The dangers of ‘self-promotion’

Wikipedia’s terms of use take a dim view of self promotion on their site – they specify; “A Wikipedia conflict of interest (COI) is an incompatibility between the aim of Wikipedia, which is to produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia, and the aims of an individual editor. COI editing involves contributing to Wikipedia to promote your own interests, including your business or financial interests, or those of your external relationships, such as with family, friends or employers.” This was exactly what one senior politician was accused of this week.

On Tuesday the Guardian newspaper reported that Wikipedia had blocked the user Contribsx, as they suspected Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps (or someone acting on his behalf) had been using the account to clean up his references online and also making less than positive changes to other politicians or rivals.

When the Guardian approached Shapps about the story and he responded; “This story is completely false and defamatory. It is nonsense from start to finish.” The Liberal Democrats were quick to poke fun, releasing a statement saying; “Grant is a wonderful guy… if, like me, you have been lucky enough to meet him – you know you have been touched by greatness… Quite simply, a colossus… This Press Release has been edited by Wikipedia user Contribsx.”
In a further twist The Telegraph reported on Wednesday that the administrator who accused Shapps was in fact a “leading activist in the Liberal Democrats”.
Shapps continues to profess innocence in the whole affair but it has caused him and the Tory party some negative headlines at a crucial time for the election.

Wikipedia obviously is made possible by ‘citizen journalists’, who write, edit and correct entries. For those in the public eye however, it may be tempting to polish or tweak references to yourself online. The danger of trying to incorrectly amend your own page is that you’ll probably be found out and when you are the damage to your reputation that you were trying to limit, will likely end up being much worse.

Written by Will Edwards – 23 April 2015

Share this article