NEW YORK: The Public Relations Society of America is commending recommendations made by the UK-based Chartered Institute of Public Relations on the use of Wikipedia. However, it would like to see PR professionals have more freedom to edit the site.
The CIPR and Wikipedia UK revealed guidance on Wednesday that says PR professionals should suggest changes about clients to Wikipedia editors, rather than editing the pages themselves.
“We commend CIPR in reaching a point of agreement with Wikipedia, but nothing has changed at all,” said PRSA chair and CEO Gerry Corbett. “The fact is that Wikipedia does not allow PR people to edit information directly.”
Corbett added that the PRSA encourages all industry professionals to respect and abide by Wikipedia rules, but the industry organization wants to see changes on who can and cannot correct information on the site's pages.
“Any organization, whether it's a company, an academic institution, or a nonprofit, should have the ability to update their own information whether it's directly themselves or through an authorized representative,” he explained.
However, Corbett added that gaining the “trust and acceptance” of Wikipedia editors is a key issue.
“We do realize and appreciate that some folks have taken advantage of the system in the past,” he added, “but that's no reason to indict an entire industry.”
Jay Walsh, head of communications at Wikipedia operator The Wikimedia Foundation, said the CIPR recommendation that individuals with a conflict of interest should not directly edit articles is a consistent belief of Wikipedia editors and contributors.
“That's pretty much been the way Wikipedians approached this topic from day one,” he explained. “It's less about adopting that policy and more about seeing an industry body understand and reflect what Wikipedians have been communicating for quite a long time.”
Wikipedia is an open platform that allows anyone to edit information on articles, but Walsh said Wikipedia editors may remove changes if they don't add value, provide good references, or mitigate vandalism.
He added that the site is meant to provide neutral and balanced information to users, not promote products, beliefs, or businesses, which is why Wikipedia has no advertising.
“We don't promote and support the use of ads,” he said. “It's not because we don't think they are appropriate in general, we just think they are not appropriate in educational projects, like Wikipedia, and they would affect the neutrality of a topic.”
People who want to contribute to an entry on Wikipedia, especially if they have a conflict of interest, should use the “talk page” and “be patient” to get a response, said Walsh.
“We are sensitive to the fact that there is a limited number of Wikipedians to carry out the work of Wikipedia,” he said, “There is potentially an unlimited number of people who want to change it in a certain way.”