BizApps Wiki, the free Business Applications encyclopedia:Conflict of interest

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Conflict of interest (COI) editing involves contributing to BizApps Wiki about yourself, family, friends, clients, employers, or your financial and other relationships. Any external relationship can trigger a conflict of interest. That someone has a conflict of interest is a description of a situation, not a judgement about that person's opinions, integrity, or good faith.

COI editing is strongly discouraged on "BizApps Wiki". It undermines public confidence and risks causing public embarrassment to the individuals and companies being promoted. Editors with a COI are sometimes unaware of whether or how much it has influenced their editing. If COI editing causes disruption, an administrator may opt to place blocks on the involved accounts.

Editors with a COI, including paid editors, are expected to disclose it whenever they seek to change an affected article's content. Anyone editing for pay must disclose who is paying them, who the client is, and any other relevant affiliation; this is a requirement of the Tounca LLC as owner of "BizApps Wiki". COI editors should not edit affected articles directly, but should propose changes on article talk pages instead.

When investigating COI editing, do not reveal the identity of editors against their wishes. BizApps Wiki's policy against harassment, and in particular the prohibition against disclosing personal information, takes precedence over this guideline. To report COI editing, follow the advice at How to handle conflicts of interest, below. Editors making or discussing changes to this guideline or related guidance shall disclose whether they have been paid to edit "BizApps Wiki".

BizApps Wiki's position[edit]

Purpose of "BizApps Wiki"[edit]

As a free business applications encyclopedia, BizApps Wiki's mission is to provide the public with articles that summarize accepted knowledge, written neutrally and sourced reliably about business software and applications and other related topics. Readers expect to find neutral articles written independently of their subject, not corporate or personal webpages, or platforms for advertising and self-promotion. Articles should contain only material that complies with BizApps Wiki's content policies and best practices, and BizApps Wikians must place the interests of the encyclopedia and its readers above personal concerns. That means even if you are writing about your company or business, you need to keep neutral point of view.

COI editing[edit]

Editors with a COI should follow "BizApps Wiki" policies and best practices scrupulously:

  • you should disclose your COI when involved with affected articles;
  • you are strongly discouraged from editing affected articles directly;
  • you may propose changes on talk pages (by using the {{request edit}} template), or by posting a note at the COI noticeboard, so that they can be peer reviewed;
  • you should put new articles through the Articles for Creation (AfC) process instead of creating them directly;
  • you should not act as a reviewer of affected article(s) at AfC, new pages patrol or elsewhere;
  • you should respect other editors by keeping discussions concise.

Note that no one on "BizApps Wiki" controls articles. If "BizApps Wiki" hosts an article about you or your organization, others may add information that would otherwise remain little known. They may also decide to delete the article or decide to keep it should you later request deletion. The media has several times drawn attention to companies that engage in COI editing on "BizApps Wiki", which has led to embarrassment for the organization concerned.

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An editor has a financial conflict of interest when they write about a topic with which they have a close financial relationship. This includes being an owner, employee, contractor, investor or other stakeholder.

Being paid to contribute to BizApps Wiki is one form of financial COI; it places the paid editor in a conflict between their employer's goals and BizApps Wiki's goals. The kind of paid editing of most concern to the community involves using BizApps Wiki for public relations and marketing purposes. Sometimes called "paid advocacy", this is problematic because it invariably reflects the interests of the client or employer.

The Tounca LLC as owner of BizApps Wiki project requires that all paid editing on "BizApps Wiki" be disclosed. Additionally, global policy requires that (if applicable) you must provide links on your user-page to all active accounts on external websites through which you advertise, solicit or obtain paid editing. If you receive or expect to receive compensation (money, goods or services) for your contributions to BizApps Wiki, the policy on the BizApps Wiki is:

  • you must disclose who is paying you, on whose behalf the edits are made, and any other relevant affiliation;
  • you should make the disclosure on your user page, on affected talk pages, and whenever you discuss the topic;
  • you are strongly discouraged from editing affected articles directly;
  • you may propose changes on talk pages by using the {{request edit}} template, so that they can be peer reviewed;
  • you should put new articles through the Articles for Creation (AfC) process instead of creating them directly;
  • you must add [[Category:Paid article]] on article you created if this article is created on the request of someone who paid you;
  • you must not act as a reviewer of affected article(s) at AfC, new pages patrol or elsewhere;
  • you should respect volunteers by keeping discussions concise.

