Almost 400 Wikipedia accounts were shut down on Monday after their owners were accused of accepting money to edit pages in favour of interested parties.
After several weeks of investigation site admins concluded that the so-called “Orangemoody” campaign – named after the first puppet – was run by a coordinated group, owing to the similarity of their edits on the English-language version of the free encyclopaedia.
As well as banning accounts the free encyclopaedia deleted some 200 articles, though it said that such abuse did not occur often on the site.
Writing online, editorial associate Ed Erhart and senior comms manager Juliet Barbara of the Wikimedia Foundation said:
“Most of these articles, which were related to businesses, business people, or artists, were generally promotional in nature, and often included biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations.
“The edits made by the sockpuppets are similar enough that the community believes they were perpetrated by one coordinated group.”
The scammers behind the scheme used a combination of accounts to submit, develop and push articles for approval, with the scammers charging additional fees – in one case, £20 a month – to maintain the page and protect it from vandalism or deletion.
According to Wikipedia, “names of genuine editors and administrators are often used” in the scam, sometimes based on who has deleted related articles.
Among the list of articles deleted by the Checkuser team are pages relating to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Internet servers company Hatena and the DJ Ryan Skyy.
Wikimedia stated that the subjects in the articles were also “victims” in the saga.
The editing of Wikipedia by interested parties has been a major source of controversy in the past, leading at least one person to set up a Twitter account to track the editing of the site from IP addresses associated with British Parliament.
Image Credit – Wikimedia stroopwafel by Sebastiaan ter Burg