Board letter on paid contributions without disclosure

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Letter from the Board[edit]

The Board has closely followed the public discussion on mandating disclosure of paid editing in the Terms of Use. We thank everyone who invested time in sharing their thoughts and experiences. Your comments were extremely useful in understanding different points of view on this complex issue.

As a result of this consultation, and our own review and discussion, we are amending the Terms of Use to mandate disclosure of paid editing. This reflects the strong support for this initiative in the public discussion. The Terms of Use will now require editors to "disclose [their] employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which [they] receive, or expect to receive, compensation" on a relevant user page, talk page, or edit summary. Individual projects may opt out by adopting an alternative paid editing disclosure policy.

This amendment intends to provide guidance and information for good-faith editors; to assist the community and Foundation in evaluating and handling paid advocacy editing; and to allow responsiveness to local conditions and needs.

It complements existing rules and policies that work together to maintain and improve the trustworthiness of Wikimedia content. For example, the Terms of Use already prohibit deceitful activities, and this amendment helps explain how to represent one's affiliation to avoid running afoul of those terms. In addition to legal requirements, many community policies require or strongly encourage disclosure of paid editing as a potential conflict of interest.

Several editors raised concerns about the impact of this amendment on good-faith editors, such as first-time editors who aren’t familiar with our rules, or editors who work on projects with GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) or with universities. We ask everyone to be respectful of others and to help enforce existing community practices and policies about privacy and harassment, even in cases of suspected paid advocacy editing. The amendment is not intended to impact participants in GLAM projects, or professors, when they are writing about topics of general interest on their own, rather than writing about their own institutions while being compensated directly quid pro quo, for example.

Given the complexity of the issue, the Wikimedia Foundation will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the amendment, and remain open to changes as necessary to improve it. We thank everyone who participated in the community consultation.

If you have further comments, you may leave feedback on Meta. Details on the legal issues and risk associated with undisclosed paid advocacy editing may be found in this FAQ.

Language of the Amendment[edit]

The language of the amendment - set out below - reflects the original version proposed to the community, plus the “option 3” version raised in the community discussion. This "option 3" version gives communities discretion to adjust the rules for their specific community after following standard consensus-driven decision-making processes.

For the above reasons, effective June 16, 2014, the following text will be added to the end of Section 4 ("Refraining from Certain Activities") of the Terms of Use:

Paid contributions without disclosure

These Terms of Use prohibit engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation, impersonation, and fraud. As part of these obligations, you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation. You must make that disclosure in at least one of the following ways:

  • 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. A Wikimedia Project community may adopt an alternative paid contribution disclosure policy. If a Project adopts an alternative disclosure policy, you may comply with that policy instead of the requirements in this section when contributing to that Project. An alternative paid contribution policy will only supersede these requirements if it is approved by the relevant Project community and listed in the alternative disclosure policy page.

For more information, please read our FAQ on disclosure of paid contributions.