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Almost 400 Wikipedia accounts banned for running paid article 'shakedowns'

Following an investigation, Wikipedia editors have banned 381 accounts for working on paid articles without disclosure and extorting money from users, according to a post on Wikipedia's administrator board that was first flagged by Fusion.

A Wikipedia protection racket

The investigation — called "Orangemoody," after the first account editors discovered — focused on a series of accounts running what sounds like a protection racket. The "sock puppet" accounts would target users who had a requested change declined, offering to publish them instead for a fee, and sometimes impersonating experienced editors to give themselves credit. (Some of the accounts would make several minor changes to become "autoconfirmed" by Wikipedia, giving them a way to review their own bogus articles.) But after publication, the sock accounts asked for more, requesting as much as $30 per month to prevent articles from being changed or vandalized. The site's investigation was spurred by the Checkuser team and specifically targeted accounts running between April and August.

This is hardly the first tussle Wikipedia has had over clandestine edit work, but the editors involved say some parts of the scam are novel. "The use of declined drafts (and in some cases deleted articles) to identify and approach potential clients is a new wrinkle in the way paid editing is being conducted," according to the administrator board. "The return to demand further money to 'protect' the article is also significant, and we do have examples of socks proceeding to request deletion of pages." Wikipedia editors have published a list of the articles related to the investigation.