- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
CNet’s Violet Blue reports on a Wikipedia conflict-of-interest scandal:
Roger Bamkin, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation UK, whose LinkedIn page describes him as a high-return-earning PR consultant, appeared to be using Wikipedia’s main page "Did You Know" feature and the resources of Wikipedia’s GLAM WikiProject (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) initiative to pimp his client’s project.
Bamkin’s current client is the country of Gibraltar.
In August, Gibraltar was featured as a Wikipedia DYK front page feature an astonishing seventeen times – that’s an unusual frequency of every 2-3 days.
Other than the Olympics, it is the only repeated topic throughout the month.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales resonded:
It is wildly inappropriate for a board member of a chapter, or anyone else in an official role of any kind in a charity associated with Wikipedia, to take payment from customers in exchange for securing favorable placement on the front page of Wikipedia or anywhere else. – Jimbo Wales (talk) 00:54, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
The story came out at the same time as an uproar began among Wikipedia community members over a "SEO-focused, PR-strategy Wikipedia page editing business" run by one of the site’s "Wikipedians in residence."
The connection between Gibraltar and Bamkin is apparently related to a plan by the British colony’s government to post QR codes on tourist sites throughout the island linking visitors to relevant Wikipedia pages.
I’m actually surprised we don’t hear more stories like this — especially on politically sensitive topics. For example, a Wikipedia search for "Diaoyu" currently redirects to the Senkaku Islands page. That page is currently locked for editing, but I’m sure there are other international disputes in which interested governments would pay good money to promote their version of reality.