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Indian Fakers Teach Wiki PR

by E. A. Barbour

In our research on paid editing on the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, we discovered a number of administrators whose financial interest conflicted with their involvement in the project. One example stands out.

Editor Wifione joined Wikipedia at the beginning of April 2009, although he did not start editing properly until the end of June. The gap may be explained by the rumor that he was the reincarnation of another editor (Nichalp), a Wikipedia ‘bureaucrat’ (senior administrator) who was forced out in disgrace after he was found to have used sockpuppet accounts to edit for payment. Nichalp was the first bureaucrat in Wikipedia history to be removed “for cause”.

In his four year career at Wikipedia, three of them in a position of trust, Wifione has been part of a campaign of censorship and misinformation that has been waged across the internet by powerful vested interests. It is a campaign, according to one commentator, that is in some ways more damaging than China’s practice of locking up dissidents, because it is more insidious and less visible.

This is the story of how such a thing was possible in a project where the principles of free knowledge and freedom from censorship are held as sacred and inviolable.

Indian Institute of Planning and Management

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Wifione’s mission was to promote the interests of a group of Indian business schools, the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, owned by flamboyant millionaire businessman Arindam Chaudhuri. You cannot escape the Institute’s advertising presence in India: bold, glossy ads promising job placements for its students, multinationals recruiting on campus, affiliation with other accredited institutions, awards of degrees from those institutions and so on. Hundreds or thousands of

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