Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, created and edited by volunteers, has accused 40 banned or blocked sockpuppets or undeclared paid editors of creating or revising nine articles on the Adani family and family businesses.
It says, "Many of them (sockpuppets) edited several of the articles and added non-neutral material or puffery. A declared paid editor, using a company IP address, completely rewrote the Adani group article. Others removed warnings about conflict-of-interest editing. Some created articles by unusual methods that avoided Wikipedia's quality control systems."
"Perhaps the most concerning finding is that Hatchens, a reviewer, was banned for abusing his position and possibly corruptly approving several Adani articles. He edited seven of the nine articles examined here," the report says.
Hindenburg Research, a short-seller, recently accused the Adani group of companies of a very serious 'con' involving accounting fraud, stock price manipulation and money laundering. As a result, Mr Adani has lost about US$67bn (billion) in net worth as of 15 February 2023.
Signpost says its report examines Mr Adani and his companies in much the same way it examined other billionaires to know if they have used paid editing on Wikipedia to push their points of view or as an aid in their pursuit of wealth.
"We remind our readers that no entirely on-Wiki investigation of a user's edits can completely identify an editor's name or employer. Even if the editor identifies themself as an employee of a company, they may be simply trying to embarrass the company, a practice known as Joe jobbing. We can, however, examine the nearly complete record of edits made to Wikipedia and identify editors that are likely to be sockpuppets or that appear to be working together with other accounts," it clarifies.
Nine articles that appeared in Wikipedia that were related to Adani were subjected to investigation by Signpost. The modus operandi of the banned paid editors was to add non-neutral material and remove warnings like 'conflict-of-interest editing', it says.
According to Signpost, a Wikipedia article about the Adani group was created and edited by two editors named Adanigrouponline and Adani group. "Both accounts were banned by Wiki in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The accounts were categorised as single-purpose accounts (SPA). They focused on Adani-related articles, including a complete rewrite of the Adani group article which removed a conflict-of-interest notice from the top of the article."
Singpost says, “The unregistered user left an edit comment of ‘(revisited & updated all the content, changes by Satyam Trivedi (corporate communication, Adani))’ and the IP address is identified by Whois as Adani Enterprise Ltd. A conflict-of-interest notice was added to the top of the article three minutes after this edit but was soon removed by Adanigrouponline.”
The article on Mr Adani was started in 2007. By 2012, the article was edited by three editors who Wiki later banned. "A banned editor named 'Similar2me' is one of the leading editors of the article. They edited the article 18 times from 2018 through 2020 when they were blocked for socking. They concentrated a bit on the philanthropy section, made a few reverts, removed a warning tag, and generally just updated the article."
Signpost says, Similar2me and their sock farm also edited the articles on Pranav Adani, Gautam Adani's nephew, and on the Adani group, Adani Green Energy, and Adani Ports & SEZ.
"'Uncle Snooze' another blocked editor who edited this article, also edited Adani group, Adani Ports & SEZ, and Karan Adani. Other socks who edited this and other Adani-related articles include Bernice2019 (2 other articles) and Blazin777 (3 other articles)."
The article about Priti Adani, wife of Mr Adani was created by an SPA named Sallauddin786. "Last September, a warning tag for undeclared paid editing (UPE) and conflict of interest editing was added to the top of the article. A user named Mainakchatterjee.tech was accused of this. The user owns a digital marketing service according to their user page. Both the warning tag and the accused editor remain on Wikipedia," the report says.
The article for Karan Adani, the son of Priti and Mr Adani, was created by an unusual roundabout process, Signpost says, adding, "After a series of rejections as the drafts were made by inexperienced users, a later banned account named UncleScrooze created a readable article with about 40 edits on 29 November 2019. A total of six blocked sock puppets, including UncleScrooze, Hatchens, and Blazin777 edited the article."
The article about Pranav Adani was tagged 'multiple issues' at the top of the article, warning readers of a possible autobiography, BLP violations, and a non-encyclopedic essay-style format. Later in 2021, a UPE warning tag was added to the top of the article with an explanation posted on the talk page by a sock puppet investigations clerk.
A total of six banned socks had edited in this article.
Adani Transmission, Adani Green Energy, Adani Ports & SEZ, and Adani Enterprises were also edited and manipulated by banned sock puppets or undeclared paid editors.
The grave concern of Wikipedia is the audacity of users who have engaged in this. "Perhaps the most concerning finding is that Hatchens, an Articles for Creation reviewer, was banned for abusing his position and possibly corruptly approving several Adani articles. He edited seven of the nine articles examined here," says Signpost.