Leading PR Firms promise Wikipedia of fair conduct

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Eleven large Public relations firms in a joint statement on Tuesday agreed to abide by Wikipedia’s editing guidelines in the wake of the online encyclopaedia’s strict turnout against paid edits.

The controversy reached its peak when Wikimedia Foundation blew the whistle on a public relations agency’s “suspicious edits” of the online encyclopaedia’s pages for an organization for product promotion purposes.

As a part of the investigation, Wikimedia also closed down more than 250 editing accounts used by so-called sockpuppets or online identities for promotion purpose.

The eleven PR firms signing the statement includes Beutler Ink, Ogilvy & Mather, FleishmanHillard, Peppercomm, Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Voce Communications, Edelman, and Allison+Partners.

“On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource,” the statement begins.

“We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors. Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfil its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopaedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices.”

In response, Wikimedia Foundation’s spokesman, Jay Walsh, in an email wrote that “any approach that is rooted in respecting the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use, the policies of the communities and projects, and a commitment to open and transparent dialogue is a good step for any group interested in working with Wikipedia.”

“It will ultimately be the community of Wikipedians who engage in a dialog about this proposal, and they may have different views about how well this could work out.”

The PR firms have agreed to comply with Wikipedia’s guidelines, promised to investigate allegations of unethical editing of articles within their own industry as well as counsel other PR firms to conduct fair on the site.