After news broke, one resignation and a little backpedaling has done little to solve the problem.
When the Web site in question depends on a reputation comprised of integrity, objectivity, accountability, and openness in regard to recording the world’s facts and knowledge, the question becomes, “Who watches the watchmen?“
At the center of the debacle were Wikimedia UK Chair Roger Bamkin and fellow Wikipedian in Residence Maximillion Klein, who had been openly advertising SEO pay-for-play services for clients on his Web site Untrikiwiki. Klein did not admit to anything, yet quickly removed damning Web site material, and Wikimedia UK Trustee Roger Bamkin — at the scandal’s center — resigned.
Members of the Wikipedia editing community had been calling out the paid-PR activity, yet were continually shouted down by opposing editors, effectively derailing whistle-blowers’ arguments.
When news of the paid-PR scandal finally broke outside Wikipedia’s discussion forums, Klein quickly removed language and artwork advertising his access and services, and posted an unapologetic statement explaining that his business believes there is nothing wrong with paid COI (“Conflict of Interest”) editing for special interests on Wikipedia.
After the scandal went public, Bamkin continued to insist there was no issue or conflict with his side businesses and Wikimedia UK. Bamkin’s supporters from Wikipedia’s GLAM WikiProject (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) defended him with vitriol, and made efforts to devalue the news and derail arguments against topics surrounding Bamkin’s actions and paid editing.
But two days after the scandal surfaced, Wikimedia UK announced the sudden resignation of Bamkin as a Trustee.
Does anyone top level at Wikimedia UK or Wikipedia care?
In regard to this scandal, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has spoken out on his Wikipedia discussion page against paid-PR editing. But how much effect that opinion will have in the ensuing conflict remains to be seen.
Bamkin had been assisting his client, the controversial government of Gibraltar, in the creation of new, positive articles as a means to promote tourism and increase tourist revenue for the troubled locale.
Representatives for the Gibraltar Ministry of Tourism bragged to the press about marketing Gibraltar as a Wikipedia tourist product, as well as their assurances they had that their pages would remain free of “negative vandalism.”
While talking about Gibraltar’s 1 million pound ($1.62 million) investment in the product, the Ministry of Tourism made headlines in Gibraltar’s Independent newspaper, which wrote:
The enthusiasm and conviction radiating from both the Min. for Tourism, Neil Costa, and Clive Finlayson who came up with the idea of marketing Gibraltar as a tourist product through Wikipedia, which the Ministry for Tourism has embarked upon, leaves one without a doubt that the venture will truly be a success.
On Bamkin’s professional LinkedIn page, he claimed that his Wikipedia clients could expect “£2m [$3.25 million] payback on £50K [$81,150] investment” — no doubt enhanced by Bamkin’s ability to facilitate placement on Wikipedia’s front page in the “Did You Know” feature.
That’s about $3,250,000 payback on an $81,000 investment.
Wikipedia’s main page, with an estimated 8 million views a day, is shockingly valuable real estate.
Wikipedia exposed as a conflicted mess: Derailment for Dummies
The Wikipedia community had decried the unsavory behavior and open profiteering — which most believe runs contrary to Wikipedia’s ethos — for months before public exposure prompted action. But because those at the the center of the paid-PR issues have the most editing power and clout, they appear to have dismissed discussion to the contrary.
Within Wikipedia, the issue seems to be far from over. Wikipedia’s community is still locked in an internal fight over whether there has been any wrongdoing, while those accused (and in support of the accused) maintain that even if there was a problem, it’s not really a problem.