- By Nurin Abad
A wave of rogue editors on the famous knowledge sharing website Wikipedia have hit hundreds of small British Businesses and minor celebrity figures with blackmail demands.
The victims, who range from wedding photographers in Dorset to a high-end jewellery shop in Shoreditch, East London, faced demands to pay hundreds of pounds to ‘protect’ or update Wikipedia pages about their businesses.
A former talent show contestant from ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ was among dozens of individuals targeted by the extortion.
Wikipedia took action today against what it confirmed as a co-ordinated group of fraudsters by blocking all of their 381 accounts. An investigation found that the accounts were controlled by Wikipedia users offering to change articles about companies and private individuals in exchange for financial payment. In many cases these requests for payment amounted to blackmail.
The crackdown was the climax of two months’ investigative work by Wikipedia, after the discovery of the first suspicious account earlier this year. The investigation internally dubbed “Orangemoddy” has concluded that many of the accounts were “sock puppets”, meaning that the accounts were controlled by the same person. The true identity of the scammers are still unknown.
The scam worked by targeting companies struggling to get pages about their business on to Wikipedia, after often being rejected due to internal policies, however it is believed that in some cases the blackmailers themselves may have been responsible for the pages being rejected or causing the pages to be removed.
According to a Wikipedia insider, it was at this stage that the scammers would demand financial payment of several hundred pounds to successfully re-post or resurface the articles. In some cases monthly payments were demanded to protect the articles from further disruption.
The fraudsters posed as Wikipedia editors and administrators.
Wikipedia with almost five million English articles uses a global team of 250’000 people to protect the authenticity of it’s content, but the fraudsters managed to highlight a clear weakness in the company’s reliance on volunteers to create and edit it’s online content, leaving it vulnerable to abuse.
Once the fraudsters had been paid, the articles were then reviewed by another Wikipedia user account run by the blackmailing group, making the articles once more ready for publication.