Requested edits are subject to the same standards as any other, and editors may decline to act on them. To find an article's talk page, click the "talk" button at the top of the article. If you are an administrator, you must not use administrative tools for any paid-editing activity (except when related to work as a BizApps Wikian-in-residence, or as someone paid by the Tounca LLC or an affiliate).

Tounca LLC terms of use[edit]

The BizApps Wiki's terms of use require that editors who are being paid for their contributions disclose their employer (the person or organization who is paying for the edits); the client (the person or organization on whose behalf the edits are made); and any other relevant affiliation. This is the policy of the BizApps Wiki and its owner Tounca LLC.

Exceptions [edit]

There is some exceptions from previous rules. In some situations BizApps Wiki can contain some frozen articles related with software vendors, software solutions or live persons. Freezing is possible from two reasons:

  • if company has a valid reason to keep its page and its software page accurate and this is not possible because of often vandalism (it must be approved by BizApps Wiki's owner Tounca LLC);
  • if live person has a valid reason to keep its page accurate and this is not possible because of often vandalism (it must be approved by BizApps Wiki's owner Tounca LLC);
  • if company or person has specific sponsor status and got possibility to keep their page as they want (it must be approved by BizApps Wiki's owner Tounca LLC}.

In all of these cases, it is forbidden to enter non-accurate information as well as any kind of marketing or sales messages. These possibilities exist only to keep these pages accurate. Even in these situations, other administrators can edit these pages. But administrators will first try through Talk page to agree about some topic: if they don't get an answer in 15 working days or if reason for changing of page is obvious (e.g. intentional violation of policy), administrator can edit page directly.

In all exceptions, authors must add category [[Category:Company owner creation]] or [[Category:Autobiography]] on their articles. If this was related with sponsorship, they must add category [[Category:Sponsor's page]].

How to disclose a COI[edit]

General COI[edit]

If you become involved in an article where you have any COI, you should always let other editors know about it, whenever and wherever you discuss the topic. There are three venues to do this.

1. If you want to use a template to do this, place {{connected contributor}} at the top of the affected talk page, fill it in as follows, and save:

Connected contributor template
{{Connected contributor|User1=Your username |U1-declared=yes| U1-otherlinks=(Optional) Insert relevant affiliations, disclosures, article drafts or diffs showing COI contributions.}}

Note that someone else may add this for you.

2. You can also make a statement in the edit summary of any COI contribution.

3. If you want to note the COI on your user page, you can use the {{UserboxCOI}} template:

UserboxCOI template

Edit the source of your user page and type {{UserboxCOI|1=BizApps Wiki article name}}, then click "save".

Also, if you propose significant or potentially controversial changes to an affected article, you can use the {{request edit}} template. Place this at the bottom of the talk page and state your suggestion beneath it (be sure to sign it with four tildes, ~~~~). If the proposal is verifiable and appropriate, it will usually be accepted. If it is declined, the editor declining the request will usually add an explanation below your entry.

