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The risk of using Wikipedia – Companies Need To Act

A new web service has taken away another piece of the Internet’s anonymity. Using the so-called WikiScanner (http://wikiscanner.virgil.gr), every Internet user can research the corporate networks from which changes have been made to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. Sugar-coated profiles, competitive criticism or the private embarrassing incidents of employees can quickly damage a company’s image. The only thing that can help with this is to set down clear rules for using Wikipedia. In other words, “Wikipliance.”

The new WikiScanner definitely has its positive sides. For example, companies can now track changes that have been made to entries pertaining to them. On the flip side, however, Wikiscanner also reveals content that has been used, edited, added or deleted on Wikipedia by a company’s own employees. Be it defamatory information from competitors or private changes such as politically incorrect articles, this can all be done by employees from their own workstation under the IP address of their company. These activities – and all of the consequences that go with them – are then attributed to the company.

Corporate Management must therefore be aware of this new type of danger. Previous experience with the Internet has shown that this is precisely where critical topics can quickly get out of hand. It is easy for the company’s image and credibility to be put on the line. The general interest in tracking down objectionable entries is already quite high.

Therefore, should a company not wish to find itself in this list of embarrassing and image-damaging articles, it should then, in future, alert its employees to this topic and establish rules as to how to properly go about making changes on Wikipedia from the company network. Such rules, or “Wikipliance,” protect the company’s image and give employees the necessary security.

7 steps to successful Wikipliance:

  1. Raising employee AWARENESS
    Whoever adds or edits entries from his/her workstation – whether it be for company purposes or not – can be tracked. The employee does not do so as a private individual, but rather as a representative of the company where s/he is employed.
  2. Upholding the encyclopedic concept of Wikipedia
    Articles in Wikipedia should essentially be factually based, neutral and unbiased. There is no place for advertising, euphemistic or obfuscated texts. The rule of thumb is that one should not tamper with an article that has to do with oneself unless it is a matter to do with verifiable facts such as new sales figures. The Wikipedia community strictly ensures that the rules are observed.
  3. Setting rules
    Setting clear rules makes it easier for employees to use Wikipedia: What must be taken into account when making changes to entries that pertain to the company while conducting corporate research? Should employees be allowed to personally make changes to entries from the corporate network? If so, what should they be mindful of? etc.
  4. Defining processes and responsibilities
    In order to actually ensure that only changes pertaining to the company are made, it is important to define clear processes for using Wikipedia: Who is responsible? Who approves the changes?
  5. Giving someone responsibility for Wikipedia usage within the company
    To make sure that processes and rules are observed, it can be helpful to appoint someone to be responsible for Wikipedia usage. This individual is then responsible for all issues related to Wikipedia usage.
  6. External “Wikipedia Technical Monitoring Association”
    It makes sense to call in an external advisor should a company wish to publish or edit articles about itself or about its own expert topics. This can then ensure that, from the outside, the articles are regarded as neutral and objective.
  7. Putting one’s cards on the table
    Statements should not be made about one’s own company “under the cover” of outside private computers to avoid being traced. Should certain changes need to be made, it is better for the company to speak directly with the Wikipedia community than to tamper with articles right away.