Zango Gets Zinged
Adware maker Zango is no stranger to controversy. Last November the company agreed to pay $3 million to settle FTC charges that it deceptively installed ad software on consumers' computers without an obvious means of removal. Before then, consumer advocates long complained about Zango's software, which sends pop-up ads to users' computers based on the Web sites they visit.
Now the company has run afoul of Wikipedia for trying to purge negative information from its entry in the collaborative encyclopedia. While anyone can edit Wikipedia articles, the site's guidelines caution companies and others against editing their own entries because of the conflict of interest.
Zango isn't the first company to resort to self-help at Wikipedia. Microsoft ran into trouble earlier this year after offering to pay a blogger to correct what the company said were inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles on an open- source document standard and a competing format developed by Microsoft. Wikipedia has also stopped PR firms and political campaigns from posting promotional or slanderous material.
In Zango's case, rather than try to hire someone to edit the entry, company co-founder and president Daniel Todd took matters into his own hands. Among the attempted revisions he made in April were to substitute the term "desktop advertising products for "adware" and to delete a section on Zango and parent 180Solutions in a separate entry for "spyware."
He also removed portions of the Zango entry dealing with controversy surrounding difficulty in uninstalling its software.
Todd posted a note on the discussion page for the Zango article, stating, "Despite our publishing numerous and ongoing notice and consent audits where third parties review our industry-leading installation practices and uninstall procedures, some folks on the Internet want to continue to provide misinformation about our products and company."
In a separate post, Todd complained about contributors with a "vested interest" in replacing inaccurate and misleading information about the company after Zango removed it.
In reply, the editor (who goes by CliffC) pointed out that anyone connected to Zango would have a conflict of interest editing Zango-related articles. "I know it must be difficult to try to overcome years of bad press coupled with past FTC charges, but in my opinion this is not the way to do it," he wrote in a post on the discussion page.
He directed Todd to Wikipedia's guidelines on suggesting changes, which say revisions should first be brought to the discussion page to seek consensus. In response, Todd apologized "for not following what appears to be clearly defined rules around this process."
Nevertheless, a different editor, noticing yet another anonymous Zango edit, recommended a ban on all accounts linked to the company.
Zango PR director Steve Stratz says the company is trying to have "candid conversations" with Wikipedia editors. For now at least, Zango will have to live with being described as a "manufacturer of adware and spyware."