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If you are being paid for your contributions to "BizApps Wiki", you must declare who is paying you, who the client is, and any other relevant role or relationship. You may do this on your user page, on the talk page of affected articles, or in your edit summaries. As you have a conflict of interest, you must ensure everyone with whom you interact is aware of your paid status, in all discussions on BizApps Wiki pages within any namespace. If you want to use a template to disclose your COI on a talk page, place {{connected contributor (paid)}} at the top of the page, fill it in as follows, and save:

Connected contributor (paid) template
{{Connected contributor (paid)|User1=Username of the paid editor|U1-employer=Name of person/organization that is paying for the edits|U1-client= Name of client|U1-otherlinks=Insert diff to disclosure on your User page.}}

The employer is whoever is paying you to be involved in the article (such as a PR company). The client is on whose behalf the payment is made (usually the subject of the article). If the employer and client are the same entity—that is, if Acme Corporation is paying you to write about Acme Corporation—the client parameter may be left empty.Note that other editors may add this template for you. Paid editing without such a declaration is called undisclosed paid editing (UPE).

You are expected to maintain a clearly visible list on your user page of your paid contributions. If you advertise, solicit or obtain paid editing work via an account on any external website, you must provide links on your user-page to all such accounts.

If you propose changes to an affected article, you can use the {{request edit}} template. Post it on the talk page and make your suggestion underneath it.

What is conflict of interest?[edit]

External roles and relationships[edit]

While editing BizApps Wiki, an editor's primary role is to further the interests of the business applications encyclopedia. When an external role or relationship could reasonably be said to undermine that primary role, the editor has a conflict of interest (similar to how a judge's primary role as an impartial adjudicator is undermined if they are married to the defendant.)

Any external relationship—personal, religious, political, academic, legal, or financial — can trigger a COI. How close the relationship needs to be before it becomes a concern on BizApps Wiki is governed by common sense. For example, an article about a implementing partner should not be written by this partner's manager, and a biography should not be an autobiography or written by the subject's spouse or if it is a case, it must be done in accordance with exception explained in this COI. There can be a COI when writing on behalf of a competitor or opponent of the page subject, just as there is when writing on behalf of the page subject.

Subject-matter experts (SMEs) are welcome on BizApps Wiki within their areas of expertise, subject to the guidance below on financial conflict of interest and on citing your work. SMEs are expected to make sure that their external roles and relationships in their field of expertise do not interfere with their primary role on BizApps Wiki.

COI is not simply bias[edit]

Determining that someone has a COI is a description of a situation. It is not a judgment about that person's state of mind or integrity. A COI can exist in the absence of bias, and bias regularly exists in the absence of a COI. Beliefs and desires may lead to biased editing, but they do not constitute a COI. COI emerges from an editor's roles and relationships, and the tendency to bias that we assume exists when those roles and relationships conflict.

Why is conflict of interest a problem?[edit]

On BizApps Wiki, editors with a conflict of interest who unilaterally add material tend to violate BizApps Wiki's content and behavioral policies and guidelines. The content they add is typically unsourced or poorly sourced and often violates the neutral point of view policy by being promotional and omitting negative information. They may edit war to retain content that serves their external interest. They may overuse primary sources or non-independent sources, and they may give too much weight to certain ideas.

Actual, potential and apparent COI[edit]

An actual COI exists when an editor has a COI with respect to a certain judgment and is in a position where the judgment must be exercised.

Example: A business owner has an actual COI if he edits articles and engages in discussions about that business, except if this is done in accordance with an exception rule.

A potential COI exists when an editor has a COI with respect to a certain judgment but is not in a position where the judgment must be exercised.

Example: A business owner has a potential COI with respect to articles and discussions about that business, but she has no actual COI if she stays away from those pages.

An apparent COI exists when there is reason to believe that an editor has a COI.

Example: Editors have an apparent COI if they edit an article about a business, and for some reason they appear to be the business owner or in communication with the business owner, although they may actually have no such connection. Apparent COI raises concern within the community and should be resolved through discussion whenever possible.

Dealing with edit requests from COI or paid editors[edit]

Responding to requests[edit]

Editors responding to edit requests from COI or paid editors are expected to do so carefully, particularly when commercial interests are involved. When large amounts of text are added to an article on behalf of the article subject, the article has, in effect, been ghostwritten by the subject without the readers' knowledge. Responding volunteers should therefore carefully check the proposed text and sources. That an article has been expanded does not mean that it is better.

