Can I Edit My Wikipedia Page?

Can you edit your Wikipedia page?

Can I Edit My Wikipedia Page?

Clients often ask us if they can edit their Wikipedia page or, if they don’t have one, can they just create one for themselves or their company.

The answer is a little more complicated than it seems, but first let’s take a quick look at what, exactly, Wikipedia is, and what it is not.

According to Wikipedia itself, the site is “a free encyclopedia, written collaboratively by the people who use it. Many people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making thousands of changes per hour. All of these changes are recorded in article histories and recent changes.”

We all understand what an encyclopedia is, but it may be more important to clarify what Wikipedia is NOT. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, or a public relations vehicle. Those who attempt to use it as such are likely to have a disappointing experience.

The purpose of a Wikipedia article is to present various important points of view in an impartial tone. To maintain the true value of the platform, the information presented in articles must be accurate and verifiable, and must cite reliable, authoritative sources. Personal experiences, opinions, or interpretations of editors have no place in a Wikipedia article, and are typically promptly removed.

It is important to understand that any content properly added to Wikipedia is freely licensed to the public, and can be “mercilessly edited” and reproduced. At the same time, Wikipedia has a firm policy against plagiarism, so content for articles should summarize (without copying) properly cited sources.

Respect and civility go a long way when it comes to being successful on Wikipedia. If you act in good faith, and assume good faith on the part of others, you have a much better chance of avoiding issues. When disagreements do arise, and they will, don’t engage in attacks, seek consensus, and follow the appropriate dispute resolution procedures.

As a massive volunteer-based collaboration of its users, Wikipedia makes every attempt to avoid the pitfalls of bureaucracy. Therefore, while there are policies and guidelines, “the principles and spirit matter more than literal wording”. Wikipedia implores its editors to “be bold but not reckless” in updating articles.

Understanding the objectives of Wikipedia, what is intended for, and how it functions is essential for anyone who hopes to successfully navigate the editing process. Because Wikipedia is written collaboratively by its users, editors must be able to “play nicely in the sandbox” with others.

Because anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, the process has many pitfalls that may not be apparent at first.

Wikipedia says: “It is best to avoid editing articles relating to your organization entirely, because of the conflict of interest.”

In fact, the process of making changes to a Wikipedia page is rather simple to do, but if done without regard for Wikipedia’s content policies, those edits may be promptly undone, with more severe ramifications (including being blocked) possible as well.

Many organizations have found out the hard way that simply tasking an inexperienced employee with the job of editing the organization’s Wikipedia page can backfire. Editing which does not comply with Wikipedia’s content policies is often undone within hours or even minutes, and once editors are viewed as having a conflict of interest, they may be blocked from further edits.

To comply with Wikipedia’s content policies, content must be verifiable and edits must be made from a neutral point of view.

Content added MUST be backed up with a citation of a reliable source. Wikipedia says “If no reliable sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it.” A reliable source is a third-party source (your company website does not count as a source) “with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy.”

Wikipedia’s policy is to maintain a neutral tone in all articles. That allows for both favorable and unfavorable information to be included, but promotional information, advertising, and attacks are not permitted. Content that sounds as if it were written by your organization’s PR team is likely to be removed promptly, and will likely also lead to being blocked.

Many of our clients ask if they can create a Wikipedia article for their organization when none current exists. Wikipedia says it is not a directory of all companies and organizations, and requires “significant coverage in multiple independent sources for articles on organizations and companies per Wikipedia:Notability (organizations and companies). Independent sources should provide enough neutral and factual information to write a proper article.”

Wikipedia recommends organizations compile a comprehensive list of any independent reliable sources, such as newspaper articles, that have been published about their organization. This list can be used to make the case to Wikipedia that an organization, company, or individual is notable enough to warrant a page.

For assistance in navigating any of the challenges involved with your organization’s Wikipedia presence, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Chris Cornell