Back in 2011, Koch Industries was caught using a paid PR firm to "airbrush" its Wikipedia profile. Since then, allegations were made on Reddit in 2013 that the Koch Industries page was "whitewashed" and even Wikipedia, itself, contained allegations that Charles Koch's "bio reads like it was written by Mr. Koch himself or his staff." However, there was no direct evidence of wrongdoing...UNTIL NOW. We sent one of our own "undercover" over the last week or so, and he uncovered direct evidence of specific users employing unethical practices to "whitewash" Koch Industries' Wikipedia presence over a multi-year period. That evidence now sits with the Wikipedia administrators. Read below the fold for a detailed view as to how the scheme allegedly works and how we exposed it.
The Specific Allegation
This evidence strongly suggests that, over a period of YEARS (at least 2012), individual accounts directed by Koch Industries and/or operating on its behalf have:
How We Exposed Koch Industries' Alleged Scheme
1) Systematically removed content containing specific citations that paint the company in a negative light.
2) Responded to negative content with a "playbook" that consists of objecting on the grounds of various arcane Wikipedia rules and/or making broad sweeping objections while steadfastly refusing to engage with or discuss the specific negative content itself.
3) Posted company statements, and other astroturf that links to company-owned websites, both in place of and in addition to organic Wikipedia content.
The evidence presented is strongly suggestive of a pattern of long-term abuse, by multiple users, who have diligently worked to exclude and divert negative information from pages related to the Kochs over a multi-year period. Furthermore, the sophisticated efforts to divert negative information from SERPS and seeming use of a "playbook" to suppress negative content are suggestive of an organized reputation management effort.
Our "undercover agent" tried to post a "Legal and Regulatory Events" section to the Koch Industries article. This is what the article looked like with our edit. After our edit was reverted, users associated with the scheme interacted with our "undercover agent" on the Koch Industries talk thread. Users Arthur Rubin, springee, Capitalismojo, and AdventurousSquirrel repeatedly tried to cite arcane Wikipedia rules and make broad statements that the content wasn't relevant. However, when we posted a complete list of specific proposed changes, each with supporting detail, it was impossible for them to continue the ruse. The "truth-blitz" caught them off-guard!
What our "agent" did not know at the time was that the pattern of behavior we observed, and worse, had been going on for years. Per the case before the Wikipedia administrators:
FOR YEARS, anybody who has tried to cite either of these two critical articles (Jane Mayer's New Yorker article or the Rolling Stone's "Inside the Koch Brothers' Toxic Empire), for any reason, has had their content summarily reverted without explanation. The talk archives for Koch_Industries have multiple angry posts asking why such posts had been taken down, such as this one, which implicates our own Arthur Rubin. In other cases, the same type of behavior that I observed (objecting to the posting of critical content from new users by citing obscure Wikipedia WP: policies while refusing to engage with the content, itself) has been discussed.
Furthermore, the Koch Industries article was not the only one being Astroturfed:
Some of the comments in the cited Americans For Prosperity thread above also show a strong reluctance, from a "loyal opposition", to allow noteworthy (but unflattering) information about the Kochs to appear....Springee wrote "I don't think the citations rise to the level of rock solid" (the primary, but not even the only, citations in question were articles that appeared in the The Washington Post, one of the most widely circulated and respected newspapers in the United States). Arthur Rubin argued "current coverage of the Kochs is excessive". AdventurousSquirrel is also very active in the thread but his arguments (again, against the negative information--which seems to be a consistent position for him as well) are reasonable and justified.
And, the Charles Koch article
has been "whitewashed" by this same cast of characters going back as far as 2013:
It seems this same cast of characters has also been involved with sanitizing the Charles Koch page over an extended period of time.
This type of abuse impugns the integrity of Wikipedia and constitutes a clear violation of its Terms of Service. We are calling on the Wikimedia Foundation to do swift justice to Koch Industries and all users involved in its protracted Astroturf campaign!
In response to one anonymous user's observation on the talk page that "This bio reads like it was written by Mr. Koch himself or his staff" roughly two years ago, Arthur Rubin justifies having all of the critical information on a separate page (that conveniently doesn't rank in SERPS for "Charles Koch").
AdventurousSquirrel also objected to including negative information from the separate page in the main Charles Koch profile on the Charles Koch talk page (under "inclusion of JBS") in 2012.