No, Wikipedia Is Not Experimenting With Ads

On Thursday, some users saw images that claimed to be "sponsored."
More
If Wikipedia ever gets ads, they won’t look this bad. (Wikipedia)

Yesterday, Wikipedia users saw images on entries that looked like—and claimed to be—ads. Affected entries included those for Mahjong and Hong Kong.

The “ad” images were racist, featuring badly photoshopped photographs of black people and the president, accompanied by a message calling for his impeachment. 

A representative of Wikimedia, the non-profit that operates the encyclopedia, has confirmed that the images were no ads at all, but the product of vandalism. 

Yesterday there was some brief vandalism on a common Wikipedia style template, which impacted the appearance of a lot of articles,” said Wikimedia spokesman Jay Walsh in an email.

“It was not posted for very long, but that short ‘sponsorship’ message vandalism is what you saw. Wikipedians reverted it right away,” he wrote.

I’ve seen tweets floating around alleging that the images were ads. It’s not true—the free encyclopedia has long subsisted mostly on donations. Displaying ads would indicate a major change in policy.

Displaying-content-for-money is also now an especially fraught issue for Wikipedia. In October, an investigation by the Daily Dot revealed a massive network of users was paid to edit the encyclopedia to improve corporate entries. Wikimedia cracked down on those accounts, and has continued investigating exploitation of the encyclopedia for public relations. 

Although Wikipedia struggles with maintaining the quality and quantity of editors overall, it remains a crucial information source for millions and one of the top ten most-visited websites globally.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Where the Wildest Things Are

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In