Do you ever wonder who updates the Wikipedia pages of celebrities? In many cases, it’s the fans. In others, it’s the “orchestra of users” who feel obligated to maintain a service they use for free. But have you ever looked at an entry so free from even remotely negative facts about the subject and thought, “Did they pay for this?” According to the New York Times, you may have been right.
Sunshine Sachs is a P.R. firm that specializes “in crisis communications and the representation of Hollywood clients who have included Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its Golden Globe Awards.” Another specialty is, uh, maintaining their clients’ Wikipedia pages. Their recent “brush up” of Naomi Campbell’s page “to eliminate a potentially embarrassing reference to Babywoman as a ‘critical and commercial failure’” sparked an investigation into their practices.
Wikipedia’s new guidelines don’t ban paid edits, but they do require disclosure of those making them. And Mr. Sunshine (no, really) is really sorry for breaking the rules.
A researcher named Jack Craver recently posted some of the Sunshine edits he discovered. “Many of the edits Sunshine employees have made are innocuous – even helpful,” he writes. But some are just plain hilarious.
In his first major edit to Campbell’s biography, [user] Alexdltb deleted a reference to the negative reviews of Campbell’s 1994 ghostwritten novel, “Swan.” He deleted the last three words of the following sentence: “Her novel ‘Swan’, about a supermodel dealing with blackmail, was released in 1994 to poor reviews.” In the same edit...Alexdltb also deleted the words “ill-fated” from a sentence regarding an unsuccessful restaurant chain Campbell had invested in.
Craver also found plenty of edits to Mia Farrow’s page.
A log of edits showed at least 18 changes this year to an entry about Ms. Farrow.
In one of those changes, for instance, an entry describing a visit to Ecuador deleted the words: “Farrow’s activities in Ecuador, however, garnered negative publicity.”
One Wikipedia edit Craver didn’t bring up?
Lorde’s page from August 25, 2014:
Lorde’s page now:
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Images via screengrab.