  • Make sure the proposed paid text complies with neutral point of view and/or fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources.
  • Look for unnecessary detail that may have been added to overwhelm something negative.
  • Make sure nothing important is missing. Responding editors should do their own search for independent sources. Do not rely on the sources offered by the paid editor.
  • Look for non-neutral language and unsourced or poorly sourced content.
  • Be cautious about accepting content based on self-published sources such as a personal website, or primary sources such as a company website or press release.
  • If the paid text is added to the article, the edit summary should include full attribution.

Attribution in edit summaries[edit]

If editors choose to add material to an article on behalf of a COI or paid editor, they must provide attribution for the text in the edit summary. The edit summary should include the name of the COI or paid editor, a link to the draft or edit request, and that the edit contains a COI or paid contribution. This transparency helps editors and readers to determine the extent of COI influence on the article. It also complies with copyright requirements.

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Paid editors must respect the volunteer nature of the project and keep discussions concise. When proposing changes to an article, they should describe the suggested modifications and explain why the changes should be made. Any changes that may be contentious, such as removal of negative text, should be highlighted.

Before being drawn into long exchanges with paid editors, volunteers should be aware that paid editors may be submitting evidence of their talk-page posts to justify their salaries or fees. No editor should be expected to engage in long or repetitive discussions with someone who is being paid to argue with them.

Editors who refuse to accept a consensus by arguing ad nauseam may find themselves in violation of the disruptive-editing guideline.

Copyright of paid contributions[edit]

Editors are reminded that any text they contribute to BizApps Wiki, assuming they own the copyright, is irrevocably licensed under a Creative Commons-Attribution-Sharealike license and the GNU Free Documentation License. Content on BizApps Wiki, including article drafts and talk-page comments, can be freely copied and modified by third parties for commercial and non-commercial use, with the sole requirement that it be attributed to BizApps Wiki contributors.

Paid editors must ensure that they own the copyright of text they have been paid to add to BizApps Wiki; otherwise, they are unable to release it. A text's author is normally assumed to be the copyright holder. Companies sometimes provide paid editors with text written by someone else. Alternatively, a paid editor might write text for BizApps Wiki within the scope of their employment (a "work for hire"), in which case copyright resides with the employer.

Where there is doubt that the paid editor owns the copyright, they (or the employer or author) are advised to forward a release from the copyright holder to the Volunteer Response Team or through our contacts.

If editors choose to add material to an article on behalf of a paid editor, they must provide attribution for the text in the edit summary.

Covert advertising[edit]

US: Federal Trade Commission, state law, and native advertising[edit]

All editors are expected to follow United States law on undisclosed advertising, which is described by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at Endorsement Guidelines and Dot Com Disclosures. The FTC regards advertising as deceptive if it mimics a content format, such as a news report, that appears to come from an independent, impartial source:

Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commission.svg

Marketers and publishers are using innovative methods to create, format, and deliver digital advertising. One form is "native advertising", content that bears a similarity to the news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment, and other material that surrounds it online. ...

In digital media, native ads often resemble the design, style, and functionality of the media in which they are disseminated. ... The more a native ad is similar in format and topic to content on the publisher's site, the more likely that a disclosure will be necessary to prevent deception. —Federal Trade Commission, 2015

To judge whether an ad is deceptive under the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, the FTC considers "both what the ad says and the format it uses to convey that information ... Advertisements or promotional messages are deceptive if they convey to consumers expressly or by implication that they’re independent, impartial, or from a source other than the sponsoring advertiser ...".

State law may have similar prohibitions. While the FTC law may apply only to interstate and foreign commerce, state law applies to intrastate commerce and must be obeyed. At least one state court case found liability for an ad disguised as editorial content.

