Governments paying for Wikipedia edits?

CNet's Violet Blue reports on a Wikipedia conflict-of-interest scandal:

Roger Bamkin, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation UK, whose LinkedIn page describes him as a high-return-earning PR consultant, appeared to be using Wikipedia's main page "Did You Know" feature and the resources of Wikipedia's GLAM WikiProject (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) initiative to pimp his client's project.

Bamkin's current client is the country of Gibraltar.

In August, Gibraltar was featured as a Wikipedia DYK front page feature an astonishing seventeen times - that's an unusual frequency of every 2-3 days.

Other than the Olympics, it is the only repeated topic throughout the month.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales resonded: 

It is wildly inappropriate for a board member of a chapter, or anyone else in an official role of any kind in a charity associated with Wikipedia, to take payment from customers in exchange for securing favorable placement on the front page of Wikipedia or anywhere else. - Jimbo Wales (talk) 00:54, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

The story came out at the same time as an uproar began among Wikipedia community members over a "SEO-focused, PR-strategy Wikipedia page editing business" run by one of the site's "Wikipedians in residence."

The connection between Gibraltar and Bamkin is apparently related to a plan by the British colony's government to post QR codes  on tourist sites throughout the island linking visitors to relevant Wikipedia pages. 

I'm actually surprised we don't hear more stories like this -- especially on politically sensitive topics. For example, a Wikipedia search for "Diaoyu" currently redirects to the Senkaku Islands page.  That page is currently locked for editing, but I'm sure there are other international disputes in which interested governments would pay good money to promote their version of reality. 


Russia may block YouTube over Mohammed video

When Russia passed a new internet law billed as a crackdown on online child pornography back in July, critics worried that the law was vague enough that it could be used as a pretext to block political speech. It looks like the first test case for the law may not be anti-Putin agitators, but "The Innocence of Muslims":

MOSCOW, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Access to YouTube across Russia could be blocked under a new law that takes effect on Nov. 1 if the portal does not remove a video mocking the Prophet Mohammad, the country's communications minister said on Tuesday.[...]

"Because of this video, YouTube could be blocked throughout the territory of Russia," Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov, one of the opponents of the new law, wrote in his Twitter microblog. "If a law is passed it should be enforced." 

The video does contain discussions of pedophilia by Mohammed's followers, but it's not clear if that's the reason for the ban, as Leonid Bershidsky writes:

Some Internet users in the Chechen Republic joined a three-day boycott of Google and YouTube to protest against The Innocence of Muslims. “We will not allow these devils to insult Muslims,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said.

Suddenly, Russia's new Internet law wasn't just about children anymore. On September 17, Senator Ruslan Gattarov that the Prosecutor General act against the film, reasoning that The Innocence of Muslims was “no better than child pornography, only this was directed against Muslims.” The Prosecutor General's Office immediately proclaimed the movie “extremist” and filed suit to ban it. Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov tweeted: “This is no joke. Because of this clip, YouTube as a whole could be completely blocked in Russia."

Pakistan and Bangladesh have reportedly blocked access to YouTube because of the video. Google has agreed to block access to the clip itself in India, Indonesia, Libya, and Egypt, to comply with local laws. 

Russian courts now have five days to determine whether the video is "extremist," but blocking all of YouTube will seem like a pretty drastic step by Nov. 1, when the furor over the video will, hopefully, have died down.  In this case, my money is on Moscow blinking before Mountain View does.

But Nikiforov has also seemingly tipped the government's hand here: It's now pretty clear that the new Internet law is about more than just porn.