Qorvis partner Matt Lauer has unleashed a barrage of criticism of Wikipedia over its policies blocking PR firms from editing content about clients and firms themselves, sparking a sparring match with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Lauer, in a Qorvis blog post, said the web's go-to information source should allow corporations, organizations and individuals to edit and submit information to correct Wikipedia policies he says result in "many articles on the site that are inaccurate or even blatantly false."
Wales fired back at Lauer over Twitter. "Your complaints are deeply dishonest to the point of being embarrassing," said Wales, who told Lauer he will need to apologize publicly and stop using fake accounts, which he called "sockpuppets." Added Wales: "Your clients should fire you for it."
Lauer says Wikipedia's policy of not allowing direct dialogue between Wikipedia editors and the subjects of Wikipedia articles is "inane," pointing to the novelist Philip Roth, who wrote in the New Yorker recently about trying to correct an error in the WP entry about his novel, "The Human Stain," only to be rebuffed as not a credible source.
"This inane policy would violate the basic tenets of even the most partisan of small-town newspapers or the most crooked court rooms," said Lauer. "This dangerous policy violates the fundamental rules of reporting, of debate, and of discussion."
Lauer called Qorvis' own page a "real yarn" full of "silly conspiracy theories, competitor-fed information, and false data from opponents of our clients."
Qorvis has faced criticism -- including from Wikipedians who say Qorvis-linked accounts edit damaging information about clients -- over its representation of controversial clients like governments and figures from Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Bahrain.
Lauer, listing a barrage of high-profile mistakes by Wikipedia editors, said he signed up as an editor under the name "QorvisEditor" to become a source of info for the firm's page and those of its clients, but he was blocked by editors.
Edelman exec Phil Gomes last year founded a Facebook group, Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, aimed to thaw relations between Wikipedia and PR people.
Wales' response over the years, including to Gomes last year, has been for PR firms to stay away from editing the site and focus on third-party avenues.
He wrote to Gomes: "What I have found -- and the evidence for this is pretty comprehensive -- is that people who are acting as paid advocates do not make good editors. They insert puffery and spin. That's what they do because that it is what paid advocates do."