You may have seen a recent study that found 60% of Wikipedia entries about organizations contained factual errors. Imagine a newspaper or other media outlet that regularly ran corrections for 6 out of every 10 stories. Put another way, it’s more likely than not that what you read about a company on Wikipedia is false. Not quite the reliable source of information anyone would turn to for authority – on anything.
For all Wikipedia’s vaunted “citizen journalism” ethos, this 60% statistic is breathtaking. PR pros have for years considered Wikipedia a scoundrel, as stories about their clients are based on otherwise erroneous information.
Say your client is the target of such a story, and the Wikipedia entry in question contains false and damaging information. As correctly noted by Marcia DiStaso, Wikipedia’s current lag time of several days for updating bad entries is way too long in today’s hyper 24/7 news cycle. (On a side note, Wikimedia Foundation Jay Walsh’s statement that “[y]ou shouldn’t edit articles if you have a personal stake in them” is absolutely laughable. How exactly does Walsh define “personal stake”? If you’re a super fan of a band, for example, does that disqualify you from editing or deleting negative but false comments about the band’s music? Where does Walsh propose drawing the line?)
Now imagine your client is a publicly traded company, and an incorrect news report – based on an incorrect Wikipedia article – causes the stock price to plunge. You try to edit the Wikipedia page but are constantly haunted by Wikipedia CEO Jimmy Wales’ admonition that “[t]here is a very central bright line rule that constitutes best practice: do not edit Wikipedia directly if you are a paid advocate.”
How such a regime constitutes fairness, in particular from a site that purports to be a democratic system to incubate and publish knowledge, is beyond comprehension. And lastly, if Wikipedia were ever to get its act together per this misguided editing philosophy, the least it could do is streamline the process. Even if you want to edit an article, good luck figuring things out as you travel down the rabbit hole.