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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Top Wikipedia employee fired over taking money for edits

Paul Gallagher

Published 11/01/2014 | 02:30

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Wikipedia webpage in use on a laptop computer -  a Wikipedia employee was fired over taking money for edits
Wikipedia webpage in use on a laptop computer - a Wikipedia employee was fired over taking money for edits

Wikipedia's parent company has fired a staff member after discovering she was being paid by clients for favourably editing pages of the online encyclopedia.

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Sarah Stierch's dismissal as a programme evaluation co-ordinator came after a screenshot of her freelancing work, indicating that she took $300 (€220) for working on a Wikipedia page, was published to a mailing list.

Paid editing remains a controversial issue for the San Francisco-based firm after a recent purge saw hundreds of the website editors' accounts closed because of suspicions the practice of enhancing or censoring entries to suit the desires of corporations or clients was widespread.

Blogger Tomasz Kozlowski, a Wikimedia Commons contributor said: "Paid editing thrives in the heart of Wikimedia. It defies belief that Sarah would be oblivious to these issues and how they are perceived by the wider community... it can only be guessed for which article she was compensated."

Mr Kozlowski said he was sent the screenshot by a "fellow Wikipedian" whose identity he agreed to keep anonymous.

The idea of accepting money for edits isn't universally condemned among Wikipedia editors, however, and some contributors have argued that more types of paid editing should be allowed.

Wikimedia's senior director of programmes, Frank Schulenberg, said: "The Wikimedia Foundation has recently learnt that Sarah has been editing Wikipedia on behalf of paying clients, as recently as a few weeks ago.

"She did that even though it is widely known that paid editing is frowned upon by many in the editing community and by the Wikimedia Foundation.

"The Wikimedia Foundation values Sarah a great deal. She has been an active Wikipedian since 2006... She is a good friend of many of us. Everybody makes mistakes, and I would like to believe that the Wikimedia movement is a place of forgiveness and compassion."

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales declined to comment on personnel matters. Mr Wales did say that he "very, very strongly condemns such editing, and this is no exception".

It is not clear which pages were edited for pay. (© Independent News Service)

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