BP attempts to polish image on Wikipedia

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When it comes to environmental reputations British Petroleum’s is rock bottom. Ever since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP has been a byword for reckless incompetence. Trying to improve that image must be a thankless task.

Desperate times call for desperate measures though. In the PR equivalent of urinating into a hurricane, it seems that BP have been trying to polish their image on Wikipedia. The BP entry in the online encyclopedia that has become the information resource of choice for people who can’t be bothered with real research tends to gloss over the disaster that defined the international oil company.

Unimpressed Wikipedia editors estimate that BP has rewritten about 44 percent of the entry, not directly, but by supplying information that is then uploaded by editors. The culprit is a BP press officer styling themselves as "Arturo BP". They post on the BP talk page and the information is then cut and pasted by editors.

This method avoids telling readers that much of the content comes directly from BP. The company argued that "BP operates within Wikipedia’s guidelines for how company representatives should interact with the site’s editors. For nearly a year now, we have been fully transparent, never directly editing any copy and always disclosing that any suggestions we offer to Wikipedia’s editors have come from a BP representative."

It shows an ingenious understanding of the system, but it seems a fairly futile gesture given the permanent damage that the 2010 disaster did to BP’s reputation in the USA. There will be an imminent reminder of their culpability for the Deepwater Horizon spill as BP fights what it calls "fictitious or inflated claims" in a class action settlement. A civil action in New Orleans involves BP contesting some claims that could cost billions of dollars. Whether the outcome makes it to the Wikipedia page must remain uncertain.

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