleaned up' the page of a controversial client.

Encyclopaedia: Wikipedia said it was not a PR platform
Encyclopaedia: Wikipedia said it was not a PR platform

On Monday, The Times revealed that Finsbury had made changes to the Wikipedia entry of billionaire oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

The agency is reported to have removed from the Wikipedia entry all suggestions that Usmanov issued legal threats against bloggers, along with details of a Soviet-era criminal conviction, which was later overturned by the Uzbekistan Supreme Court.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham criticised the site's internal processes for amending inaccurate or inflammatory material, suggesting they were 'opaque, time-consuming and cumbersome'.

Diffusion MD Daljit Bhurji added that 'recent guidelines have gone too far' in banning agencies from editing web pages.

Wikimedia UK comms organiser Stevie Benton responded by calling the comments 'inaccurate'.

'I don't think it's cumbersome at all,' he said. 'It's quite straightforward. It's not just PR professionals who need to abide by this, it's everyone.'

He added that PR people 'need to realise that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and not a PR platform'.

The CIPR has also taken an opposing view to the PRCA. Earlier this year, the CIPR issued guidance for PROs that stated they should not directly edit Wikipedia pages relating to their organisation or a client. The CIPR is now working on an abridged version of the guidance.

A CIPR spokesman said that the PRCA and Bhurji's comments 'ignore Wikipedia's clear rules on conflict-of-interest editing'.

CIPR CEO Jane Wilson added: 'I recognise that it can be a frustrating process for any organisation with inaccurate information on the site.

'Wikipedia is working on the speed and ease with which simple factual inaccuracies can be amended without compromising the strong stance on conflict. I look forward to the CIPR working with the community more closely on this.'

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