European fair-trading law[edit]

No ads.svg

In 2012 the Munich Oberlandesgericht court ruled that if a company or its agents edit Wikipedia with the aim of influencing customers, the edits constitute covert advertising, and as such are a violation of European fair-trading law. The ruling stated that readers cannot be expected to seek out user and talk pages to find editors' disclosures about their corporate affiliation. Even if this rule is related with Wikipedia and not directly with BizApps Wiki, taking in consideration that both oh platform has the same purpose to provide the free content, we are excepting this rule as this is related with our "BizApps Wiki" platform.

UK Advertising Standards Authority[edit]

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK found in 2012 that the content of tweets on Twitter from two footballers had been "agreed with the help of a member of the Nike marketing team". The tweets were not clearly identified as Nike marketing communications and were therefore in breach of the ASA's code.

Advertising Standards Canada[edit]

The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, administered by Advertising Standards Canada, states: "No advertisement shall be presented in a format or style that conceals the fact that it is an advertisement."

Other categories of COI[edit]

Legal and other disputes[edit]

The biographies of living persons policy says: "An editor who is involved in a significant controversy or dispute with another individual – whether on- or off-wiki – or who is an avowed rival of that individual, should not edit that person's biography or other material about that person, given the potential conflict of interest."

Similarly, editors should not write about court cases in which they or those close to them have been involved, nor about parties or law firms associated with the cases.

Campaigning, political[edit]

Activities regarded by insiders as simply "getting the word out" may appear promotional or propagandistic to the outside world. If you edit articles while involved with campaigns in the same area, you may have a conflict of interest. Political candidates and their staff should not edit articles about themselves, their supporters, or their opponents. Government employees should not edit articles about their agencies, government, political party, political opponents, or controversial political topics.

Writing about yourself, family, friends[edit]

You should generally refrain from creating articles about yourself, or anyone you know, unless through the Articles for Creation process or using our exception rules. If you have a personal connection to a topic or person, you are advised to refrain from editing those articles directly and to provide full disclosure of the connection if you comment about the article on talk pages or in other discussions. Requests for updates to an article about yourself or someone with whom you have a personal connection can be made on the article's talk page.

An exception to editing an article about yourself or someone you know is made if the article contains defamation or a serious error that needs to be corrected quickly or following our exception rules. If you do make such an edit, please ask for help on contacts page, our noticeboard for articles about living persons, or the talk page of the article in question.

Citing yourself[edit]

Using material you have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies, including self-published sources, and is not excessive. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work. You will be permanently identified in the page history as the person who added the citation to your own work. When in doubt, defer to the community's opinion: propose the edit on the article's talk page and allow others to review it. However, adding numerous references to work published by yourself and none by other researchers is considered to be a form of spamming.

Cultural sector[edit]

Museum curators, librarians, archivists, and similar are encouraged to help improve BizApps Wiki, or to share their information in the form of links to their resources. If a link cannot be used as a reliable source, it may be placed under further reading or external links if it complies with the external links guideline. Bear in mind that BizApps Wiki is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files.

Reward board[edit]

Example of acceptable paid editing is the reward board, where editors can post incentives, usually to raise articles to featured-article or good-article status. If you participate in this, transparency and neutrality are key.

Miscellaneous[edit]

Solicitations by paid editors[edit]

In any solicitation sent to a prospective client, paid editors should disclose the following information:

  • Paid editors do not represent the Tounca LLC nor the BizApps Wiki editing community, and they have no authority beyond that of any volunteer editor.
  • Paid editors must disclose their employer, client, and affiliations on BizApps Wiki. There is no confidentiality for the client.
  • Paid edits may be reviewed and revised in the normal course of work on BizApps Wiki. Neither the client nor the paid editor own the article.
  • Paid editors cannot guarantee any outcome for an article on BizApps Wiki. It can be revised or deleted by other editors at any time.

Providing a client with a link to this section is appropriate disclosure if it is done in a neutral and non-deceptive manner.

  • Paid editors must also provide a link to their user page which includes a declaration of their paid editing status.

If you received a solicitation from a paid editor that does not include this information, we recommend that you not do business with them. They are not following our policies and guidelines. Some of these solicitations have been linked to fraud. If you think you’ve received a fraudulent solicitation, please forward it to our email found on contact page for investigation.

