BP accused of rewriting environmental record on Wikipedia
A slick of oil is seen on the beach after it washed ashore from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on July 4, 2010 in Gulf Shores, Ala.(Credit:Getty Images)
Oil giant British Petroleum is well-known for the Deepwater Oil Horizon disaster and its much-criticized handling of the cleanups aftermath. But you might want to think twice before you read about the event, or the companys environmental record, on Wikipedia.
Angry Wikipedia editors estimate that BP has rewritten 44 percent of the page about itself, especially about its environmental performance.
This comes to light just as a federal judge has scheduled a hearing for April 5 on BPs request to prevent payments of what the oil company calls fictitious or inflated claims in a class action settlement reached with victims of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (Gulf of Mexico) oil spill.
BP says the claims could cost it billions of dollars. Weve contacted the company for more explanation and will update the story when we hear back.
BPs emergency request for the hearing is in the civil trial currently under way in New Orleans which, according to The Economist, will apportion blame for the accident, determine how much oil gushed out, and apply financial penalties.
Meanwhile, the company may be working on cleaning up its environmental record on Wikipedia -- in a way that leaves the Wikipedia reader none the wiser.
BP is not directly editing its page, but instead has apparently inserted a BP representative into the editing community who provides Wikipedia editors with text.
The text is then copied as is onto the page by Wikipedia editors, while readers are none the wiser that the sections pretending to be unbiased information are, in fact, vetted by higher-ups at BP before hitting the page.
Sections edited by User:Arturo at BP include the sections Alternative Energy, Allegations of greenwashing, and Environmental record, among others.
Arturo BP, who identifies himself as a member of BPs press office, is providing the content for Wikipedias BP page, especially about the companys environmental performance. He skirts direct page editing prohibitions by posting a notice on the BP talk page, and then Wikipedia editors copy and paste the content as provided onto BPs page.
Arturo BP states on his User page:
I have established this account to help improve BP-related articles in line with Wikipedia standards and guidelines.
On his Talk page, where the material from BP to be published on Wikipedia is posted, he adds:
The information I present from news sources is verified by the various subject matter experts within the company. I am not an expert myself on all of the topics and I want to make sure that any proposed language from news sources used is actually accurate. Arturo at BP (talk)
BPs image cleanup cleverly skirts Wikipedias editorial rules, wherein Wikipedia editors are using text that BP posts on Wikipedia itself as the source (although the text is not published on BPs Web site).
This way, the significant involvement of BP in its own entry is completely hidden from Wikipedia readers -- while Wikipedia editors, as usual, argue and attack each other over editorial policy while BPs favorable PR editing continues.
The image cleanup also cleverly takes advantage of an editing community that is easily exploited by editorial disagreement. Related storiesCorruption in Wikiland? Paid PR scandal erupts at WikipediaWikipedia honcho caught in scandal quits, defends paid edits
Arguments about BPs involvement in Wikipedias editing community have begun to rage and become personal. And its unclear who the editors are that are blindly copying and pasting BPs version of its environmental record onto the page, and hitting Publish.
Wikipedias editing community is afire with BP-ignited arguments about policy, paid editing, and whether or not this is the new direction of Wikipedia -- if it will be paid editing or working with companies and article subjects in its eternal quest for article accuracy.
There appears to be a faction of Wikipedia editors who are very welcoming to PR companies and the PR departments of businesses.
If they get their way, whats on the BP page about Deepwater Horizon is foreshadowing the future of Wikipedia, and the accuracy of its content.
And what better way to illustrate this than with a petroleum megacorporation writing its own Wikipedia entry?
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