Wikipedia Identifies, Bans Blackhat Editors

Wikipedia has banned editors from 381 blackhat user accounts getting paid to post and maintain promotional content to the online encyclopedia after the site's CheckUser group identified "sock puppet" editors creating promotional articles, and inserting promotional external links.

The investigation dubbed "Orangemoody," named after the first paid editor it discovered, shows sock puppets would seeks editors whose proposed Wikipedia page changes had been declined, offering to make the edits for a price. Wikipedia posted a list of behavioral traits the socks exhibited, such as complaints directed at specific administrators where allegations of either demand for payments or complaints that articles were being deleted despite payments made.

Wikipedia also identified an editing pattern and the types of things the socks looked for before approaching post's writer. The draft gets declined, and an Orangemoody sock begins work on the article to rewrite or redirect the content. Contact is made with the article subject and/or the original draft/article creator, and an offer is made to publish the article for a fee. Money is exchange and the article moved to a visible post.

Sometime later the person who has paid for the article gets contacted again and advised that for $30 per month, "in examples that have been confirmed" by Wikipedia, the editors would continue to protect the article from vandalism and prevent its deletion, claiming that they had previously done that without charge.

"The fraud is targeted here against individuals and small businesses who probably reported the cases," Aleksi Aaltonen, assistant professor of information systems at Warwick Business School, wrote in an email to SearchBlog.

In a response to a question about Wikipedia's decline in traffic that SimilarWeb identified last month, Aaltonen says that in this case, "Wikipedia was merely a tool, and indeed removed those inappropriate edits. It may be that their internal controls have also picked up something odd but it is difficult to know without asking them."

He believes there must be all kinds of attempts to circumvent Wikipedia controls. It's probably nothing new to them, and it's long known that politicians, businesses, and others have hired public relation agencies to edit their Wikipedia pages. 

It seems Wikipedia continues to face challenges. I'm speculating that a decline in traffic patterns on since the beginning of this year initially could have sparked some sort of speculation, causing Wikipedia's CheckUser team to become more vigilant. Data firm SimilarWeb notes that the switch from HTTP to HTTPS protocols for Wikipedia seemed more likely behind the significant drop in traffic from May to June.

Traffic from search engines to Wikipedia on desktops from March to July 2015 dropped from 2.5 million to 2 million, respectively, per SimilarWeb.

Next story loading loading..