The Council of PR Firms yesterday urged PR firms to "pledge" to Wikipedia that they will only submit materials to the hidden "Talk" pages where posts can languish for long periods and which are supervised by anonymous "editors."

A statement by CPRF president Kathy Cripps and SVP Matt Shaw said, "We hope that many more sign on to the Wikipedia pledge, proving that a common ground does exist between the Wikipedia community and commercial interests."

Cripps, Senay

Dave Senay, president and CEO of FleishmanHillard, is chair of CPRF.

"This new PR pledge bodes a lot of pain and suffering for clients who will just have to sit through long periods of inaccurate information, incomplete data, and even outright defamation residing on WP article pages," says Gregory Kohs, who operates MyWikiBiz, and who helps clients to place materials on WP.

A number of major firms, including Ogilvy, FleishmanHillard, Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, and Edelman have said will only engage other Wikipedia editors on the "Talk" pages of articles.

They are hoping, wrote Kohs June 17, that "one of those pseudonymous ‘neutral’ editors will come along and make the requested changes to article pages." He provided several examples of paid editors or sources writing about themselves or clients placing materials on WP.

Kohs quoted WP contributor Tim Davenport as saying about the PR pledge: "This group of PR companies saying they are going to play by the rules (implicitly under the assumption that the rules will be fair to them) doesn't affect the broad situation. Wikipedia content writing is a growth industry for freelancers... [who] are flying under the radar and have nothing to do with the big PR companies.  In short, what one hears about paid editing (that it is banned) is not reflective of the real situation."

Wikimedia Foundation ratchets up the rules

On June 16, Wikimedia Foundation imposed a new Terms of Use on all readers and writers of Wikipedia and all the sister projects like Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, and Wikiquote. Editors who receive payment for helping to grow Wikipedia especially now must comply with the following:

“…you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation. You must make that disclosure in at least one of the following ways:

* a statement on your user page,
* a statement on the talk page accompanying any paid contributions, or
* a statement in the edit summary accompanying any paid contributions.”

The CPRF statement, signed by Cripps and Shaw who acknowledged "help from Sam Ford of Peppercomm," noted that WP is the world's sixth most popular website and called it "a public treasure, a living, breathing record of humanity."

Cripps and Shaw noted that "in recent years, tensions between agency professionals and volunteer WP editors have risen. This breakdown in trust has come in part because of some instances where agencies have engaged in what appears to be deceptive behavior, selling services that conflict with WP’s core principles. The resulting frustration with professional communicators has made it difficult for anyone acting ethically in our field to be able to meaningfully contribute to the WP project."

"We at the Council applaud Wikipedia for its diligence in safeguarding the site’s integrity," said the statement.