Trade secrets and embarrassing revelations still are emerging from the mountain of leaked data, especially after a searchable database was created by WikiLeaks on April 16. A Signpost investigation of the released data has revealed Sony's corporate practices regarding Wikipedia and uncovered what appears to be undisclosed advocacy editing of Wikipedia by Sony employees and possibly by others.
Many of the emails contain harmless or positive uses of Wikipedia. A number of the emails contain links to Wikipedia articles as background information about intellectual properties that Sony was developing or considering developing, including Golgo 13, Q*bert, and the Suicide Squad. Some emails contain nothing apart from a link to a Wikipedia article, perhaps as a reminder for future consideration. There is even a 2013 email from Sue Gardner thanking Amy Pascal for her donation to Wikipedia.
Other emails indicate that Wikipedia is a standard part of film promotion for Sony. Numerous marketing strategy documents contain the instruction "Please create a Wikipedia (or other collaborative website) page if you are able", and Wikipedia is listed on other documents as one of their "standard tactics" for social media promotion.
The emails reveal that for some movies, the marketing tactics go beyond simply starting a new page for an upcoming film. In a late January 2014 email, director and producer David O. Russell inquired about his film American Hustle: "I had asked weeks ago how the wiki page is looking. Can anyone please tell me ? It can be maintained." A Sony employee responded with a list of changes made to the articles for Russell and the film, with special attention to awards nominations. (Hustle had been nominated for ten Academy Awards earlier that month but would receive no wins at the 86th Academy Awards in March.) The changes listed in the email coincide with a number of December 2013 edits from the IP address 126.96.36.199, which originates from Marina Del Rey, California—a short distance from Sony's headquarters in Culver City, California. The employee also complained that editing these articles is "not an easy task ... our changes are instantly changed back by the Wikipedia editors."
I have to mention, that it's not an easy task because several times our changes are instantly changed back by the Wikipedia editors.
—A Sony employee, February 1, 2014
Sony employees also turned their attention to Wikipedia articles about Sony executives. In an April 2014 email that was forwarded to Sony CEO Michael Lynton, a Sony employee wrote: "We edited Michael’s Wikipedia page in order to provide more complete and updated professional information and also to reflect the personal information that Michael preferred was included." This coincides with a major expansion of Lynton's article by Monstermike99. The added material is sourced and formatted properly, but it also contains promotional language and praise for Lytton's "leadership", including a paragraph that begins "Lynton and Pascal are dedicated to environmental sustainability at Sony Pictures."
Later that month, the same employee wrote an email to Amy Pascal stating: "Your official Wikipedia entry has been edited to reflect the updated biography that you recently approved." This coincides with another major expansion by OnceaMetro. Like the edits to Lytton's article, the edits are properly sourced and formatted, but contain promotional language, including the sentence, "Lynton and Pascal are dedicated to environmental sustainability at Sony Pictures."
The accounts Monstermike99 and OnceaMetro continue to edit Wikipedia, including a number of articles on CEOs, hedge fund managers, and other business and finance executives. According to the editor interaction analyzer tool, articles that both accounts have edited include those on investor Jonathan M. Nelson, Time Warner CEO Steve Ross, and hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen. A former Sony vice president founded an eponymous company in January that refers to itself as "a corporate, crisis and financial communications firm." The firm's public client list includes News Corporation, Yahoo!, and The Chernin Group. The founder and CEO of this firm did not return a request for comment from the Signpost by press time.