Editors of content for Wikipedia have been paid to author fluff pieces and help protect clients by diminishing derogatory material.
Former journalist Ed Sussman’s work as a paid Wikipedia fixer for clients such as Axios, NBC and Facebook was featured in a report by the Huffington Post, Breitbart News reported.
The report found that editors operating in a similar manner to Sussman have worked on behalf of CNN contributor Hilary Rosen and the CEOs of Reddit and Intel, among other clients.
Sussman insisted he followed Wikipedia’s rules by having other editors approve proposed changes. But the Huffington Post found that in several instances he requested the watering down of material that was reliably cited.
In one instance, Sussman requested changes to the page of Axios journalist Jonathan Swan regarding his false report claiming Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was resigning.
Sussman also put a spin on the NBC News page regarding the networks’s refusal to air Ronan Farrow’s story on the sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. There was similar spin, the Post found, in Sussman’s portrayal of NBC’s handling of sexual assault allegations against the network’s longtime anchor Matt Lauer.
Breitbart said another paid editing firm that has exhibited similar practices is Beutler Ink, run by long-time editor and Wikipedia blogger William Beutler.
In 2016, Beutler removed from the page on CNN contributor Hilary Rosen mention of aggressive tactics against file-sharing while she was head of the Recording Industry Association of America. His only reference to criticism of Rosen was mentioning she had to hire security because of death threats.
Beutler altered the page of Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, to burnish his progressive credentials. Breitbart noted the Krzanich article previously focused on controversy over a fundraiser for Donald Trump held at his home.
Breitbart noted Wikipedia’s policies do not ban paid editors from approving the proposals of other paid editors if they are not working for the same client.
The practice of paid editing is tolerated as long as editors disclose their affiliation and get their edits approved by other editors, as Sussman and Beutler have done.
But Breitbart points out that just “as with Wikipedia’s supposed reliability against fake news, rules permitting disclosed paid editing presume the unpaid amateurs on the site will be able to effectively analyze and evaluate the edits of well-compensated professionals.”
“However, even undisclosed paid editors frequently slip past Wikipedia’s ad hoc methods of detection. The site’s effectiveness at constraining bias introduced by paid editors is thus not much greater than its ability to constrain its rampant political bias.”