Wikimedia Foundation fires employee for paid editing

Non-profit organisation Wikimedia Foundation has reportedly terminated the contract of one of its employees for editing Wikipedia pages on the behalf of paying clients.

Sarah Stierch, a programme evaluation coordinator, started working for the Wikimedia Foundation since last April but had been editing articles on Wikipedia since 2006.

Senior Director of Programmes at Wikimedia, Frank Schilenberg, explained Stierch's termination in a recent email to subscribers of Wikipedia's public mailing list.

"The Wikimedia Foundation has recently learned that Sarah has been editing Wikipedia on behalf of paying clients, as recently as a few weeks ago," Schilenberg said.

"She did that even though it is widely known that paid editing is frowned upon by many in the editing community and by the Wikimedia Foundation."

It has once again raised the issue of paid advocacy editing on Wikipedia, a "black hat pratice" that resulted in the suspension of hundreds of accounts last October.

Over 250 editors were accused of being "sockpuppets" by Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

"Our readers know Wikipedia's not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way," Gardner said in a statement at the time.

Stierch was caught out when a screenshot emerged apparently displaying the fact she had been paid $300 (£182) for doing freelance work editing a Wikipedia page for an unnamed individual.

"Everybody makes mistakes, and I would like to believe that the Wikimedia movement is a place of forgiveness and compassion," said Schilenberg. "I ask you to respect Sarah's privacy at what is surely a difficult time for her, and to join me in wishing her every future success."