16 Users Suspended by Wikimedia for “Conflict of Interest” Editing in Middle East Amid Saudi Infiltration Allegations

September 2020, wikimedia suspended 16 users for “conflict of interest” editing in the middle east. two international human rights groups, smex based in lebanon, and democracy for the arab world now (dawn), a us-based organisation founded by saudi journalist jamal khashoggi, accused the saudi government of using agents to act as independent editors on wikipedia to “control information about the country”. the two “high-ranking administrators in saudi arabia” were sentenced to five and eight years in prison.

Suspensions occurred last year when wikimedia announced 16 global suspensions for users who “were engaging in conflict of interest editing on wikipedia projects” in the middle east. citing “sources with knowledge of wikimedia’s operations”, smex and dawn said at least one of the 16 were saudi users, serving as agents for the government to “promote positive content about the government and delete content critical of the government”.

Said it was able to confirm that a number of users with close connections with external parties were editing the platform in a coordinated fashion to advance the aim of those parties. however, the company said “material inaccuracies” had been published but no evidence of saudi infiltration was found. saudi authorities have not commented on the claims. wikipedia’s parent company has denied claims the saudi government infiltrated its team in the middle east.


By Evey Lovelace

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