By Diane Farsetta on August 31, 2007

The Center for Media and Democracy has previously reported on the PR firm Hill & Knowlton's work for the oppressive regime of the president of the Maldives, Maumoon Gayoom. Thanks to WikiScanner, a program mapping anonymous edits on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, CMD can report that someone on a computer mapping to Hill & Knowlton's UK office edited the Wikipedia article "Politics of the Maldives" in June 2005. The edits removed references to the lack of independent news outlets, election rigging and the imprisonment of political activists in the Maldives. The anonymous editor also rephrased a section on the lack of activity by organized political parties, up until June 2005. The anonymous editor changed a sentence beginning, "Political parties in Maldives was [sic] not allowed, though the constitution allowed it," to "[T]he Maldivian political system was based around the election of individuals, rather than the more common system of election according to party platform." While Hill & Knowlton's computers were apparently used to make the edits, it isn't possible to know who made the edits or whether they were part of the firm's official work for Gayoom.

Comments

With personal experience of manipulating Wikipedia, I have found that subtle manipulations often go un-noticed. So, yes it makes sense that someone can re edit the maldives section and slink away unseen - for a while.

I suppose there are two quesitons here
1. Should we believe wikipedia (too often asked)
2. Are H&K giving PR a reputation it actually deserves

Personally, I'm neutral on the morals thing. Sadly PR is not about truth.

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In public relations, telling the truth is more important than spin. I'm certain spin doctors would find a way to justify their horrid work. PR firms do carry responsibilities as all civic bodies do. H$K is the best example of a PR exercise gone awry and has resulted in unaccountable damage to an island community, struggling to free itself from a nasty dictator!

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