Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Wiki wickedness: Don’t monkey around

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Uh oh….

It’s been embarrassing week for the CIA, who thanks to a geek called Virgil in New Mexico got caught in their bedroom tweaking entries on the popular Internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Virgil Griffith or “Romanpoet” to his friends was a notorious hacker employed by Wiki to create WikiScanner, a programme which allows users to track the source of computers used to make changes to the popular Internet encyclopaedia where anyone can submit and edit entries.

WikiScanner picked up that CIA computers were being used to alter content on the U.S-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the site. It seems they’re not alone with everyone from Fox News to the Vatican having a go at attempting to improve their reputation amongst the masses. This got me questioning. As a crude and frankly deceitful form of PR, how hazardous is adding or altering stuff on user-edited sites? I think very.

There is a sensible reluctance in the responsible PR community to tinker with sites like Wikipedia. When I first joined Inferno I remember asking why there wasn’t an entry for the company. I was told that “it’s not really the done thing” – to do your own Wikipedia entry. And now I can see why.

The mistake that the PRs and other interested parties made with the Wikipedia alterations is that to remove widely known facts and common opinions from entries is not only dishonest, it is stupid. It draws attention to the fact they have been altered and damages the reputation of the firms and government agencies involved further. Smart PRs don’t lie or deny the facts. Wikipedia has enough problems already…



Written by pilotlight

17/08/2007 at 4:55 pm

Posted in PR, Web 2.0

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