It ‘technically’ doesn’t violate the rules… or so they claim.
When companies do something that lands them in hot water, adding unflattering news to their Wiki page, all is not lost. You can always buy your way out of trouble.
That’s what Axios did when one of their reporters got the wrong kind of attention for something he had bragged about.
Axios may not have expressed its worries about its reputational problem publicly or even to its own staff, but the company did hire Ed Sussman, a former head of digital for Fast Company and Inc.com who’s now a paid Wikipedia editor at WhiteHatWiki .com, to do damage control.
Axios had previously hired Sussman to beef up its Wikipedia page (mostly with benign — if largely flattering — stats about Axios’ accomplishments) in February 2018. A week after Swan’s Trump interview aired, Sussman was hard at work on the reporter’s Wikipedia page, arguing that the entry was unfair to Swan and used “sensationalistic language” instead of the “dispassionate voice” Wikipedia requires. To correct the issue, he suggested a total overhaul of the description.
About a month later, Sussman proposed a list of extensive edits to Swan’s page.
Those changes included the removal of reference to an actual, verified event that was unflattering to Axios.
On Wiki, you’re not allowed, for instance, to edit any pages you have a direct connection to… but you can pay someone else to do it for you, so long as you acknowledge your conflict at some point?
NBC, too, apparently decided to put Sussman’s service to use in the aftermath of The New Yorker’s bombshell Harvey Weinstein report and, later, the allegations of sexual misconduct against Matt Lauer.
Several NBC employees, including Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and NBC Chairman Andy Lack, benefited from Sussman’s intervention, too. In one proposed edit, Sussman attempted to argue that on NBC News’ Wikipedia page, the mention of criticism directed at NBC over its handling of Matt Lauer constituted a violation of Wikipedia’s rules, since “it does not summarize the opposing point of view.”
Hiding conflicts of interest in the media:
Just the other week, Sussman proposed that editors remove a portion of Chuck Todd’s page that mentioned a potentially embarrassing 2016 Daily Caller report about an invitation found in the leaked emails of former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. According to the invite, Todd and his wife had hosted a dinner for Hillary Clinton’s then-communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, and her husband. Sussman asked that editors remove any mention of the report from Todd’s page because Wikipedia had previously (and correctly) determined the Daily Caller to be an unreliable source and, according to Sussman, “it is not sourced elsewhere.”
This, however, is untrue. The invitation was reported in both the Observer and The Florida Times-Union, in addition to the invitation’s appearance on WikiLeaks itself.
But because Sussman’s stated complaints all aligned with Wikipedia’s guidelines, the section was removed.
If you were wondering why Wiki seems hopelessly slanted, it’s because of tricks like this. Even solid sources like the Daily Caller with likely boasts a track record of accuracy better than, say, CNN and MSNBC (isn’t that true of all of us at this point?) was dismissed as illegitimate.
Although Wikipedia doesn’t technically forbid reaching out to others to ask for their insight, it does forbid petitioning editors to weigh in “with the intention of influencing the outcome of a discussion in a particular way.” Editors will periodically catch on to Sussman’s activities and admonish him on his Talk page.
Posts calling attention to Sussman’s lobbying of other editors rarely stay up for more than a week. According to his Talk page history, Sussman deletes criticism frequently and any record of it in his user logs often gets buried by his prolific posting and editing.
Usually, though, these warnings against Sussman’s petitioning are ignored. Last May, for instance, Sussman proposed that a section on the page for Nextdoor “about a misdemeanor traffic offense by Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia should be removed” for irrelevance. The CEO’s “misdemeanor traffic offense” was originally charged as a felony hit-and-run after he allegedly swerved unexpectedly into another lane of traffic, caused a crash, and bolted. The charges were only reduced after Tolia claimed not to know that he was supposed to stay at the scene of the crash. Sussman solicited input from a number of editors, and the section was ultimately removed.
On Sussman’s website’s FAQ page, he notes that even when he requests changes, “the article looks exactly the same” to an outsider.
His success rate, he brags, is 100 percent.
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by Doug Giles
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