Organisation of scamming sock puppet editors deleted off Wikipedia

2 Sep 2015

Wikimedia are clamping down on one organisation that has been encouraging black hat use of Wikipedia by creating favourable articles for a fee.

The black hat Wikipedia article editors are referred to as sock puppets online and by the English language versions of the site and for some time have been found to have been creating promotional articles, inserting promotional external links and editing disruptively on the site.

According to its blog post on the subject, the site’s moderators led an investigation dubbed Orangemoody, named after the first sock puppet account to have been uncovered.

Since it began, the operation was able to uncover 381 sock puppet accounts, all part of a “very large group”, which were receiving money for their edits and, when investigated by the moderators, were found to have been hiding who had been paying them.

In total, 210 articles were written by these sock puppets and, according to a Wikimedia statement on the matter, were related to “businesses, business people, or artists, were generally promotional in nature, and often included biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations.”

Orangemoody operation

An illustration showing the connection between the different sock puppet accounts with yellow bubbles showing IP addresses and green bubbles showing accounts. Image via Wikimedia Commons

All of the affected articles – a list of which has been posted online – have now been deleted in a sweeping move by Wikipedia.

“It is important to break the cycle of payment demands,” the Wikipedia statement said, “and to make it clear that the Wikipedia community, and not a small group of paid editor accounts, controls the content of this project.”

Meanwhile, a number of businesses who were included in the list of pages that had been changed by the black hat group are claiming they were scammed into it.

Speaking to the BBC, the general manager of a company called Quality Villas claims he was approached by someone claiming to be from Wikipedia who offered to get their page on the online encyclopaedia for a fee of US$400.

“I’d never written a post for Wikipedia before,” the man said. “For me it seemed like an easy solution.”

Sock puppet image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic