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Wikimedia Foundation caught self-promoting on Wikipedia

By Gregory Kohs

 

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On Thursday, February 19, the organization that operates Wikipedia posted a blog article that proudly declared, “Research finds the Wikimedia Foundation to be the largest known Participatory Grantmaking Fund”. Shortly after this was published, the Wikipedia criticism site, Wikipediocracy.com, revealed how the Wikimedia Foundation had hired a French firm that has basically adopted the phrase “Participatory Grantmaking” as a proprietary discussion point, and the firm not surprisingly declared its paying client as the winner of sorts in the category it was hired to investigate. Even worse, several Wikimedia Foundation employees had created and enhanced Wikipedia’s own article about participatory grantmaking, using a white paper by the same consulting firm as its predominant “reliable source”. None of the employees had disclosed on Wikipedia that the Wikimedia Foundation was a paying client of the source’s author, which may have been a violation of the foundation’s own “Terms of Use” regarding disclosure on Wikipedia. After a long day of evasion by both the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) and the consulting firm, the foundation finally relented and published an attempted clarification on its blog, on February 20. But other evidence suggests the WMF may still be a long way from explaining itself.

The blog post, written by WMF employee Katy Love, described how the WMF had hired a consulting firm called The LaFayette Practice to write a report that in turn determines that its own client, the WMF, is the largest “Participatory Grantmaking” fund in the world. You may never have heard of this phrase, participatory grantmaking, because (according to Google Books and Google Scholar) prior to about 2009, the phrase had never been written in any book or any academic paper. It is a neologism. Indeed, if you search Google for

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