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PR man Tony Ahn banned from Wikipedia over ‘paid edits and account abuse’

A PR man, who made a name for himself around writing Wikipedia profiles on behalf of brands and celebrities, has been banned from the site for allegedly “abusing” his editor status.

Tony Ahn

Tony Ahn, who runs the Philippines agency Tony Ahn & Co, has had his account blocked with the online encyclopaedia following a vote by its editorial community, who claimed he “violated the free spirit of Wikipedia”. 

Ahn, who was once called a “disgrace” by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, was accused of using multiple accounts to post favourable articles and edits for mainly Filipino businesses and celebrities during a discussion on the site’s ‘Conflict of Interest’ page – for the voluntary editor community.

Ahn has denied all the accusations and has said he intends to appeal the vote.

In the publicly available discussion, a number of articles by the American expatriate were cited for deletion. These included articles on Transocean Singapore, the Philippines Savings Bank and a piece on Filipina television host, Daphne Osena-Paez, of whom Ahn publicly boasted to have got on Wikipedia’s front page. 

 

Cited for deletion: Wikipedia’s article by Ahn on Daphne Osena-Paez

Editors also cited the Mumbrella Asia 2014 interview with Ahn, whereby he explained his method for getting people on Wikipedia without press coverage – the minimum requirement for having a page.

He said at the time: “This is an issue that isn’t impossible to get around. You have to have press coverage to get on Wikipedia. So I have placed articles in the press on behalf of clients. If you don’t have press, I can get you press – because I work in PR. I can set up an interview with a newspaper, and then write the Wikipedia article. If I have to get you two insertions, then the Wiki article it’s 75,000 Philippine pesos for the whole lot.”

Following the discussion, a collective of editors voted for the removal of Ahn’s primary account, ‘I am Tony Ahn’ and others that were claimed to be managed by him.

One editor under the name of Per Athaenara said: “Ahn and his associates/colleagues should be permanently blocked from editing Wikipedia, with every article they have ever written (including Tony Ahn) under every account put under the most ruthless scrutiny and very likely deleted for subversion of this encyclopaedia into an advertising vehicle.

“His quid pro quo with his client or clients is no different from receiving cash benefits and is therefore certainly not a ‘pro bono’ as he claims. To allow this kind of blatant advertising of his offer of services to make money out of a volunteer created encyclopaedia is patently absurd.”

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia about the allegations against him, Ahn said: “A problem that has long plagued the Wikipedia community is its editors not knowing its own guidelines.

“The articles they judged in violation of the paid editing rules were added to Wikipedia before there were any paid editing rules. In effect I have been sanctioned for 2011 actions that broke rules implemented in 2014.

“What’s equally concerning is the fact that a previous administrator adjudged me compliant with Wikipedia’s disclosure rules in 2016, and Roger Davies, a member of the Arbitration Committee, (Wikipedia’s ‘Supreme Court’) advised me in an email before I started paid editing that ‘what you propose doing…sounds sensible’. Davies informed all the committee members of my intentions, and none protested or warned me against implementing my plan.

“This just demonstrates that English Wikipedia cannot make up its mind. German Wikipedia allows brands to have accounts so their edits can be monitored for adherence to community standards. As a result, they don’t have near the number of problems with brand-initiated edits as English Wikipedia. I plan to appeal this ruling.”

In addition, Ahn denied using multiple accounts, claiming he only ever used a professional and personal profile.

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