Do companies or people really get in trouble for not disclosing conflicts of interest or inserting anonymous promotional content on the Internet?

It happen all the time. For example, in 2015 dozens of newspapers reported on anonymous edits originating from inside the New York Police Department HQ. Some of the edits were about extremely controversial subjects involving the police department. When he criticized the practice, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was “outed” by the New York Post as having done the same thing himself, through his campaign.

Other examples of “outed” anonymous users making edits or contributions without COI include Microsoft, the CIA, the Republican Party, Anheuser-Busch, the Washington Post, Fox News, Newt Gingrich, and Dow Chemical. Of course, some journalists who don’t understand Wikipedia policy sometimes consider it worth reporting even when a company follows Wikipedia guidelines and transparently declares a Conflict of Interest when asking independent editors for an update or correction.

Articles found to be altered with undisclosed conflict of interest editing usually end up under heavy scrutiny from Wikipedia editors who become especially severe in their judgments about neutrality, sourcing and promotional content. Sometimes articles like these are locked down so no further changes can be made without a high-level admins’ approval. Frequently, editors will amend such articles with large warning boxes atop the page questioning the content’s integrity. Addressing warning boxes such as these is a service we provide — it often requires proposing fixes for a significant number of policy violations.