the chain gang

Why Wikipedia’s Editors Are Demanding an Apology From Burger King

Having it BK’s way.

Burger King may have successfully hacked innocent Americans’ Google Homes, but it had to make a few enemies in the process. Among them: Wikipedia. In an open letter posted yesterday, several editors say the company’s sneaky changes to the Whopper entry (which is what the ad prompted Google Home to read from) clearly violated the site’s rules. They argue that the edits amounted to a “hidden ad.” For years, the first sentence of the Whopper page has read, “The Whopper is the signature hamburger sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King and its Australian franchise Hungry Jack’s.” A few days prior to the ad’s release, it was altered to say, “The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100% beef with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.”

The letter complains that this straight-up ad copy was inserted by two users with fairly unambiguous BK ties — one named Fermachado123, which sounds a lot like senior vice-president of global-brand management Fernando Machado, and another that simply goes by Burger King Corporation. The editors say the stunt broke “several Wikipedia rules”:

No editor may insert advertising, marketing, or promotional material into any article. Our terms of use require all paid editors to prominently post the fact that they are paid, the person or company paying them, and any other relevant affiliations. Our conflict-of-interest guideline strongly discourages editors with a conflict-of-interest from directly editing an article …

They add that site “vandalism” has to be cleaned up by unpaid volunteers, and that the site’s popularity “attracts unethical advertisers, such as Burger King, [that] put hidden ads into our articles.” The letter calls those ads “harmful to our readers and our mission,” and demands that Burger King and its owners, Restaurant Brands International and 3G Capital, apologize to Wikipedia users and promise that similar incidents will “not be repeated.”

Editors say they sent Burger King that list of demands on Tuesday. Vox Media also got a copy — the Wikipedia team wasn’t a fan either of the “medium-sized child” and “cyanide” edits a funny person made to the Whopper’s ingredients list after the stunt started trending. Turns out this individual was “apparently a reporter from The Verge.”

Why Wikipedia’s Editors Demanded an Apology From Burger King