For your information to distribute - have you seen this article culled
from slashdot about Walmart knobbling wiki? I find this very sinister -
I thought Wiki could guard against this sort of thing. If verified marks
an important development, though hardly surprising.

By Richard Demsyn (Fri, 28 Apr 2006 12:37:58 +0100) 

For up to two years Wal-mart lobbyists have successfully waged a war
against a fair viewpoint on Wikipedia's Wal-mart page[1]. Although the
Wal-mart page was originally highly critical of Wal-mart, it has slowly
shifted to a very positive perspective. Although Wikipedia maintains a
'Neutral Point of View' (NPOV) policy[2], the Wal-mart page is highly
biased. Additionally, all criticism has, contrary to policy, practice,
and the general opinion of those concerned, been moved to a Debates Over
Wal-mart section[3]. Even that page has noticeable resistance to
negative points of view about Wal-mart.

My query into Wal-mart and Wikipedia started on Friday, April 14. I went
to the page to find information on Wal-mart's union issues in Quebec,
which had been a large issue in the media here. I found just one small
entry on a timeline, saying '2004: Wal-Mart employees in Jonquière,
Quebec, Canada vote in favour of becoming the first unionized Wal-Mart
in North America. Five months later, Wal-Mart announces that it would
close the store, citing poor sales.' The corresponding page, Debates
over Wal-mart, has no mention of the issue, or even Quebec at all. I
found it very curios that such an important and popular issue was barely

My first reaction was to think that Wal-mart, one of the largest and
most powerful capitalist enterprises in the world, has lobbyists
progressing the Wikipedia page into propaganda. Trying to be wary, I
took some time to gather information and discuss the theory with others,
and found nothing contrary to my original impression, and only evidence
supporting it.

Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopaedia. It uses a model of
information where anybody can contribute. Although this leads to some
vandalism and some disinformation, almost always an accurate and
knowledgeable viewpoint prevails. The project has brought thousands of
intelligent people devoted to its cause. The model is effective enough
that my own user page was once vandalized, and then fixed by another
user a single minute later, without me knowing for another three months.
Rarely has there been enough interest in spreading disinformation to
cause a lengthy disruption to an article. We usually see that contained
to very controversial political issues, such as the page for President
George W. Bush, particularly around the 2004 election. We've also seen
numerous edits by US congressional staff[4]. However, nothing I've seen
before has been has been this bad: on an article so large, often
visited, and been so successful so long after being discovered by the
NPOV folk at Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia page Wal-mart was originally small and haphazard. Starting
in February 2004, there was a sharp increase in edits to the page. In
September, 2004, the edit number ballooned, and since then has continued
to grow. There has been a lot of work by Wikipedia regulars to bring
fairness and quality to the article, but an equal disruptive force has
been caused by lobbyists. Now, the page will have over a dozen edits on
any average day.

My own short experience with this article makes a fair example. After
bringing up discussion on the topic in Wikipedia's generally IRC
channel, a fellow user, Bogdangiusca, who had fought for a NPOV on the
article as far back as May 1, 2005, added a totally disputed tag[5].
This tag would mean that anyone visiting the page would see a red block
at the top indicating that 'The neutrality and factual accuracy of this
article are disputed'. This tag was removed the next day. The person who
did so then defaced Bogdangiusca's user page with a long paragraph
demanding that Bogdangiusca stop any contribution to the Wal-mart
page[6]. The user claimed to be an employee of Wal-mart and lamented,
'So why don’t you just keep to what you know and allow those that do
have facts about walmart to create an accurate picture of walmart for
the world.' This pattern has been repeated over and over again about the
Wal-mart page. Many users struggling for a NPOV have had their pages
defaced, and defacers have in the past been banned.

So who are the lobbyists, and what do they look like? Unfortunately it
is very difficult to prove that any one user is corrupted, let alone
paid for this by a particular company, especially with only a few days
of research. Sorting through thousands of edits and user contribution
pages is not an easy task[7]. A lot of these edits are done by anonymous
users, just IPs to me. Some others actually have logins. Usually these
accounts have very few edits other than on the Wal-mart page, and they
have either blank user pages or simple statements. Sometimes they just
edit out sentences that aren't favourable to Wal-mart. Sometimes they
add more propaganda to the page. Sometimes they will follow an
unfavourable mention with a revert, possibly back through several edits
to a pro-Wal-mart addition.

The simple fact that there is a separate Debates over Wal-mart page is
incriminating. This isn't an accepted Wikipedia policy. In other
articles contrary opinions are still embedded, even if at times the page
will link to secondary articles on smaller topics if they cannot be
explained in full on the current page. Any reference articles will be
read less than the main article, so despite a link on Wal-mart to
Debates over Wal-mart, the debates page will be read less. Even then, it
is currently introduced with the following view:

                        'From a financial standpoint, Wal-Mart is one of
                        the most successful corporations ever; the
                        company has generated a total return to
                        shareholders greater than 180,000% since its
                        initial public offering. Academic research,
                        business leaders and trade publications praise
                        Wal-Mart for benefiting consumers by lowering
                        prices and increasing Overall productivity.'

Like many successful businesses, however, Wal-Mart is a target of much
criticism. Critics, such as trade unions and environmental groups, state
that the company's success derives from business practices harmful to
employees, local communities, the economy and the environment.'

After all analysis, Wal-mart is clearly 'point of view'. The page is
highly supportive of Wal-mart, and lobbyists will not allow anything
contrary to last. It reads like a propaganda piece. It is unprecedented
that such support would come from random, untainted users. The support
is aggressive, unfair, distributed, and over an extended period of time.
The only conclusion I can make is that Wal-mart has used its economic
power to hire lobbyists who as part of their job use Wikipedia to spread
disinformation for the benefit of Wal-mart. This stands as a powerful
strike against the very integrity of Wikipedia.

      * [1]
      * [2]
      * [3]
      * [4]
      * [5]
      * [6]
      * [7]

"When the multitude detests a man, inquiry is necessary; when the
multitude likes a man, inquiry is equally necessary."
Confucius, Analects (circa 6th century BC)

Or more pertinently:
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." 
Benjamin Franklin

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