The co-founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales has criticised Bell Pottinger’s “ethical blindness” as the lobbying company admitted altering details of its clients’ reputations online.
Bell Pottinger last night said that its digital team used a number of accounts to edit Wikipedia articles, although it stressed it had never done anything illegal.
“I am astonished at the ethical blindness of Bell Pottinger’s reaction. That their strongest true response is they didn’t break the law tells a lot about their view of the world, I’m afraid.” said Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales
“The company committed the cardinal sin of a PR and lobbying company of having their own bad behaviour bring bad headlines to their clients, [and] did so in a fashion that brought no corresponding benefits.
He added: “There are ethical PR companies out there.”
According to reports Bell Pottinger made hundreds of alterations to Wikipedia entries about its clients in the last year. Several Wikipedia accounts have been suspended pending an investigation by Mr Wales.
Among the changes made in the past year by a user – traced to a Bell Pottinger computer – who made the alterations under the pseudonym “Biggleswiki” were:
- Removal of the reference to the university drugs conviction of a businessman who was a client of Bell Pottinger;
- Edited material relating to the arrest of a man accused of commercial bribery;
- Editing of the entries for prostate cancer expert Professor Roger Kirby and his firm, The Prostate Centre. Both are clients of Bell Pottinger. The user added Mr Kirby into a separate page on “prostatectomy” as a notable expert, and edited the entry on the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to include comments made by Mr Kirby about Megrahi’s cancer.
- Editing the articles of both Chime Communications, parent company of Bell Pottinger, and Naked Eye Research after the former company bought 55 per cent of the latter.
Bell Pottinger’s executives claimed they had mastered the internet, could manipulate Google searches and whitewash Wikipedia entries on behalf of clients who paid handsomely for the services.