You will find an introduction to the question and the proposal from the Wikimedia Foundation Legal Department below.
- 1 TOU Amendment: Paid contribution disclosure
- 2 FAQ on disclosure of paid contributions
- 2.1 Why is this disclosure provision necessary?
- 2.2 What is the "applicable law" for paid contributions on Wikipedia? Are undisclosed paid contributions potentially illegal?
- 2.3 Are there other possible negative effects of paid contributions?
- 2.4 What do you mean by “contribution”?
- 2.5 What do you mean by “compensation”?
- 2.6 What does the phrase “employer, client, and affiliation” mean?
- 2.7 Are paid editing disclosures required only when editing Wikipedia articles?
- 2.8 Does this provision mean that paid contributions are always allowed as long as I make the disclosure?
- 2.9 Does this mean that Wikimedia projects must change their policies?
- 2.10 How should I disclose paid contributions in my user page?
- 2.11 How should I disclose paid contributions in my edit summary?
- 2.12 How should I disclose paid contributions on a talk page?
- 2.13 Do I have to disclose the details of the compensation I am receiving?
- 2.14 References
TOU Amendment: Paid contribution disclosure
- Paid contributions without disclosure
- a statement on your user page,
- a statement on the talk page accompanying any paid contributions, or
- a statement in the edit summary accompanying any paid contributions.
Applicable law, or community and Foundation policies and guidelines, such as those addressing conflicts of interest, may further limit paid contributions or require more detailed disclosure. For more information, please read our background note on disclosure of paid contributions.
FAQ on disclosure of paid contributions
Why is this disclosure provision necessary?
What is the "applicable law" for paid contributions on Wikipedia? Are undisclosed paid contributions potentially illegal?
We cannot advise you about specific legal requirements, and you should employ your own lawyer if you have questions. That said, as general background, deceptive business practices, including concealment of a professional affiliation in specific cases, are prohibited in multiple jurisdictions. In the United States, for example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the nationwide authority to regulate unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce. As the FTC illustrated in the below example, those failing to disclose a regulated company’s affiliation online may be subject to liability:
An online message board designated for discussions of new music download technology is frequented by MP3 player enthusiasts. They exchange information about new products, utilities, and the functionality of numerous playback devices. Unbeknownst to the message board community, an employee of a leading playback device manufacturer has been posting messages on the discussion board promoting the manufacturer’s product. Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of her endorsement. Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her relationship to the manufacturer to members and readers of the message board.
The FTC’s guide Dot Com Disclosures specifies that “disclosures must be communicated effectively so that consumers are likely to notice and understand them in connection with the representations that the disclosures modify.” For state law implications, see, e.g., N.Y. Attorney General’s 2013 investigation regarding companies engaging in astroturfing.
Laws applicable outside the US may also prohibit non-disclosure of paid contributions. The EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (and the corresponding national versions) ban the practice of “[u]sing editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer” and “[f]alsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.” National legislation of EU member states may further restrict undisclosed paid contributions, such as through local competition laws, and, for similar reasons, local national courts may find violations in failing to disclose one’s affiliation on Wikipedia in the proper way.
Are there other possible negative effects of paid contributions?
There is an extreme likelihood that contributions which are paid for, but intentionally not disclosed as such, do not serve the public interest in a fair and beneficial manner. When considering the value of the contribution of content to the public on balance with the value of dissemination of the content, there is at least an implied conflict of interest that the balance will tend to serve the more private interests of the paid contributor. If it is accepted that this is the case more often than not, it is hard to imagine the expected outcome as a net positive for Wikipedia.
As repeated real life examples illustrate, undisclosed paid editing can have the unintended effect of causing negative public relations issues for companies, clients, and individuals. The press follows such stories closely. Failing to include a disclosure with a paid contribution may lead to a loss of trust with the broader public as well as the Wikimedia community. To maintain goodwill and to avoid misunderstandings, transparency and friendly cooperation is the best policy for those being compensated for Wikimedia contributions.
To avoid embarrassment, be sure to follow local policies regarding paid contributions, such as Wikipedia:Conflict of interest for the English Wikipedia.
What do you mean by “contribution”?
Non-minor edits and new articles you author.
What do you mean by “compensation”?
As used in this provision, “compensation” means an exchange of money, goods, or services.
What does the phrase “employer, client, and affiliation” mean?
This means the person or organization that is paying you compensation – money, goods, or services – with respect to any contribution to a Wikimedia project. This could be a business, a charity, an educational institution, a government department or another individual, for example. The disclosure requirement is simple, and requires you to provide this information in one of the three ways described above. If you are editing an article on Wikipedia on behalf of your employer, for example, you must disclose your employer's details. If you have been hired by a public relations firm to edit Wikipedia, you must disclose both the firm and the firm’s client. If you are a compensated Wikimedian in residence, for example, you must note the details of the GLAM organisation that is paying you.
Are paid editing disclosures required only when editing Wikipedia articles?
No, you must disclose your employment, client, and affiliation when making any type of paid contribution to any Wikimedia project. This includes edits on talk pages and edits on projects other than Wikipedia. That said, a simple disclosure on your user page satisfies this minimum requirement.
Does this provision mean that paid contributions are always allowed as long as I make the disclosure?
Does this mean that Wikimedia projects must change their policies?
No, unless their policies are inconsistent with these minimum requirements. Wikimedia projects are free to change their policies to reference this requirement or require stricter requirements for paid contributions. We encourage users to be respectful of user privacy and not harass others, even in cases of suspected paid contributions. For example, under the English Wikipedia policy on harassment, users must not publicly share personal information about other users.
How should I disclose paid contributions in my user page?
How should I disclose paid contributions in my edit summary?
You may represent your employer, affiliation, and client in the edit summary box before you “save” your edit or contribution. For example, before saving your edits to a Wikipedia article about your client, Jordan Smith, you may write this note in the edit summary box: “Jordan Smith has hired me to update their Wikipedia article” or “I work for Jordan Smith.”
How should I disclose paid contributions on a talk page?
You may represent your employer, affiliation, and client in the relevant talk page either before, or immediately after, you “save” your edit or contribution.
Do I have to disclose the details of the compensation I am receiving?
You do not have to disclose the amount or type of compensation you are receiving for editing; the minimum required is that you disclose your employer, client, and affiliation.
- Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(2) (2006)
- 16 C.F.R. §255.5, Example 8, p.12.
- Parino v. Bidrack, Inc., 838 F. Supp. 2d 900, 905 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (plaintiff’s allegations, including defendant’s creation and use of fake reviews on website, were sufficient to bring a claim under California’s Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law)
- Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament (Annex I, points 11 and 22).