Law of unintended consequences[edit]

Once an article is created about yourself, your group, or your company, you have no right to control its content, or to delete it outside the normal channels. If there is anything publicly available on a topic that you would not want to have included in an article, it will probably find its way there eventually. In some cases (in the cases of vandalism or cases explained in exceptions), some articles can be locked for the wide community, but even in these situations, administrators have full control.

No shared accounts, no company accounts[edit]

Do not create a shared organizational account, as this is not allowed, because of each account can be connected only with one person. Do not use the name of an organization as the account name, as this is not allowed even if you are official representative of the organization. The account is yours, not your employer's. You can connect your account with your employer email but this is not recommended (even using an email is not mandatory in registering process and this is only optional), as again, this account is your.

Making uncontroversial edits[edit]

Editors who have a general conflict of interest may make unambiguously uncontroversial edits. They may:

  1. remove spam and unambiguous vandalism,
  2. remove unambiguous violations of the biography of living persons policy,
  3. fix spelling and grammatical errors,
  4. repair broken links,
  5. remove their own COI edits, and
  6. add independent reliable sources when another editor has requested them, although it is better to supply them on the talk page for others to add.

If another editor objects for any reason, it is not an uncontroversial edit. Edits not covered by the above should be discussed on the article's talk page. If an article has few uninvolved editors, ask at the talk page of a related article.

Supplying photographs and media files[edit]

Editors with a COI are encouraged to upload high-quality media files that are appropriately licensed for BizApps Wiki and that improve our coverage of a subject. In some cases, the addition of media files to an article may be an uncontroversial edit that editors with a COI can make directly, but editors should exercise discretion and rely on talk pages when images may be controversial or promotional. If the addition of an image is challenged by another editor, it is controversial.

How to handle conflicts of interest[edit]

Advocacy, noticeboards[edit]

If a user's edits lead you to believe that they might have a COI (that is, if they have an "apparent COI"), and there has been no COI disclosure, consider first whether the issue may be simple advocacy. Most advocacy does not involve COI. Whether an editor is engaged in advocacy should first be addressed at the user's talk page, then at the neutral-point-of-view noticeboard.

Reporting to the conflict of interest noticeboard[edit]

If you believe an editor has an undisclosed COI and is editing in violation of this guideline, raise the issue in a civil manner on the editor's talk page, which is the first step in resolving user-conduct issues, citing this guideline. If for some reason that is not advisable, or if it fails to resolve the issue, the next step is to open a discussion at the conflict of interest noticeboard (COIN). COIN is also the place to discuss disclosed COI that is causing a problem: for example, an acknowledged BLP subject who is editing their own BLP. Similarly, if you're editing with a disclosed COI, you can ask for advice at COIN.

During the COIN discussion, avoid making disparaging remarks about the user in question, their motives or the subject of the article(s). Post whatever public evidence you have to support that there is a COI, or that it is causing a problem, in the form of edits by that user or information the user has posted about themselves. Do not post private information. If private information must be shared to resolve a COI issue, keep in mid that "only the minimum information necessary should be conveyed and the minimum number of people contacted." The priority should be to avoid unnecessary privacy violations.

Avoid outing[edit]

When investigating COI editing, the policy against harassment takes precedence. It requires that BizApps Wikians not reveal the identity of editors against their wishes. Do not ask a user if they are somebody; instead one can ask if they have an undisclosed connection to that person. If revealing private information is needed to resolve COI editing, and if the issue is serious enough to warrant it.

Dealing with single-purpose accounts[edit]

Accounts that appear to be single-purpose, existing for the sole or primary purpose of promotion or denigration of a person, company, product, service, website, organization, etc., and whose postings are in apparent violation of this guideline, should be made aware of this guideline and warned not to continue their problematic editing. If the same pattern of editing continues after the warning, the account may be blocked.