Today, we’re making an important change to our Terms of Use. This change will clarify and strengthen the prohibition against concealing paid editing on all Wikimedia projects.

Half a billion people use Wikipedia every month as their source of knowledge. Wikipedia’s community editors work tirelessly at maintaining the accuracy, transparency, and objectivity of the articles, which requires identifying conflicts of interests and removing bias. Editing-for-pay can be a source of such bias, particularly when the edits are promotional in nature, or in the interest of a paying client. The Wikimedia Foundation is committed to continuing to support the Wikipedia community’s efforts to keep articles free of promotional content.

What’s changing?

This change adds a new subsection to Section 4, Refraining from Certain Activities, on “Paid Contributions without Disclosure.” The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation has issued a letter explaining the change. We have also prepared an FAQ that helps explain how the change applies in specific instances. We encourage you to read the full update, letter, and FAQ, but the most important points are:

  • If you edit as a volunteer and for fun, nothing changes. Please keep editing! You’re part of an amazing community of volunteers contributing to an unprecedented resource of free information available to the whole world.
  • If you are employed by a gallery, library, archive, museum (GLAM), or similar institution that may pay employees to make good faith contributions in your area of expertise and not about your institution, you are also welcome to edit! The FAQ provides more guidance on when you should provide disclosure.
  • If you are paid to edit, you will need to disclose your paid editing to comply with the new Terms of Use. You need to add your affiliation to your edit summary, user page, or talk page, to fairly disclose your perspective. You’ll want to read the FAQ to learn more.
  • If you are paid to edit, other rules beyond the Terms of Use may also apply. Specific policies on individual Wikimedia projects, or relevant laws in your country (such as those prohibiting fraudulent advertising), may require further disclosure or prohibit paid advocacy editing altogether. Details on the legal issues and risk associated with undisclosed paid advocacy editing may be found in this FAQ.
  • Individual Wikimedia projects may discuss and implement alternative disclosure policies appropriate to their particular needs, as explained at greater length in the FAQ.

Why are we making a change?

As explained in October of 2013, we believe that undisclosed paid advocacy editing is a black hat practice that can threaten the trust of Wikimedia’s volunteers and readers. We have serious concerns about the way that such editing affects the neutrality and reliability of Wikipedia.

The change to the Terms of Use will address these concerns in a variety of ways. First, it will help educate and explain to good-faith editors how they may continue to edit in the spirit of the movement and mission, through simple disclosure of their affiliation. Second, it will empower the community to address the issue of paid editing in an informed way by helping identify edits that should receive additional scrutiny. Finally, it will provide an additional tool to the community and Foundation to enforce existing rules about conflicts of interest and paid editing.

How did we make the change?

The Terms of Use sets out rules for how nearly half a billion monthly users engage with Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects. The current Terms of Use are the result of an extensive community collaboration in 2011.

We periodically review the Terms to ensure they are responsive to changes in the law and on the Wikimedia projects. To address community and Board concerns about paid editing, the Foundation proposed an amendment to the existing Terms of Use in February of this year. The Terms of Use already prohibited “deceptive activities,” such as misrepresentation, impersonation, and fraud. The original proposal was intended to help ensure compliance with these rules by requiring any users who “receive or expect to receive” direct compensation for their edits to disclose their employer, client, and affiliation.

Throughout February and March, the Wikimedia community extensively discussed the issue of undisclosed paid editing, resulting in 320,000 words of discussion in various languages and 6.3 million views of the proposal. The discussion was overwhelmingly supportive of the change. It also provided constructive criticisms that helped refine the amendment, and led us to improve our planned FAQ to provide more context and better examples.

At the meeting of the WMF Board of Trustees in April, members of the Board reviewed the change and results of the public consultation. After their discussion, they approved the amendment. The Wikimedia Foundation will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the amendment, and remain open to changes as necessary to improve it.

What happens next?

This change is effective immediately. We are notifying all users with banner messages on all Wikimedia projects.

If you have any comments, or would like to discuss this change further, please join the conversation on the Meta talk page for the Terms of Use.

Thanks everyone who has contributed to the discussion on this important issue. Your concerns elevated and clarified the issue in a manner that helped improve the original proposed amendment. Your input and feedback ensured a strong, yet appropriate, policy that we expect will strengthen the projects overall.

Stephen LaPorte, Legal Counsel

Luis Villa, Deputy General Counsel

Geoff Brigham, General Counsel


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