Wiki World

BP Has Nothing Better to Do Than to Rewrite Its Own Wikipedia Entry

BP is the best company in the world! - BP Exec
The oil spill, as seen from space. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The oil spill, as seen from space. (Photo: Wikipedia)

If you can’t clean up all the dirty oil your tankers have dumped into the ocean, what’s the next best thing? Cleaning up your Wikipedia page, naturally.

CNET reports that Wikipedia editors are up in arms over a certain user named “Arturo at BP,” a BP representative who they estimate has rewritten 44 percent of British Petroleum’s Wikipedia page, including sections about the company’s environmental record. (As a reminder, this is the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.)

Writes one Wikipedia editor:

I know very little about BP and have no particular interest in it. My concern here is that it’s a controversial company (fairly or unfairly) that is being allowed to rewrite the article about itself by proxy, without this being signalled to the reader.

In using BP’s drafts, editors are using unpublished primary source material, and letting it set the tone entirely by slotting it into the article without quotation marks and without attributing it to BP. These drafts give us BP’s views of itself, or BP’s summary of the secondary sources BP has chosen to highlight.

As CNET notes, the company may be attempting to clean up its public online image as it gears up for an April 5th hearing regarding a class action suit brought by individuals and businesses negatively impacted by the 2010 spill. So if you see any lines about BP being voted the number-one company for customer satisfaction, you might want to check another source on that one.

Update: BP provided Betabeat with the following statement.

Arturo Silva is a full-time BP employee assigned to the Group’s Corporate Communications team in Houston.

Among his many responsibilities, Silva has been leading our project to openly engage with Wikipedia editors and offer suggestions to improve the accuracy of the BP Wikipedia article.

BP operates within Wikipedia’s guidelines for how company representatives should interact with the site’s editors. For nearly a year now, we have been fully transparent, never directly editing any copy and always disclosing that any suggestions we offer to Wikipedia’s editors have come from a BP representative.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com