BBC punks Wikipedia in game marketing ploy? (UPDATED)

Update: Click here for an official response from the BBC.

Someone has apparently abused collaborative reference site Wikipedia in a viral marketing campaign for a BBC online alternate reality game, or ARG. Boing Boing readers ask whether the BBC (or someone acting on their behalf, like a promotional agency) is responsible.

Here's the original Wikipedia entry, which presented fictional details from the game as real: Link. Here's the entry in its current state, after having been "outed" as bogus and edited by Wikipedians into a factual article about the game: Link.

Boing Boing reader Chris says,

I'm a big fan of the BBC and public broadcasting in general, but I think they've crossed a line here. This is a Wikipedia entry for a made-up pop star that's being used as part of some kind of viral marketing for one of their "new media opportunities". It pisses me off that an organisation paid for by the British public and supposedly working to a charter to provide quality entertainment feels justified in spamming up a genuinely useful internet resource in the name of PR.

In fairness, it is also possible for any individual unaffiliated with the BBC (or an employee acting without network approval) to create a Wikipedia entry on their own. Comments on the Wikipedia "talk" page for this entry, however, suggest that a related entry for a fictional band called "Boy*d Upp" were added from someone operating inside the BBC's network.

So, some questions: is a person (or persons) acting on behalf of the BBC responsible? What will happen to the entry, if it is indeed a bogus publicity entry? How often does this sort of thing happen?

One thing I do know: Wikipedia tends to be hastily self-correcting. Bogus or erroneous information of any kind doesn't tend to last long there.

Reader Comment: Anonymous says,

I can't say who I am, but I do work at a company that uses Wikipedia as a key part of online marketing strategies. That includes planting of viral information in entries, modification of entries to point to new promotional sites or "leaks" embedded in entries to test diffusion of information. Wikipedia is just a more transparent version of Myspace as far as some companies are concerned. We love it (evil laugh).

On the other side, I love it from an academia/sociological standpoint, and I don't necessarily have a problem with it used as a viral marketing tool. After all, marketing is a form of information, with just a different end point in mind (consuming rather than learning).

I imagine quite a few Wikipedia users would beg to differ.

Update: Mike Harris says,

To answer your questions: did someone acting on behalf of the BBC really create the entry? Well, the user 'Jon Hawk' created this entry. I don't have access to his IP address to trace it back further, but his contributions look slightly suspect, frankly. Additionally, Wikipedia user William Pietri noted on your linked-to talk page that the article for the fictional band to which Kane supposedly belonged was added from What will happen to the entry, if it is indeed a bogus publicity entry? It has been nominated for speedy deletion due to it being advertising campaign material, as well as having been nominated to go through the normal deletion process, where the votes are overwhelmingly for deletion right now. It will most likely be deleted.

Boing Boing reader John Barberio says,

I've marked the Boy*d Upp and Jamie Kane articles on Wikipedia for deletion. Hopefully this will teach people that Wikipedia isnt the place for viral marketing.

Christopher Granade says:

I added a link to your coverage in this Wikipedia article documenting examples of viral marketing: Link. Echoing reader John Barberio's call to let viral marketers know that Wikipedia isn't for their campaigns, I would ask all readers to let me know what pages have been implicated in such campaigns. I plan to make a page on Wikipedia documenting them so that there is some sort of aggregation of these infringements. Thanks for your help.

Update: 5PM Sunday — reader Mike Harris says,

The article has now been totally rewritten by a user named Uncle G to factually report on the game.

The corresponding discussion page now includes mea culpas from persons responsible for two of the bogus entries. One of them, "Jon_Hawk," identifies himself as someone unaffiliated with the BBC who just digs the game.

Please do not use my edits to slander the BBC. If this were part of a viral campaign, the grammar of the article would almost certainly be better. I suspect the article would have been created at the same time as the game started also. Jamie Kane was mentioned on several blogs on Friday – did not one of you consider it was created by someone who reads such things? I'm nothing more than a student. I'm sincerely apologetic for purposefully omitting the true nature of Jamie Kane.

But the other, "MattC," identifies himself as a BBC employee:

I created the Boy*D_Upp page from inside the BBC network on Friday evening after stumbling across the Jamie Kane entry linked from the Pop Justice forums. My action was in no way part of an orchestrated marketing campaign on behalf of the Jamie Kane project team nor was it intended for my page to be attributed to the BBC, which has been implied. It was nothing more than common garden vandalism for which I am sorry.